Lent 2B "Faces toward Jerusalem, Feet toward the Cross" ~ Susan McGurgan

From his miraculous birth

to his baptism in the waters of the Jordan—

from the feeding of the five thousand

to the empty tomb on Easter morning,

everything we know about the life of Jesus

is a sign of his identity and his mission.


Everything—

his words and actions,

his silence,

his temptations,

his suffering,

his friends and disciples,

his parables,

his miracles--

are all signposts leading us to God.


Jesus points to the Father

and in turn,

the Father commands us

to keep our eyes on Jesus.


Before he entered public life,

Jesus plunged into the waters of the Jordan.

He had nothing to repent,

no sins to wash away,

no emptiness to be filled,

no brokenness to be made whole.


But Jesus entered the water, anyway.

He was baptized to open our eyes and hearts

and show us that heaven has been torn apart for us.

At the moment of his immersion,

Jesus lights our path to the Father.


He was driven into the desert

to live among the wild beasts

and be tempted by Satan.

He had no secret sins to indulge,

no vices to explore,

no weakness to test and overcome.

But Jesus entered the desert, anyway.

He entered that place of isolation and darkness

so he could stand beside us in our weakness—

sharing in our fears.

From the loneliness of fierce landscapes,

Jesus lights our path to the Father.

In the midst of his public ministry,

Jesus paused,

and took three disciples to a mountain top.

He had nothing to prove,

no crowds to impress,

no agenda to fill.

He ascended the mountain

to show us the glory of the resurrection to come.

At the moment of his transfiguration,

Jesus lights our path to the Father.


Each year,

during Lent, we are invited to

to take this same journey--

into the water,

through the desert,

up to the mountaintop,

and on to Jerusalem, the cross, and finally

the empty tomb.

Along the way,

we search for water from deep wells.

We fast and pray and stare down our own demons—

envy

greed

prejudice

a lack of love

an excess of pride.

But there are some years,

when this Lenten journey feels longer,

harder,

more perilous, somehow.


Some years,

no matter which route we take,

the path is steeper

and the toeholds slicker.

Some years,

no matter where we stop,

the wells look dry,

and the wilderness is all we see.


Some years,

the gratitude we want to name,

the faith we long to express,

the prayers we need to offer,

the words we ought to say,

remain silent,

elusive,

stuck deep in the back of our throats

like ashes.


This year,

many of us struggle with grief and loss,

isolation,

fear.

We are weary of violence,

wounded by rhetoric.

Exhausted.

Frozen.

Fed up.


Some of us are stretched so thin,

we feel almost invisible

trying to make the frayed ends of one day

meet the edges of the next.


Yet, each year,

early in this journey towards Easter,

the Church pauses to proclaim

the glory of the Transfiguration.


This week,

and every week,

we are invited to wash the grit from our eyes,

brush the dust from our clothing,

and go up onto the mountaintop

to stand beside Peter and James and John.

In that still, sacred space

high above the clamor of the world,

we are invited to see Jesus,

dazzling,

gleaming,

transfigured into glory.


This moment is a preview—

a foretaste of the heavenly glory

that awaits us all.

In this moment, Jesus wasn’t so much transformed,

as he was revealed in His fullness.

Revealed as the resurrected one.

Revealed as the God made flesh.

Revealed as our hope for eternity.

For the disciples,

this experience was so unexpected,

so overwhelming,

so charged with promise,

that Peter wanted to stay on the mountaintop

and bask in the light.

He wasn’t ready to turn his face toward Jerusalem

and his feet toward the cross.


Peter didn’t see,

just yet,

that the path to freedom,

the path to the Father,

the path back to the glory he just witnessed,

lies by way of the cross.

He didn’t understand,

just yet,

that the vision lighting the way to God,

would take him to Calvary, first.


Like Peter and James and John,

we are invited to contemplate the transfigured Christ

and see the glory of the Risen Lord.

In this vision,

we see not only His glory,

but the promise of our own.

Like Peter, we can’t linger there—

not just yet,

but we can return from the mountaintop

to live with our eyes fixed on Christ

and our hearts open to mystery.


We can see Christ,

living, glorified, radiant,

in everything we do--

when we visit the sick or care for an elderly relative;

when we pass on the faith or extend a hand to the poor,

when we honor the dignity of life or find courage to forgive a wrong.


Having been to the mountaintop,

we can live transformed.

We can see Christ reflected

in the work of our hands,

in joy of our love,

in the beauty of the created world,

in the water and the wilderness and the path we must walk.


Like Peter,

we might want to stay in that space,

saying, “It’s good that we are here!

Let’s make three tents!”

We might not be ready

to turn our faces toward Jerusalem

and our feet toward the cross.


But in the image of Christ,

transfigured,

we find the purpose

and the courage to journey on.


For Jesus,

for Peter,

and for us,

the road to Jerusalem is waiting.



© Susan McGurgan

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