|The Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Psalms 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
Philippians 3:17--4:1 or 3:20--4:1
“Incredible!” “That’s hard to believe!” “Unbelievable!” “Do you believe that!” These are common phrases that we use to express astonishment. Today’s readings are about believing and the call to even go beyond the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” Seeing is being invited to go beyond what we can see or understand to the leap of love called faith.
We read from Genesis today about Abram who is invited to look up at the stars and seeing them all is asked to believe that his descendants will be more numerous than all the stars in the sky. Abram is also promised a great land to possess for him and his descendants. Promises, promises, the first to have children and the other to have land. Both of these are signs of God’s abundant blessings, but Abram and his wife are old and the prospect of having land seems remote. Believing is more than seeing. Is there such a thing as “blind faith?” Is not, perhaps, the necessity to see a form of blindness? Abram trusts the Promiser and the promise, and sees a covenant sign of sacrifice, which is part of the promise, but does not diminish the act of trusting the Covenant Maker.
Today we hear Luke’s account of what we call the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James and John go up a hill with Jesus. These are the same three who follow Him into the Garden of Olives and fall asleep during His agony. They fall into a sleep of sorts here, too. They witness a strange event. They see Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about His “exodus” which would take place in Jerusalem. His “exodus,” or passage through suffering to life, is being prepared for here. They come fully awake and propose staying there and not venturing any further into mystery. They want to build three tents.
Instead of listening to their proposal, Jesus is enveloped in a cloud and a voice declares that this Jesus is the “chosen” and He should be listened to. Believing is more than seeing and more than hearing. The three followers have seen Jesus’ glory, heard the ancient prophets speaking, heard the voice from heaven and will be asked to live out their seeing, hearing and believing, but they don’t. Something louder, something blinding prevents them from living beyond what they have seen and heard.
Believing, having faith, trusting is a form of loving. A child leaps into its parent’s arms from the edge of a swimming pool, but sometimes, that child might look at the deep water, the height, and then just sit down. The parent might wonder if the child does not know the love that promises that the child will be caught and not drowned. So the parent might talk to the child and try convincing to urge the child to come and have fun. Leaping is loving, but sitting down is not a rejection of love; it is a self-protection device, which renders the child safe, but not having much fun.
The three spectators to the vision and audience would love having three tents built here and would prefer this to moving on into any more mystery. Jesus invites them and us, to continue the journey. God has a problem with us and it is our free will. As with the child, we can not be talked into trusting or leaping. Trusting is not a result of a rational, but a relational process. The three followers have seen Jesus' figure in the scenes of His life and they see Him in some “beyond-figure” here on the mountain. They have seen something they do understand and something they don’t. They have enough evidence of His love for them, but the leap still is not easy.
We have seen and heard enough, but we want to see more and hear more. Abram sees, hears and trusts though there is the evidence around him to the contrary. Trusting is the way we love God and it is all that God wants from us all. As with the Apostles, our senses are bewildered and confused by certain transfigurations. They did not understand, evaluate and find easy explanations of what they saw and heard. We stand on the edge of certain pools of our lives and God invites us to jump. Our responses have the qualities of desire and disbelief. “Incredible!” “Unbelievable!” “Can you believe that!” Yes, kind of, most of the time, but God, keep calling and keep Your arms out, please!
“Remember your mercies, Lord, your tenderness from ages past.”
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