Peaks and Valleys

Homily for Second Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2019

In spite of the challenges we face in life (our struggles, doubt, hardship and confusion), we are people of faith; we have hope. Amidst life’s challenges, God blesses us from time to time with
“Glimpses of Glory” – times when God’s actions in our lives surprise and amaze us, disrupting our sense that we are in control. Today’s readings reflect times with God communicated with people on earth and offered them glimpses of something greater in their life.

Whenever I hear our first reading, I am reminded of a trip my wife and I took to Montana. We were staying at a resort just outside Yellowstone National Park. One night, while walking back from the dining hall, we paused and looked up at the big, beautiful Montana sky. It was amazing! The sky was so clear! I had never seen so many stars and constellations!

Two thoughts overcame me at the time. The first was: God, our Creator does really good work! Our God truly is an awesome God. The second thought was: In the overall scheme of things, I am just a miniscule speck of matter (and not the center of the universe I sometime believe).

That’s what these “Glimpses of Glory” do – they help give us clarity and help us see beyond our limited vision.

GLIMPSES OF GLORY

In each of today’s readings, the characters are given a new glimpse of what God is calling them to do in their life. This helps strengthen their trust in God. The readings also suggest that the characters will experience some sort of suffering in their lives that will further challenge them to be open to God’s will.

  • In the First Reading (Genesis 15:5-12; 17-18), God creates as new covenant with Abram, who is challenged and confused about how he will fulfill what God wants. He hesitates putting complete trust in God, so God uses the stars in the heavens to demonstrate how his covenant promises much more than Abram can ask, or imagine. This gives Abram the assurance he needs to go forward with God’s plan.
  • In the Second Reading (Philippians 3:17-4:1), Paul offers his own spiritual journey as a model for others to imitate. He encourages his followers to put aside their worldly interests and fix their eyes on heaven (our ultimate goal). Paul knows that his journey will not be easy (he will be imprisoned and killed for his faith), but Paul’s words strengthen his follower’s will and courage.
  • In the Gospel Reading (Luke 9:28b-36), we witness one of the greatest “Glimpse of Glory,” the Transfiguration of Jesus. The Transfiguration was a short-lived occurrence, but it was an everlasting sign and promise of the Resurrection (which will last forever). This event helps strengthen Peter, James and John as they accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, where he will be crucified.

Today’s Gospel is also a good example of what happens after we experience one of the “Glimpses of Glory.” After experiencing these spiritual highs – the “mountaintop experiences” – we must walk down the mountain, back to reality. This can be a tricky thing to navigate. The challenge is to allow what we experienced on the mountain to influence and change us – for the better.

PEAKS AND VALLEYS

While we may not experience a “Glimpse of Glory” every day, our lives are a series of peaks and valleys. Our “highs” and “lows” are part of life. We want our “highs” to energize us (to strengthen our faith and trust in God). We want our “lows” to not define us (they are where we are, but not what we are). What helps to make these changes in altitude easier to navigate is our prayer life.

You may be familiar with Dr. Spencer Johnson, the author of several best-selling books, including The One Minute Manger and Who Move My Cheese (a book about dealing with change). Another personal favorite written by Dr. Johnson is Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You – At Work and In Life. The book is about a young man who lives unhappily in a valley until he meets an old man (a peaceful, successful man) who lives on a peak. The meetings of the two men helps change the young man’s life – for the better.

In their meetings, the young man learns that:

  1. Prayer is an important tool to navigate life’s highs and lows. (Developing a strong prayer life can help us become more open to God’s will)
  2. In addition to prayer, we need time to rest and reflect on our life. (We can’t be running full-throttle all of the time. That’s why spiritual retreats are so important to us)
  3. We will always have peaks and valleys (highs and lows) in our lives. (We must learn to praise God in the highs – and to not curse him in the lows)
  4. With a prayerful attitude (an attitude of gratitude) we will notice that when we are standing on a peak, we have a better view of the other possibilities God places before us (We can look around and better see where God is leading us next)
  5. When we experience valleys, prayer helps reduce the magnitude of the valley. (The valleys don’t seem so low, and we don’t seem to get stuck in them as long)

Our prayer life is a critical part of our connection with God, and our ability to navigate the complexities of life.

A CALL TO ACTION

So, this week I encourage you to reflect on those “Glimpses of Glory” moments in your life. Ask yourself: What did I experience in those moments? What did I learn? And how am I different (better) because of those experiences.

Also take time to reflect on the peaks and valleys (the highs and lows) you are experiencing in life at this moment. How are you using prayer, rest and reflection to navigate these experiences?

And as we share in Eucharist today, let us give thanks God is with us – even in our struggles, doubt, hardship and confusion.

You are loved!

Deacon Dan