Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, February 22, 2009:

First Reading: 2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm: Psalm 50:1-6

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Gospel: Mark 9:2-9

This Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, is the Sunday when many Protestant churches celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord. The Gospel presents Jesus, Peter, James, and John up on the mountain when not only is Jesus transformed into someone with garments that are "glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them" (verse 3). And then Moses and Elijah show up to talk with Jesus.

As we can imagine, the disciples are afraid. Peter blabbers on about building booths, which I find somewhat charming: "Let's build a shelter!" And then a voice from the clouds tells them to listen to Jesus.Most of us will never have this kind of overwhelming evidence of the divinity of Christ. Most of us will never see the prophets, at least not on this side of the grave. Most of us will never hear God proclaiming that Christ is the son to whom we should listen.

And yet, many of us believe.

My nonbeliever friends just cannot understand how people of faith can believe, even though we have no tangible proof. When I'm in a lighthearted mood, I respond by saying, "I believe in many things that I can't explain: electricity, the internal combustion engine, and the enduring power of love. I believe in many things that I can't prove with my senses, like string theory. I believe in many things that I can't get my human brain around, like the expanse of the universe or the fact that my husband will love me at my most unlovable."It's an interesting thing to ponder, this issue of what makes some of us believers and what makes other people reject the idea of God. Do we believe because of evidence of God that we see in the world? Do we believe because we see the impact of God on other people? Or perhaps we do have some experience of God in our own lives? Some scientists will argue that the desire for the divine is part of our genetic code and others scoff at that. It's interesting to me that physicists, the ones who study a science that most of us will never fully understand, and a science that often seems least provable by conventional methods, often have a more profound belief in God (although it's often a different belief from that of most mainstream believers) than other types of scientists.

Different people will have different answers to why they believe in God or why they don't believe in God. And then we might ask what our belief in God, or absence thereof, means for our daily life.

A week from today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, a day that reminds us that we are here on this earth for a very short time. Rather than get morose about this subject, we can use this as a prompt to ask ourselves what's important in our lives. Are we living daily lives that are in sync with those values? How can we make adjustments to ensure that we are not wasting our brief time here?

Lent begins a week from today. This liturgical season offers us a perfect time for some recalibration. Maybe we want to try or revisit a spiritual discipline: adding another prayer time to our day, adding some Bible reading to our day, adding some devotional time, adding some quiet time, fasting (from television, from the news, from junk calories . . .), tithing, journalling, some social justice work. Maybe we want to add some symbol to our living space to remind us of our commitment to God. Maybe we want to undertake an art form to help us with our contemplative time. There are many more opportunities than I can list here, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. But just choose one thing to do for Lent, one thing that seems to mesh with your other commitments in life. Commit for the season of Lent, and by the time we get to Easter, you may be amazed to see how your life has become transfigured.

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