Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Storm Before the Calm

I admit it.  Now that some of our parishioners turned me onto The Vicar of Dibley, I have been on a Vicar marathon.  I believe I have watched the equivalent of four seasons this past week.  The episodes I have in mind, however, are the last.  The Vicar, after ten years of marrying other people, finally meets a man she truly falls in love with.

After they kiss for the first time, she says good night, shuts the door to the vicarage and plops down on the sofa to ponder what just happened.

Big events are often followed by a period of quiet -- a time to think about what just happened and what the future holds in store for us.

Of course, sometimes those quiet periods are nerve-wracking.

Look at the reading from Exodus.  There you have Moses running up to the top of the mountain with Joshuah, and all the rest of Israel is down below watching.  Suddenly the fire erupts into fire, and Moses walks into that fire.  

Then nothing.  For forty days and nights.  And the people wait.  And wait.

Or look at Jesus.  Up on a mountain with Peter, James and John.  Suddenly, he is transfigured before them -- dazzling white with a face that shines like the sun.  Then Elijah and Moses show up and talk with Jesus -- and THEN a cloud overshadows them and the voice of God speaks.  

This is, you've got to admit, pretty astounding for the disciples.  It had to hit them with at least as much force as the people of Israel watching Moses enter into the fire.  And then Jesus says, "Don't tell anyone."

Don't tell anyone?  Is he kidding?  We just saw Moses and Elijah!  We just had a mountaintop experience!

Don't say a word.

It's kind of like when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended upon him -- only to drive him into the wilderness for forty days.  

This is, in fact, a human experience.  Like the Vicar, like the people of Israel, like Peter, James and John, there are big events, and then down time whether forced or by choice.  

We need that quiet time, that time for reflection to put into context what just happened.  A friend of mine recently said that nobody can understand their own sins until after they've already been forgiven -- but getting to that place of forgiveness is like a storm in the gut.  It's only afterward, when things have calmed down, that we can see ourselves more clearly.

We have quite a storm of events coming our way this week.  There is, of course, the Super Bowl today.  Then, there's Super Tuesday where we all get to vote in the primaries.  But of course, the most Super part of Tuesday is the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper.  Sure, some place will have bigger parties and call them Mardi Gras -- but WE'LL have the pancakes.

Either way, at the end of it, there will be a calm.  Forty days and nights of Lent.  And what can we do with those forty days?  

Take the time to make sense of the storm.  Take the time to make sense of that voice of God saying, "This is my son, listen to him."  Take the time to make sense of the journey Christ now makes to Jerusalem and Gethsemane.  

There's a storm of events this week.  But they are followed by the calm.  May we willingly enter into the calm and use it well.