As we enter into this Lenten season, we are called to reflect on that which unites us as human beings: the knowledge of our own mortality. In the gospel on the transfiguration, Peter James and John go with Jesus to the mountain top where Peter suggests that they build three dwellings and stay there. To ride out the storm of the world in safety and seclusion. These three disciples are then witness to the transfiguration and there is “no one with them anymore, but only Jesus” (Mark 9:8). A good reminder when brought face to face with our mortality that this is it. This is all we have. That in this life it is not about the dwelling places or the mountain tops of seclusion but rather the faith, hope and love that is Christ.
But in the brokenness of our lives and our world where does this love of Christ show up? The love of Christ meets us perhaps most simply yet profoundly in a meal. Part of my evening this Ash Wednesday was spent with a group of friends helping with the Loaves and Fishes supper at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church over in the Seward neighborhood. It was a very powerful experience to be amongst those who have so little but are united through a simple meal. As I stood there I was reminded of the Ask a Muslim event the week before in which a professor on the panel was speaking about hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. He said that when you get to Mecca, all the men wear two pieces of simple white cloth as a symbol of our burial shroud and a reminder that we as human beings are all the same regardless of the worldly things that divide us. Perhaps Lent is our own sort of hajj in a way. A personal pilgrimage that reminds us we’re all in this together, “we’re all a mess”.
I continued to ponder this, looking out over the faces gathered before me. As things started to slow down, one kind looking elderly man came up to me and politely asked if he could have a few extra helpings of mac and cheese. I told him sure thing and gave him as much as he wanted. To this he kindly thanked me and added, smiling as he walked away, “Oh good, now I have dinner for tomorrow night”. That hit me. Hard. And it was that moment where God really showed up. In the voice of this kind old man. In the acknowledgment that while I go back to my life at the U after this, where will he go? While I live among the dwelling places, he lives in poverty. Where will he go?
After the transfiguration, Jesus gets up and instructs his disciples to follow him back down the mountain. A call to arise and follow. To leave the mountain top and be present in the world. Luther often spoke in terms of being freed from what for what. Through our reflections in this time of Lent we are freed from our brokenness which separates us from the world for the call to acknowledge that before we return to dust, we are blessed each with our own talents to follow Jesus off the mountain top and into the world to spread his love and grace. And so this is my prayer for us as we make our way on our Lenten pilgrimage. That our individuality may transcend into the communal and that in the broken places we may go forth in love. Where will that man go? Where will we go?
May we go with God
By Mark Jensen