The Church is often divided when it comes to the liturgical calendar. Some feel that having predetermined weeks for themes or texts is far too restrictive for our free-spirited times. Others run to the calendar for refuge, preferring the challenge to preach outside of their “favorite zones.”
Me? I had thought of myself as a chameleon, more “when in Rome-ish” than having a preference. But, here lately, I am finding myself yearning for the calendar and for ways to join the seasonal rhythms of the worldwide Church for which Christ died.
I am writing this blog in the shadow of Transfiguration Sunday, the day set aside on the church calendar to remember when Jesus, with Peter, James and John in tow, appeared with Moses and Elijah on a distant mountain. A day when the position of Christ in human history was clarified – one greater than Moses the Lawgiver, one greater than Elijah the prophet – dazzling with otherworldly light. When, again, humanity heard the voice of God from heaven, repeating what we heard at Jesus’ baptism: my Son, my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.
It is no accident that every year in the church calendar, this Sunday precedes Ash Wednesday and the start of our yearly Lenten journey. Transfiguration Sunday functions as the New Testament version of Isaiah 6 , where Isaiah, known to be a person of faith beyond just “regular attender” — a priest — had an out-of-the ordinary encounter with God in his place of worship that changed him for a lifetime. Isaiah had a transfiguration moment, where God was revealed, “high and lifted up,” when God’s presence filled the Temple. This “God sighting” made Isaiah aware of his sin and drove him to repentance and renewed commitment. I am a man of unclean lips… here I am, Lord, send me.
Transfiguration Sunday, reminds us to look at Jesus, greater than Moses or Elijah, to listen to him because he is the Son of God. Like Isaiah, this fresh vision of divinity reminds us that we partake of fallen humanity, and so we place dust on our heads to remind us that we are dust and that we are imperfect before we are called to the howling wilderness of the soul to face and conquer our demons.
Today, I am thankful to be called to prayer and some form of Sabbath rest as I contemplate my soul’s condition. I am thankful that the Church is shouting: “slow down! Listen! Reflect. Pray!” I am relieved that at least once a year I have a legitimate reason to put away Superwoman’s cape, to drop the mask, and to stop the charade by putting the ashes on my head that betray that I am human and flawed and prepared to join my new friends here, and my old friends in Nashville and New York, Atlanta and Ghana on the yearly soul’s journey to be more like Christ.
May this year’s Lenten journey begin with a fresh vision of Christ and be fueled by a fresh vision of who we really are.