My friends, we are journeying through Lent and are at the 2nd Sunday—the 2nd week of 6 given us by our Church to come to know our brother Jesus better and then go out, after learning what he did and how he did it in his world and do the same in ours!
The Scriptures given us this Sunday speak of a history of a merciful God from Genesis in the Old Testament to Luke and Paul in the New Testament. Let’s look a bit at what our God says first to the man, Abram and his wife, Sarai: “Just as the stars of the heavens, so will your descendants be.” In other words—many, many, even, uncountable descendants!
The reading from Genesis lays out for us a covenant made between this merciful God and the man Abram, who will later be known as Abraham and his wife as Sarah, to signify the promise made between this couple and their God, a promise based on “trust” between the two—God would be their God and they would be God’s people.
That is really all we need to remember about this passage—the halving of animals is not something we understand, but Abraham and Sarah and their people did—basically a covenant with God must not be broken, cut in half, as it were.
The psalmist today continues the thought of how our merciful God will watch over the people and that includes us: “You are my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid?”
In the letter to the Philippians, we see our brother Paul instructing the people, “to stand firm in Christ Jesus.” It is good to recall that Paul never personally knew the man, Jesus, but only the Risen Christ. We can only imagine the power of this encounter that knocked him from his horse, turning his life around, from one who fought to bring Jesus’ followers down, to one who gave the rest of his life to bringing people to Jesus, the Christ. Paul tells the Philippians that he wants them, “to stand firm in Christ Jesus,” because, “he so loves” them.
Lately, I have been spending time reviewing the Enneagram, the psychological tool that many have written and taught about to basically show us how to become our best selves. As many of you are aware, this tool consists of 9 personality types and the “trick” is to discover the one number that best describes how each of us engages our world. In the early years of our lives and into adulthood, we tend to use the traits that make us most comfortable in dealing with our world.
The Enneagram can at first and even second glance, and more, appear to be very complicated, but upon further study, we come to see that each of us faces our world with the ability to be, affective (emotional)—theoretical (thinking) and effective (doing) in our approach. More simply put, we each come complete with emotions—thought processes—and the ability to make change, to accomplish things in our world.
The piece or pieces that get in the way of us becoming our best selves is that each of us faces our world with a preferred way to be—one of the 9 numbers. For example, each time I work with the Enneagram, I come up as a #2, or “Helper”-type. Becoming our best selves will require that we learn to use all the talents in our own personal “toolboxes” as we work and “be” in our world.
When a person learns over time to act in our world, not only out of our comfort zone, (for me as a 2-Helper—my comfort zone is in reaching out to my world and helping as I can) but to add the other ways— “thought” and “doing” to round out the approach. So, why am I sharing all this?
When we strive to be our best selves, using more of the ways to “work in our world” so as to be more effective, the Enneagram describes that as a “swan,” a beautiful bird, “finding their wings and learning to fly.” I submit that this is what happened to Paul once he realized that to be truly “effective” in his world, he needed to “get out of his head, (theoretical) and begin to understand that he also needed to face his world “with care,” (affective) in order that his life could be all that God meant it to be.
There are many approaches to working with the Enneagram, psychological, and spiritual, and as you might guess, I have most often tuned into the spiritual aspects of the tool, as that is how I tend to work and “be” in the world. As Paul says to the Philippians in today’s 2nd reading— “we have our citizenship in heaven,” and can’t be overly concerned about the attractions of the flesh. What I have found works best for me is to look for “balance” in my one, wonderful life that began in a spiritual way and has taken on a human component here.
So friends, that brings us to the lovely gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Luke. I love Peter’s line in this gospel, “Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here [!]” His response follows the appearance of Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets with Jesus in the middle, which to my mind speaks to the balance that our human brother asks of himself in his human life, and asks of us as well, in ours—know the law, but act with truth and love in our actions.
Exegetes aren’t too flattering of Peter’s response, basically saying that he didn’t understand what he was saying. I would disagree. This apparition that he, James and John were given gave them proof to base their faith upon that no doubt, in addition, gave them the strength to carry into the future, all the mysteries and wonders that they were privy to in their lives with Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus, the Christ.
This past year for Christmas, Saint Nicholas/Santa, gave Robert and I several new, compelling books on our present times and one which came more so, as a Three Kings’ gift, is the very poignant story, Unthinkable by Jamie Raskin, who you will remember was the lead manager for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Even though he deals with the trauma of the January 6, 2021, Insurrection at our nation’s Capitol, he clearly states that this is not a book about Trump. One week before the Insurrection, Raskin’s only son, Tommy, became a victim of suicide.
What this book deals with then is the personal trauma to him and his wife Sarah, and their family and friends over losing their very accomplished, likeable, concerned, 25-year-old son and brother, juxtaposed with the trauma to our country in the “unthinkable” events that took place on January 6, 2021.
Many people asked Raskin how he could deal with these two traumas at the same time, and he said, looking back on accepting Nancy Pelosi’s request that he lead the case against the former president, he realized that she had offered him a lifeline—that to begin to engage in a noble cause once again was the best way to honor his lost son—one who had spent much of his short life advocating for those with less than the simple goods of this world.
Several times throughout this book, Raskin, with a 20-year long career teaching young lawyers, constitutional law, before being elected to Congress, quoted one of his favorite people from the early days of our country, Thomas Paine. Paine was known to have said, “The times have found us.”
My friends, as we contemplate the Scriptures today and this new season of Lent, we might say the same—“the times have found us,” at a place where our world is crying out with such need: wars begun by bullies, for no apparent cause, other than greed, causing millions to leave their homes, our own country that through the rhetoric of some in Congress and in our everyday world, seem to have lost their way. When one’s personal freedom, to not be told what to do is more important than the welfare of the many, “the time” to look again at who we are, and what we have become, seems to have “found us.”
And whether we choose to become more of our best selves as our brother Jesus calls us to through the Enneagram or any other way is not as important as that we simply look for balance in our lives, with a focus not only on ourselves, but on others—treating them as we would want to be treated. If we can come to Easter realizing that we are finding more of that balance in our lives (for ourselves and others), I think we can say that “the times have found us,” and that we have responded as Jesus did in his life. Amen? Amen!