Lent is not so much doing as opening us up to listen to God. Being human we live with ambiguity. There is assurance, there is faith but there is also doubt and there is temptation. When we are totally open to the miracle of life it is then and only then that we can recognise God’s presence and action in our lives. Lent gives us this time for recognition of what prayer, fasting and genuine sharing is all about. It is when the needy appear on the screens in our living rooms that we can start to change their situation. When we fast we live simply so that others can simply live. When we pray we listen with an awareness that brings change into our lives. John Shaw Neilson’s poem ‘The Orange Tree’ sums it up in the words of the young girl ‘plague me no longer for I am listening like the orange tree’. For it is only when we are able to keep the head out of the heart that we can live fully. It is not the head but the heart that ultimately finds God. Thomas Aquinas at the end of his life acknowledged this when he said that all he had written was mere straw when compared to the one reality that truly counted.
The readings for today are so apt. God makes a pact with Abram on condition that Abram leaves behind his land and kin and live in the land he is shown. He will make a great nation. That is not a triumphal nation but one that has social justice as its hallmark. In Timothy’s reading it is the power of God that will shoulder our suffering. We suffer together for it is as a community that we share in being persecuted. But we need remember that the good news which is life changing also makes great demands. Some are shamed by this and turn away. But to suffer for the kingdom is a condition for entry into that kingdom.
It was Jesus who took his three closest friends to the mountaintop. The key moments in Jesus’ life are symbolised by the mountain. He was tempted on the mountain. He preached the core of his teaching on the mountain in the form of the beatitudes and he was betrayed by Judas on a mount.
The Transfiguration was a moment of revelation. It became that moment of clarity in the lives of the privileged three disciples in the journey of their lives. They were amazed yet they harboured the fear of losing control. Again it is here that the head can so readily dictate to the heart. The disciples were terrified of letting go for they had used control as a mechanism to order and structure their lives. They had seen beyond the superficial and that was scary. But they discovered that peace came only from the trust they had in their God. They were no longer just fishermen for they had become rare characters in a world wanting redemption.
In this somewhat run down church, the church of the truly poor which we proudly call our home and sanctuary, we are able with open hearts to listen to the cries of our brothers and sisters. We stand with those who suffered in the Myall Creek Massacre and the many subsequent massacres, those who still suffer in the deaths in custody, those who die prematurely by drug overdose and inadequate medical assistance – we stand with them and with the same God sing the song of release. We, to use the words of Mudrooroo become the shamans who as a community sing the song of release and then we can start to unravel the mystery of lent.