Look over Jesus’ Shoulder: What do you see?

     After a very strange winter weather pattern, there seem to be some signs of spring.  Here in the south, trees are sprouting new leaves.  The azaleas are beginning to bloom.  the gray of winter may really be behind us. 

There is something within each of us — all of us — that wants to know, that needs to know, that “things” are going to get better.  We can endure the darkness and the struggle when we see that better days are ahead.

     As tired as we might be of the constant barrage of political promises — even though we know we still have 8 more months to go before we cast a vote for president — as much as we try not to pay too close attention to what is being said by candidates or commentators, we just cannot escape hearing some of what is being said and what is being promised.

     Visions of the future!  A better tomorrow!  A plan to balance the budget and give us what we want!  All we have to do is believe.

     On this second Sunday of Lent we reflect on the experience of the TRANSFIGURATION.  It is an experience that speaks to the human condition and calls us to move forward in faith.

     First, let’s remember the context for the experience — why Jesus brought Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop with him.  Jesus had just given his first message on the passion — the suffering of the cross, his death on the cross.  This gloomy picture added to what the disciples were encountering.  The huge crowds that followed Jesus when he was curing the sick, feeding the masses, and changing water into wine — were getting smaller and smaller as he taught about forgiveness, sacrifice, and losing one’s life for the other.  These men must have been experiencing some discouragement and some questions of their own:  are we on the right track?  Are we following the right teacher?

      So, Jesus invites them for a weekend getaway …. a break from work … some down time.  Once on the mountain, Jesus was transfigured …. so that the disciples saw him IN HIS GLORY.  They were able to see beyond the moment, beyond the cross, to sense the resurrection and the life to come.

      Everyone of us knows what it is like to feel overwhelmed — so much to do, so many challenges to meet, too many questions —– not enough time, not enough energy, feeling that we have to do it all alone.  We become weighed down and we see NO POSSIBILITY of things being better … we see no way out or no way forward.

     Then:  we take a break, we get a good night sleep, someone offers to help — or we realize that we do not have to do it all.  Suddenly, there is a glimmer of hope …. and we pick ourselves up and start again.  We walk forward with a VISION of what can be.

      Lent can be a time to re-charge our engines — to recover our hope — to re-envision life.  Somewhere, somehow ….. Jesus has to get between us and the challenge/the problem.  We look over his shoulder, we look at the cross, we see the pain and suffering AND WE SEE the results.

      Maybe you have had a powerful retreat experience —- or a romantic getaway —- or a super vacation.  All of a sudden, we begin to think about going home, back to “real life”.  Well, I think those experiences of retreat, the getaway, the vacation are a part of real life, too.  Without those experiences THE OTHER STUFF of real life will get us down and out.

>  When was the last time you and Jesus went away — up the mountainside — to deal with the stuff in your life … and to look beyond today to what things can look like with the help of God?

> What challenge are you facing today that seems painful, frustrating, end of the world?  Is Jesus able to offer a different vision of what things could be like?

> Is there a part of yourself that you see as in need of God’s transformation [transfiguration]?

> Where are you losing hope?  What discouragements are you facing?

       We remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech in which he said that he had been to the mountaintop.  He told those listening that he might not “get there with you” … but he had SEEN THE GLORY.  He saw the day when things would be different, when people would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  He saw the day when boys and girls of all colors would walk hand in hand.  Because he saw what was ahead, he could go forward even if he himself did not get there.

       We might not live long enough to experience all the changes we want to have happen.  We may not be able to work long enough or hard enough to finish every project we have in mind.  But, being able to see what might be, what can be — should renew us all in hope. 

       In baseball, spring training has begun.  Any player who is convinced that his team will be terrible and that they will finish last — is not someone I would want on my team.  Some team will finish last.  But, to begin the season believing that you, your teammates, and your team are a bunch of losers — is not the attitude to work with.

      In the week ahead, accept Jesus’ invitation to go up to the mountaintop.  Look Jesus into the eye — see him transfigured — look over his shoulder into your world and what do you see?

hjm

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