Yesterday was the last Sunday before Lent. In the Gospel reading (Matthew 17.1-9) we remembered Jesus’ Transfiguration, when he appears in glory with Moses and Elijah before Peter, James and John. A voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” When Jesus came down from the mountain, it seems as though glory had gone out of the window, as he encounters some very disgruntled disciples who, having been left behind, were definitely not on the job. Visions fade in the light of common day. Jesus did not escape the highs and lows that so often toss us from one extreme to the next.
The next thing we will remember in Church on Ash Wednesday, as we mark the beginning of Lent, is Jesus being tempted by the Devil to become someone other than he is. The season has a desert feel to it, mirroring the forty days and forty nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness, struggling with hunger and his own conscience.
Traditionally people fast, or give up chocolate or wine, spend more time on ‘spiritual’ things, give extra to charity, all in preparation for Easter. Frankly, it can, sometimes, feel a bit like a gimmick.
Perhaps Lent offers a very useful gift of time, to glance within, into our own desert places, stop to consider the things that really matter and connect with innermost need. What and who are essential for survival, for shelter, for loving? What needs to change for life to be abundant?
Mountain views can be glorious but most of us live in the valleys.