Sunday, February 19, 2012

The World Below

At church this morning, the theme was Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9). The pastor talked about how the disciples saw Jesus in a way that they had not seen him before, and he compared that to Madeleine Albright’s discovery that her parents were Jews who converted to Catholicism to escape the Holocaust. He also contrasted the mountaintop experience of Peter, James, and John with an occasion in which God appeared to be absent: Jesus’ crucifixion. And the pastor expressed hope that church services would transform us by helping us to see God and the world around us in new ways, and he encouraged us to see God in nature: the babbling stream, the sunset, the mountains, the cry of a newborn baby, etc.

I think that the pastor should have spoken more about the part of Mark 9 in which Peter, James, John, and Jesus come down from their mountaintop experience and see a demon-possessed person, whom his disciples could not exorcise. Jesus criticized that generation for its lack of faith. There’s the mountaintop experience, and then there’s the brokenness and harsh realities of the world below.

I’ll bring in my own experience, though it really doesn’t deserve to be in the same class as the harsh realities of the world, which include such things as hunger, poverty, war, devastation, natural disasters, diseases, people losing their families and loved ones, etc. There have been times when I have had awesome quiet times (prayer and Bible study), and then I had to go out into the less-than-friendly world. The result is my discouragement. Nowadays, I hope I’m coming to grips with the fact that the world is not perfect, according to my own standards.

But it would be nice if my times with God strengthened me and inspired me to go out into the harsh world with a fresh and a positive perspective. In a sense, church does that, especially the part of the service in which we share our joys and concerns and pray over them. You have people rooting for your well-being. You bring issues to God. Hopefully, God answers, but, even if things don’t turn out well, there is a sense of comfort that comes from not being alone.

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