Out of Bounds Angel
The picture above is one of a series of angels that I made using the pieces of an old icon calendar. The series is called "Out of Bounds Angels." This one has purple hair for Lent! I have been looking for signs of God's presence in the ordinary things of life. Thinking about Jesus' transfiguration on the mountain top last week I tried to put myself in the shoes of the other 9 disciples who were not there when Jesus met with Elijah and Moses. I can imagine all sorts of reactions to hearing the story of how Jesus was revealed to Peter, James and John. Everything from jealousy to anger to denial. But these 9 disciples had also seen "little epiphanies"; events that transfigured their despair and grounded their faith in Jesus. Of course multiplying the loaves and fishes, bringing the dead to life and walking on water seem like huge signs to us - way out of the realm of "ordinary" life in our 21st century. So what are those little epiphanies that enter our world to give us hope and solidify our faith? I think God reveals "Holy presence" to us in very personal ways. The God who created us knows the places in us that are open to "the Holy."
I was in seminary in Pittsburgh in 1985 when both of my parents were having some serious health problems. I decided to spend several weeks with them at their home in Blairsville, Georgia. I was "worried and fretful" about many things as I travelled through the hills of West Virginia and into North Carolina. As I drove across roads winding through the mountains I love the sun began to set. When I reached the top of a particular ridge I pulled off the road to view the most incredible sunset I have ever seen. I'm not sure I can even describe it, but it seemed as if someone had poured liquid gold into the already yellow and purple clouds. I stood and watched, truly transfixed and transfigured by the sight. I knew in the way one knows that this was a sign of God's presence. I laughed and cried at the same time and if there had been room on the side of that road I would have fallen on my knees. Instead I sat and watched until the golden light slipped down into the mountains. I went away comforted and encouraged, knowing that whatever happened at my parent's home and its impact for my future might be hard work but God would be with me in it.
That sort of "epiphany," or revelation of the Holy has happened since in other ways, some as dramatic and visual as the one I described above and others that were not. I suspect that it has something to do with my openness to God's presence, although it seems that God is pretty good at getting my attention! I hope that this holy time of Lent will be a chance for all of us to see, hear, feel, know God's presence. And most of all I hope we will come down from those mountains to tell others so that they will be encouraged as well.
Today we begin the journey of Lent with ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our humanity and mortality. The dark smudge of our fallen nature is there to remind us that we are set into a world for a period of time - this time. We have limits - not only to the span of our life but in our lives - we are not God. And God is not limited by time or space or "human smudges." This is a good reminder and a good thing...