This Sunday is the last in the season of Epiphany, often called Transfiguration Sunday. It's the dramatic story of mountain and light, dazzling clouds and the appearance of spiritual ancestors. Sometimes the story is seen as a sneak peek of the resurrection for the disciples. It's a turn in Jesus' life toward Jerusalem so it prepares us for Lent.
I appreciate the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. It reminds us that people of faith have lives that aren't oriented around nominal civil holidays. We serve a deeper purpose and our gathering isn't ever nationalism, cultural pride, or sentimentality. "It organizes and shapes our lives by the Christian story, instead of the things the kingdom of the world holds valuable." (Patheos.com) Intentionally choosing a gospel-centered organization system helps us to maintain our first allegiance to Christ and his kin-dom. We serve the way of Christ that calls us to rise above the noise of culture wars.
And of course, there are the changing colors of the liturgical year and meaningful symbols that guide us through the nuances of the gospel stories. The liturgical calendar unites us with the larger, longer church tradition, observed in one form or another, since the actual events themselves. It disciplines us to consider parts of the story we might overlook, to linger in the valley instead of rushing toward the mountaintop. It is the antidote to our culture's obsession with instant gratification and busyness.
Easter doesn't happen without the terror and anguish of what comes before, so on Ash Wednesday, February 22, we're invited to "walk with Christ for those 40 days, to see him ride into Jerusalem over the path of palm branches, dine with him in the upper room, fall asleep in the garden, and feel the hammer locked in our palm's grip as the nails pierce our Savior's body." (Patheos.com)
We will take on the ashes of repentance, as a sign of the cross on our foreheads, as a symbol of our willingness to walk the way of Christ, not the way of the world. We will set aside a season for introspection as we listen to Jesus and the pain of the world. We will not look away. We will spend our days reflecting on the justice Jesus envisioned rolling down like waters and the righteousness that flows like a mighty stream.
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