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I live in a Southern retirement area where golf courses are as enticingly prevalent as the gray-white heads and arthritic limbs they lured into residence. The sunshine, blue skies, and laid-back lifestyle are hypnotic. Everyone and everything moves at a slighter slower pace.
Volunteerism replaces paid employment—motivated both by good intentions and the convenience of choosing the time, place and frequency of one’s work. Never before was this possible.
We are in control—and the feeling is great! Without a doubt, our common cry is “Lord, how good it is for us to be here!”— quickly followed by a universal plea for friends to come join us on this mountaintop of exhilarating enjoyment.
It is easy to resonate with Peter’s sentiments on the Mount of Transfiguration.
We all prefer to pitch tents and remain where elation resides. We want to capture peak moments and freeze dry them for future hydration when life becomes dry and desiccated, and dull. Cameras flash, camcorders whirl—for the same purpose. Hold that pose. Concretize the experience for instant replay and long-term remembering.
There is nothing wrong with the human desire to remain where life is pleasant. After all, “Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves.” [Mt. 17:1]
It was not their initiative but that of the Lord that brought those three men to their heady heights. Jesus must have agreed that it was good for them to be there. On that spot, far from daily toil and trouble, he chose to let them really see him. But, they missed the point of the vision!
They thought they understood what was happening. Without further examination or reflection, they believed simply in what they saw and felt at the moment. It was good enough for them. In fact, Peter, controlling the situation, was still speaking—overriding any possible implications of the reality—when the truth overshadowed him. “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests. Listen to him.” [Mt. 17:12]
What we see is not what we get. There is more! Listening to the Lord is required before we are able to discover and uncover the depth of our vision.
What do we hear when we stop to listen to the Lord? We hear just six short words that could change our lives, if we let them. Six words bearing two commands would and could make all the difference.
Do not be afraid!”
Arise from the deadly doldrums that kill us with malaise and apathy.
Quit lying down, buried in blankets of reluctance, resistance, and refusal.
Above all, Do not be afraid! Place complete trust in the God who loves us more than we love ourselves.
The power of God’s Good News comes when we hear it…fear it…and continue to be of good cheer in it!
Cast away all fear of being discomfited or discouraged.
Stop looking downcast and dreary over dire possibilities. Instead, look up and see the Lord— only the Lord and no one else. Look up to the Lord...listen to the voice of God. Let the sight and sound of divinity be our empowerment and energy. Discover the truth. Learn again a Lenten message—to see sharply is not to remain in a stupor.
To see the Lord, dazzlingly and radiantly present, and stay in static contemplation was not enough for the apostles. It cannot be enough for us. We are meant to listen and live adventurously. Ours is a journey that leads us down from mountaintop experiences into valleys where visions become realities.
Sometimes the trail is clearly marked. The obstacles are visible and avoidable. Companions are compatible and numerous. Confidently, we march along at a good clip. However, at other moments, there will be a fearsome voyage into the unknown—the blind path of newness calling for our unique and personal trailblazing. Like Abram, we will be asked to go forth from the land of our kinsfolk—the place of comfort, ease, and support. Go forth to a land known only to God, hidden from view, to be shown us when the time is right. It takes only one small step to begin the voyage. What was said of that first lunar arrival, it is true for pilgrim Christians, “One small step for each of us; one giant leap for all!”
The mixed feelings of fascination and fear may cause us to freeze on the edge of motion.
Dreading danger while courting courage we seem unable to move from our spot—until the Lenten refrain returns empowering us to bear our share of the hardship which the gospel entails.
“Get up. Do not be afraid.”
Hearing, listening, looking, and seeing only the Lord—perhaps even holding our breath—that first tentative step is taken into the unknown mystery of Lent and onward to passion and resurrection. Following hopefully where we are lead, a discovery is made. We are a changed people, one and all. Something profound and paradoxical is happening to us, with us, through us.
Arising from our fear is a deeply rooted faith in God’s promise. We begin to see glimmers of its fulfillment, shades of its presence. Another step is taken...a deepening truth is given and received.
“I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”
The promise is mind-boggling, fit for a mountaintop experience and found in the valleys of tremulous life. There is but one requirement for its fulfillment, one divine request. Permit the touch of God to resurrect us from our fear-filled prostrations and protestations.
“Just do this for me—in memory of me—Get up! Do not be afraid.”
When we look again, we shall see no one else, but Jesus alone.