Bridge the God-Us Gap! | Word from the Shepherd No. 169

2nd Sunday of Lent | Year C
Gn.15:5-18; Ph.3:17-4:1; Lk.9:28-36

An atheist had written in big letters on the walls of his workroom, “GOD IS NOWHERE.” His small son tried to mouth it loudly and it sounded, GOD IS NOW HERE.” The father was shocked, and for the first time, he read with a vision and innocence of a child. He realised that God was here and near.”

God was near to Adam and Eve, but they lost that closeness of God. People say “No sun, plants wither; no God our hearts wither.” The first parents and many of us, by our distancing ourselves from God, lost that grace, the life giving energy.

But we see God’s new initiative to re-establish that relationship and closeness that was there since the beginning. In Genesis, with Abram, God begins with that promise of prosperity, perpetuity and pact; and a sign of mutual acceptance; and a covenant, sealed with words. In Luke, the distant mysterious God draws close to us, the believers, through Jesus Christ, the promise, the sign and the new covenant.

God draws near to us or to his people,

a) It begins with an invitation. Abram was led by God to see the heavens and the stars. The 3 disciples were led up the Mt Tabor by Jesus to behold the Transfiguration, the vision of ‘God with us.’

b) What follows is a personal struggle. The invited usually wrestle with acceptance of this new relationship. Some call it the dark night of the soul. It happens when they are heavy with sleep, where terror seizes them. If they endure the dark night, to the point of keeping awake, they see God’s glory.

c) God confirms the authenticity and genuineness of the encounter. The signs that accompanied their vision were the smoking furnace and the firebrand in Abram’s case, and the dazzling white glory, the affirming words of the 2 OT prophets (Moses, Elijah).

d) The covenant seals this new relationship initiated by God point. What follows is the blessing or the imparting of the inheritance.  To Abram, God gave that land with the words: ‘to your descendants, I give this land.’ The 3 disciples entered the cloud and heard the words, ‘this is My Son, My Chosen one. Listen to Him.’ The basic covenant expressed in these words: “I am your God and you are My people”. The covenant communicates the closeness of God.

There is a cost of following the God of the Covenant

a) Abram and the 3 disciples had to ‘relinquish control’; they had to let go what they came with, their understanding and their pre-conceived ideas. Unlike the above, the Judaizers in Philippi, in the days of Paul, held fast to all the regulations of the OT, their dietary restrictions (Their God was their stomach, said Paul); circumcision (They glory in their shame, remarked Paul) and reliance on externalism. The Philippians Jews insisted on control.

b) Abram and the 3 had to let go of their achievements and even merits. The disciples had to free themselves from their desire to build tents, to cling to Moses, Elijah and Jesus. They had to be open to a new theophany ie. the cloud, the shadow and the voice. They were just glimpses of God. These signs declared that “God is now here, not nowhere.”

Living the covenant is not keeping laws and customs, but being near to our God, daily walking with the Lord, ‘entering the cloud’, struggling with wanting to build our tents, ‘listening to that  one voice’.

Lent is a time to bridge the God-us GAP.