Today we are at the tippy top of a tall mountain. Let’s talk about how we got here over the past season of Epiphany and where we are going as we come down from the mountain:
AHA. That is what epiphany means. Aha. Today is the last Sunday in Epiphany. For the last six weeks, each Sunday has brought us big Aha lessons. Let’s remember them: back when Bishop Greg was here, the first Sunday of Epiphany, we heard the story of the wise men coming to find baby Jesus, recognizing that this tiny baby was indeed the long expected savior. Aha!
The following Sunday we remembered the baptism of Jesus. I’d call it an Aha moment when, standing by that river, Jesus heard the voice of God proclaim; “This is my son, the beloved,s with whom I am well pleased.” Wow. Again, it is being made clear that this Jesus is no ordinary guy.
Then Jim taught us about the wedding feast where Jesus changed water, a lot of water, into really fine wine. A miracle. A sign. Aha. Just a couple of weeks ago, Lorraine preached on Jesus declaring to his hometown friends that he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah. Declaring that the spirit of the Lord was upon him. Aha.
At first that sat well with his neighbors but last week, Joyce continued the story where that same crowd gets very angry when Jesus refers to himself as a prophet. Aha. So they decide to throw him off a cliff. That’s not an Aha moment, that’s an AAUGH moment!
And that brings us to today, wrapping up the season of Epiphany with a great big epiphany, a great big Aha. Jesus wants to get away and have some quiet time to pray so he and his friends climb a mountain. Peter, James and John take a nap. While Jesus is praying something incredible happens: His face changes, his clothes positively glow a brilliant white. Two rather famous prophets of old show up: Moses and Elijah come to visit. They appear in glory. Maybe that means they were glowing too. They speak to Jesus of his coming departure, also translated as his exodus, and what is to happen in Jerusalem. They know what is to come for him; they are prophets after all. This mountaintop experience foreshadows the agony of the cross and the joy of resurrection. From high on this mountain, they can see clear to Easter.
Peter, James and John witness all of this, probably with their mouths wide open. Then everyone is enveloped in a cloud. We know that these clouds usually mean God himself is showing up. A strong voice is heard saying; “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Big Aha!
That is the season of Epiphany. Lesson after lesson pounding in these messages: Jesus is a prophet. Jesus is a miracle worker. Jesus IS the messiah. Jesus is heavily endorsed by God himself. Jesus is not only the son of God but when we are told to LISTEN TO HIM, we recognize that Jesus speaks for God. Aha.
This is heady stuff so maybe it is a good thing that we take a rest from all these amazing lessons by entering into the season of Lent, starting this Wednesday. A friend of Jeff’s asked me what Lent was and I found it was hard to describe without sounding like a major downer. The word Lent comes from a Germanic word which means spring. So we can think of Lent as a time for spring cleaning of our own souls! It can be a time for prayer and maybe some self denial, it is a time for growth and introspection. Mostly, it is a time to prepare for Holy Week and Easter. I think of it as a quiet time, bereft of Alleluias. A time where it is hard to find a happy hymn to sing!
We prepare for Lent here at St. Mark’s on Shrove Tuesday by making and serving thousands of pancakes to our community. This is major hard work which results in aching backs and sore feet. This is a good way to enter into the Lenten spirit.
Between the exciting Aha moments of Epiphany and the great drama, sadness and then the joy of Easter maybe we need the quiet time of Lent to be still, to pray and listen for God. To practice small rituals in our daily lives that bring us closer to God.
Today God tells us to listen to Jesus. How can we do a better job of this? How about through prayer? I’m betting that most of us could use some help with prayer. In the book of Luke, Jesus often tries to get away and have some quiet time to pray. Usually, his prayer is interrupted because somebody needs him, somebody usually needs healing. So Jesus prays and prays but only once does something really incredible happen during his prayer. Only once, while he prays, does he glow and enjoy the company of Moses and Elijah, only once in his life does God come down from heaven in a cloud during his prayer.
I’m glad to realize this. I pray too, surely not nearly enough. Usually, my prayer is a quick ‘thank you God’ or an urgent ‘please, please, God.’ I would so like to be the person who says long, devout daily prayers on my knees with nothing distracting me like; ‘oh yeah, I need to buy milk today.” Maybe when Jesus prayed, most of the time his experience was like ours: needing to make time for prayer and often being interrupted.
So this Lent, I will pray more. Our family will remember to say this grace before meals: “We thank thee Lord, with happy hearts, for rain and sunny weather. We thank Lord, for this our food and that we are together.” We can say that for forty days. This Lent I will pray the prayer that Jesus taught us; I will pray the Lord’s prayer every morning as soon as I wake up.
What can you do to listen to Jesus during Lent? I have to say that when I observe Lenten rituals, Holy week and Easter mean so much more to me. Because, you see, this quiet time, this serious time of Lent prepares us for the great seriousness of the Passion, the last days of Jesus‘ life, the pain and sorrow of the cross. This Lenten time prepares us for the joy and amazement that bursts forth on Easter Sunday when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection with great happiness and bells and lots of Alleluias!
We’ve had the season of Epiphany and said Aha over and over again but nothing, nothing compares to the ultimate Aha moment of Easter!