Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Glimpses of Glory

Lectionary Passages for Feb.15, 2015. 2 Ki:2:1-12, Ps 50:1-6, 2 Cor. 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

I tend to have vivid dreams, and I wake up remembering them. When a dream is particularly good, I've sometimes struggled to attempt to stay asleep even as I spiral toward wakefulness. I don't want to leave that "alternate" space, that special feeling, those moments where everything is right and reality is still in the hazy distance.

It never works. I can't stop the waking up and the reality of yesterday's unwashed dishes awaits.

Elisha knows he can't stop Elijah's leaving, but he does his utmost to prolong it. He doesn't want to face the realities of the prophetic life without his mentor, yet that is exactly what he has been prepared for and accepted. He witnesses Elijah being taken up in the chariot of fire and then in both grief and a new giftedness, he picks up Elijah's mantle and returns to his calling, his own "unwashed dishes.

Peter, James, and John go up a mountain with Jesus and see him transfigured in a blaze of glory. They watch (but hear nothing?) as Jesus speaks with the great leaders of the past. Then they hear a voice from the clouds commanding them to listen to Jesus.They are terrified. Peter's suggestion that they build dwellings sounds like an attempt to stay on the mountain, to prolong the glory. There is no response-the glimpse of glory is not to be captured and frozen, but will be, in very short order, taken down the mountain and into the fray of life.

Sometimes we are blessed with "God moments", with little glimpses of glory or presence or love that are transcendent. For that brief moment, doubts disappear, and we are infused with love, or awe, or conviction,  (words kind of fail me here), somehow the PRESENCE is with us. We can't grasp the moment to prolong it, the feeling does not stay with me as I look at the pile of dishes or other, bigger, problems. The memory of it, however, glows for awhile and can provide some light as we deal with the dark places of our reality.

In 1520, the painter Raphael had almost completed "The Transfiguration of Christ" before he died. (Look it up on google-it's worth seeing). Christ is lifted up in dazzling light. The disciples are overwhelmed. Beneath them, at the base of the mountain, there is human chaos. Some people point toward Christ, some toward each other, a father is consumed by his son's illness (see Mark 9:14-21), and a scholar in the bottom left corner frantically consults his book. The disciples are in the middle. They are in God's presence, but they will soon go back down into the chaos. How will they carry the light? How will their glimpse of glory sustain them for real life and service? On the way down the mountain, Jesus tells them that he is going to suffer and be treated with contempt. That seems to clash with the glory they have just witnessed. I wonder though, is that glimpse of glory something that strengthens them so that they can persevere through the dark times?

I had a glimpse of glory in a dream not too long ago. I was struggling with feelings of being misunderstood and unfairly judged in a particular situation. Then, quite clearly, I heard Jesus' voice from the cross say; "I understand." I woke up immediately and a sense of peace flooded me. I hadn't been absolved and there were no answers given to the situation I faced, but I felt God's presence. That was light in a dark place. I've carried that light with me since then. The feeling has faded somewhat, (like a gets dimmer as time goes on), but I am open in a new way. I have some strength to walk into chaos if I lean on God.

In Mark 9:24, the father of the epileptic boy cries out to Jesus saying; "I believe, help my unbelief!" It sounds contradictory, but that is the story of many people's experiences with faith. He is calling out for a glimpse of glory, something to bring a bit of light into the dark places of his doubt. A little glimpse of glory to sustain him as he faces reality.

Thank you God for glimpses of glory that strengthen us and help us face whatever chaos reality throws in our paths!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Grasshoppers transformed into eagles

Lectionary passages for Feb. 8, 2015. Isa. 40:21-31, Ps 147:1-11, 20, 1 Cor. 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39

 I have a sentimental connection with Isaiah 40:21-31. Verse 31 was my Dad's favorite verse. "...those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles..."

My Dad had a hard childhood and hurtful pieces of it stayed with him, leaking into all of life and requiring a constant, tiring struggle. I wonder if he loved this passage so much because of the hope it gives for grasshoppers to be lifted up like eagles.

Isaiah's imagery is awesome. The lowly grasshopper in verse 22 represents humanity. In some ways each of us is scarcely here on earth and in our short time we are but a tiny part of a massive pestilent horde. We wonder if we matter. We consume endlessly, and die too soon.  Even our great rulers and minds and generals are as nothing, subject to the same diseases, desires, and dysfunctions as the lowliest grass-munchers among us. We are the unholy millions.

In contrast, God is the Holy One. The Creator. And the startling revelation is that God cares. In God, even the short lived grasshopper can dream of being lifted on eagles wings, above the turmoil, loved and strong in the Lord.

What an amazing hope. From grasshopper to eagle. From powerless wayward child to unfainting and valued adult. This is worth the struggle.

On a different note, the Corinthians passage continues on from what we read last week, and there is another "nugget" to consider as people of faith try to discern their way through potentially divisive issues. Here is Paul's famous "I have become all things to all people" statement. I've always struggled to understand this. It is an impossible statement, and not something to aspire to in any case-it sounds too waffley. But I think I've misunderstood. I don't think that Paul changes his basic tune according to the hearer.

Leaders in Paul's time were expected to 'blow their own horns', to tell people why they should be followed. Paul does something very different. He is not serving for any sort of personal gain or to fulfill the expectations of others, but for the sake of the good news. He becomes a servant to all and seeks to understand what matters to others. This is the nugget. In the discussion and discernment through any issue, each of us must seek to gain some understanding of those who disagree with us. We may not come to any decision that suits everyone, but whatever is done will be done with care and respect. When a true effort is made to understand the other, there will be enough empathy to temper disagreements and avoid the unalterable digging in of positions or the final burning of bridges.