The Holy Gospel according to St. Mark, the Ninth Chapter:
Six days after the day Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” and they answered “John… or Elijah… or some other prophet (Mark 8:28);” And so Jesus asked them “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered “You are the messiah (8:29);”
Six days after Jesus explained that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and rejection, and be killed, and after three days, rise up (8:31);
Six days after, in response to Jesus, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him—to which Jesus responded to Peter, publicly, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind not on divine things but on human things (8:33);”
Six days after Jesus told Peter and the disciples and the crowds, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross, and follow me, (8:34);” “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it… What will it profit them to gain the whole world, but forfeit their soul (8:35-36)?”
Six days after Jesus tells Peter and the disciples not to be ashamed of his words (8:38);
“Six days later… Jesus took with him:
and James and John,
and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses,
who were talking with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus,
‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here;
let us make three dwellings,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’
He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
Then a cloud overshadowed them,
and from the cloud there came a voice,
‘This is my Son, the Beloved;
listen to him!’
Suddenly when they looked around,
they saw no one with them any more,
but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain,
he ordered them
to tell no one
about what they had seen,
until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead (9:2-9).”
When they made their way down, Jesus found a crowd gathered in concern for a child, and he liberated the child from a demon that was was making the child
unable to speak and to hear (9:25).
This is the Gospel of our Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Last year, as we began our transition into Lent,
on Transfiguration Sunday,
I shared with you a an old Cherokee tale.
This year, it seems appropriate to share it again.
The tale goes like this:
One evening, an elderly Cherokee Brave told his grandson about a battle,
a battle that goes on inside of people.
He said to him,
“My son, the battle is between two wolves
that live in side each of us.
“The one is Evil and anger, and envy and jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed,
arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, dishonesty,
false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other,” he said, “is good. That wolf is joy and peace and love; hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, honesty, compassion, justice, and faith.”
The grandson thought for a minute. And he asked his grandfather.
“Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
To which the old man replied:
“The one that you feed.”
As Lent approaches, and the whole world
is giving up chocolate and ordering Filet-O-Fish at McDonalds,
I hope that Lent
for us, for you, for me,
might be something more nurturing,
more serious, more “faithy”…
I hope that you and I might take the time to ask seriously,
“What feeds the better me,
the me that Christ is calling me to become?”
—How does the good wolf…win?
How do I feed it? What do I feed it? What ought I be digesting?
We may fast from chocolate or meat or caffein or whatever,
(and maybe as an unexpected side-effect lose a few pounds.)…
But what are we taking in, instead? On what are we feeding?
—How does the good wolf win?
As we bury and lock up our Alleluia,
As we burn our Palms once used to praise, Oh! Glory,
and laud and honor…
as we give these things up, even as we take on the fast,
We give them up so that we are forced to reflect,
to break the norm so that we can find a new normal,
to upset a quite upsetting status quo—
to interrupt what has become routine…
In our giving up, we can take on the question:
If Alleluia is a song of home and community, sung in the presence of God, a song of Resurrection and new life, and here we are without the song, what happened?
Where are we estranged, unequal, unwelcoming? How are we exclusive or repulsive or condescending? Where do we hurt, kill, compromise or sacrifice others for our own comfort, our own profit, our own feelings of power or pride or pleasure?
—How does the good wolf win?
On the other hand, how do we hide:
behind praise songs and Alleluias, “faking it,” saying “praise the Lord,” and “God is good,” plastic smiles and Ned Flanders, dress-up clothes and a nice new hair cut, while our hearts are heavy and we feel distant from everyone, even our Creator?
Did Jesus ever call his disciples to “put on a happy face?” Not that I recall. Did God’s people in the bible ever lament and cry out? A lot.
“How can we sing this song in an estranged land? What healing do I need? When will I take the time to work out the things I need to work out? Who will help me? How will I pray?
—How does the good wolf win?
How do we lock up those things in us that could help others? How do we lock up our joys? How do you hide behind fears or insecurities? How do we put to rest our hope for so long that we forget we had it? How might you rekindle that in you that is almost only a distant dream? How might we remember, rekindle, relive moments of Transfiguration, Resurrection, loving communion and community?
How might we spend time on the mountain listening for God’s voice, and follow God’s call and direction, down the mountain into the work of liberating creation from demons that keep any sister or brother from having a voice?
—How does the good wolf win… for us?
I pray that you’ll join us this Lent:
Giving up, taking on. Pausing. Reflecting. Praying. And acting.
If you are able, I hope you’ll join us in interrupting:
interrupting your week, with our Wednesday evening sessions.
interrupting your day with our community-crafted daily devotional.
Interrupting the monotony and maintenance in search of resurrection.
If you are doubtful, I hope you’ll join us in asking questions…
Whatever you do,
I hope that if you give up anything,
that you let it be