This Sunday is the last Sunday before we enter the season of Lent. Called Transfiguration Sunday — the day in which we remember the experience of Jesus and three of his disciples on a mountaintop in Galilee — it refers to the story of Jesus praying up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John, and their powerful experience in which Jesus was “transfigured” before them. In this vision, he became dazzlingly bright and they were joined by the presence of Moses and Elijah, the two great figures representing the law and the prophets. Simon Peter wanted to remain there because it was, in every respect, a “mountaintop experience.” But, Jesus knew better. There were needs down in the valley that called for service and action, so Jesus led them back down into the valley to meet those needs.
Mountaintop experiences have their place. We need them. We need those times of closeness to God, times of inspiration, and to be reminded of what is most important. The presence of God in all of them, you might say, is the fuel that keeps us going in our service to others and in the busyness of our lives. We need those times of intentional focus on our relationship with God and on the faithfulness with which we follow Jesus. The season of Lent is such a time of intense focus.
There is an Indian parable in which a guru had a disciple and was so pleased with the man’s spiritual progress that he left him on his own. The young disciple lived in a little mud hut. He lived simply, begging for his food. Each morning, after his devotions, the disciple washed his loincloth and hung it out to dry.
One day, he came back to discover the loincloth torn and eaten by rats. He begged the villagers for another and they gave it to him. But the rats ate that one, too. So he got himself a cat. That took care of the rats, but now when he begged for his food he had to beg for milk for his cat as well.
“This won’t do,” he thought. “I’ll get a cow.” So he got a cow and found he had to beg now for fodder. So he decided to till and plant the ground around his hut.
But soon he found no time for contemplation, so he hired servants to tend his farm. But overseeing the laborers became a chore, so he married to have a wife to help him. After time, the disciple became the wealthiest man in the village.
The guru was traveling by there and stopped in. He was shocked to see that where once stood a simple mud hut there now loomed a palace surrounded by a vast estate, worked by many servants. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked his disciple. “You won’t believe this, sir,” the man replied. “But there was no other way I could keep my loincloth.” [Mark Buchanan, “Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing,” Christianity Today, September 6, 1999, 66]
That little parable reminds us that without times of focus, such as Lent, we can go from one concern or one task or one problem to another and then another until we have lost sight of the relationships and life of faith that undergirds it all. I invite you to let this season of Lent, which begins next week on Wednesday, be for you a time of intense spiritual focus.
Grace and Peace,