The Second Sunday of Lent
2019 – Cycle C
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36
When was the last time you intently looked into the sky at the stars?
Do you realize that none of us have ever seen the night sky filled with stars as Abram did? Ever since the Palace of Electricity at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, human light has gradually obscured from sight heaven’s light. What was it like for Abram to look up across 100,000 light years of distance through our galaxy filled with 200 billion stars? We will regretfully never know. All we can know is that Abram couldn’t count the stars that night. Stars that we almost now can count – but at a price. What is forever lost is a sense of wonder at the night sky.
Maybe that is where are our stories today are leading us. Both passages from Genesis and Luke are wonder – filled mystical and spiritual experiences. These experiences cannot and should not to be explained and understood. It is not as if these experiences were a school lesson and assignment that we finish, put away and move on to the next lesson. “The disciples fell silent…” No one falls silent in the presence of a lesson or facts. Light bulbs go off in our heads… We only fall silent when breath is taken from us.
I asked you last week if you knew the stories of our people. Stories that we tell and listen to over and over again, each year, each season, each Sunday and feast. We keep telling them because they tell us who we are, where we came from and where we are being called into the future.
Close your eyes for a moment and reflect…on countless stars strewn across the sky, like diamonds across a piece of jeweler’s velvet cloth. Imagine not just darkness but a terrifying, fearful darkness. Consider trances and sleep – where you are caught between the unconscious and wakefulness of early morning.
What these passages are presenting to us are spiritual experiences that are open to herdsmen and fishermen, that is, to ordinary people like you and me. There is nothing unusual about Abram, Peter, James and John. They were not gurus, mystics, hermits or saints seeking after incredible experiences of the divine. Neither experience was sought after. Rather, God chose to break into the life of Abram, Peter, James and John unexpectedly as God is rather inclined to do.
You’re in a hurry, walking fast around a street corner and…Bang! There is a person, a light pole or tree. Have you ever walked into a glass door? Embarrassing isn’t it and yet it wakes us up to a new reality. Just so, we can bump into God…whose been waiting for us around the corner.
In the spiritual life it is God who initiates the relationship. We can only respond. “It was on that occasion that God made a covenant with Abram”. Abram does not make a covenant with God. God pledges a promise to Abram as God had done with Noah and will with Israel and has done with us through the incarnation and cross of Jesus Christ. The question Lent poses to us is, what is our response?
In a world such as ours that has become so rational. …where everything is brought down to a monetary value, …where people are measured and valued only by what they can produce, …where there is no longer any place left for enchantment and mystery, for the unexplainable and unexpected, for wonder and awe, for that which simply offers delight in being so beyond us; the night sky of Abram and the dazzling, glorified face of Jesus can have no meaning and these a stories are muted.
How do you speak of heaven, of eternity, of glorified bodies, and voices from clouds to people that only believe in here and now and do not value prayer? Both these experiences happen in the midst of prayer, conversation with God.
It is only to people like Abram, who you are on a journey that these stories can have meaning and give direction. It is only to people who have the courage to ask questions of God. Abram, “How am I to know that I shall possess this land?” Mary, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Zechariah, “How can I know this?” Peter, well, Peter doesn’t know what he is saying caught as he is between unconsciousness and wakefulness where God is often strongly and clearly experienced.
Like Abram, we are on a journey through this Lent, one of many in our lives, to Pentecost, another fantastic unexpected, mystical spiritual experience. The question for us may be, are we open to the unexpected presence of God? Are we aware of God’s wonder – filled appearances in our lives? Are we willing to ask uncomfortable questions of God that have the suggestion of unbelief but are rather filled with trust? We don’t ask the hard questions of people we do not trust, do we?
Take time to look intently into the March night sky. Look across the 100,000 light years of distance that is our galaxy, our home filled with 200 billion stars. It is not exactly what Abram saw but is it not still fantastic? Contemplate and wonder. Be enveloped and overshadowed by light and terrifying darkness as did Abram, Peter, James and John. It may be the most important spiritual exercise and experience for us this Lent.