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Sunday, Second Week of Lent

March 4, 2007

Blessed Sunday!

Readings:
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 (God promises Abram
to give him the land of Canaan)
Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14 “The Lord is my light and my salvation”
Philippians 3:17-4:1 (if we keep our citizenship in heaven,
even our bodies will be glorified)
+Luke 9:28-36 (the Transfiguration)

What does the future hold? Fortune-tellers of all sorts become
“fortune-makers” because of our natural human desire to know what’s
going to happen. We want to know how things are going to turn out, and
we will go to absurd lengths in our attempts to answer that question.
We could save ourselves a lot of aggravation by a close study of today’s
readings.

First we hear of Abram’s covenant with God, in which God assures
childless, elderly Abram that he will have descendants as numerous as
the stars of the sky. Furthermore, God Himself promises to give the
land of Canaan to Abram and his descendants forever. God tells Abram
what he needs to know, and no more. Abram’s left quite in the dark
about how these descendants are to be born, and makes a rather serious
mistake when he tries to help God out by impregnating his wife’s
servant, Hagar. Why did God let that happen? He certainly could’ve
clarified things from the beginning, emphasizing that Sarai was to be
the mother of the promised one. He could’ve stepped in when the plan to
involve Hagar first came up, before the deed was done. He didn’t. He
let Abram do the best he could with the information he had–and then He
brought good out of the resulting mess. Hagar and Sarai became a living
parable for us, representing the two covenants. Hagar represents the
slavery of law and Sarai, our freedom in Christ (Galatians 4:22-31).

In our Gospel, we hear of another look at the future. Again, God
reveals only what the disciples really need to know. Jesus had warned
His disciples of His impending torture, death and resurrection.
Naturally, that went over like a lead balloon. He had to explain to
them that there’s no point in saving your physical life only to lose
your soul. Now, about a week later, Jesus takes Peter, John and James
up a high mountain and is transfigured before them. For the first time,
they see Him for who He really is, radiant with the glory of God. Moses
and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets, among other things)
appear and converse with Him about what’s about to happen to Him in
Jerusalem, namely, His passion, death and resurrection. As if that
wasn’t enough, a bright cloud overshadows them and a Voice from the
cloud identifies Jesus as His Son and bids them listen to Him.

The disciples, dazzled by the splendor, are understandably overwhelmed.
They don’t yet understand what they’ve seen and heard (on the way
down the mountain, Peter, John and James are still trying to figure
out what “to rise from the dead” means), but this literally puts the
discussion of Jesus’ coming death in a whole new light. It would
take them a long time to unpack all the implications of what they’d
just experienced, but they now had undeniable evidence that Jesus
would suffer, die and rise. They also saw that there was life
beyond death. That was a point of debate among the Jews at the
time (which Paul used rather cleverly in his own defense
-Acts 23:6-9), but they’d just seen Moses, physically dead for
centuries, very much alive. An incredible note of hope had
been injected into the prediction of tragedy, a hope based on the
realization that God knows what He’s doing, and that He’s really in
control.

In our reading from Philippians, Paul too looks to the future, to the
end of the story when Jesus will come again and remake our lowly
bodies according to the pattern of His glorified body. Paul pleads
with his readers to stand firm in the Lord, to set their sights on their
citizenship in heaven. He warns them against making themselves enemies
of the cross of Christ by setting their hearts on the things of this
world, lest they end in disaster.

So how should we handle our own desire to know the future? Well, we
know that fortune-telling of any kind is out. God’s made that
abundantly clear (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). We are to seek our instruction
from God, not from His enemy (it’s sort of silly to ask the Father of
Lies–see John 8:44–for information anyway), and to trust that if God
doesn’t tell us, we’re not supposed to know. We’re supposed to use the
information we have to make the best choices we can, confident that if
our best isn’t good enough we can bring our mistakes to God and He will
bring good out of them. He knows what He’s doing, and He has everything
under control. He’s already told us the end of the story. He’s already
told us what we need to do to avoid hell and to join Him in Heaven,
which is, after all, the most important information there is.

May we entrust our anxiety about the future
to the One who’s already there.

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