LIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TUNNEL

FAITH IN FOCUS: LIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TUNNEL

 It’s an interesting question that the disciples asked Jesus. Since they thought that illness was a punishment sent by God, they wanted to know whether the blind man or his parents had sinned for him to be born blind. Jesus turns the question upside down and simply says that the man was born blind so that God could be glorified through his cure. Obviously he was answering them on their own level.

Even today we come across people who think that sickness or disability is something ‘sent ‘ by God on people. Under the guise of religion we hear people say that those who do wrong will get their ‘comeuppance’ from God in the end.

There are two flaws in this reasoning. First of all, how can a newborn baby be responsible for sinful actions? How can it have merited being born blind, deaf or malformed? But secondly, and more importantly, this argument reduces God to a petty busybody who spends his time getting his own back on those who break the rules.

The truth is that God loves all people, no matter what they are like. Hard for us to take? Probably, but then God even loves you and me and we both know what we’re like!

The Church puts the gospel of the man born blind before us in Lent to show that at the heart of God’s grace is the ability to be rescued from the darkness that produces sin, aimlessness and life-weariness. Lenten repentance invites us to a new vision, to light, to seeing things in a clearer and brighter way. Those who live in Christ know where they are going; they are not blind stumblers who have to take what life throws at them, they can choose to walk in the light of God’s promises.

Now that we’re about mid way through Lent we have the chance to thank God for the light of faith. In a world of darkness and half truths we are not condemned to await the next storm that threaten the horizon.

Christians face the future with confidence. It’s not just that we see light at the end of the tunnel. We see it in the middle, and that’s where it counts.

 

FANCY A DRINK?

FAITH IN FOCUS: FANCY A DRINK?

We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that people wander around with a thirst for God. We’d even be fooling ourselves if we thought that most Christians experience a great thirst for the word of Christ. The fact is that they don’t.

Yet all of us, Christian or not, do have some deep-seated yearnings that we long to be fulfilled. We may find it hard to put our finger on exactly what these are. We disguise them under the veil of needing more money, more free time, or perhaps a few luxuries. But all of us have needs that can only be satisfied at the deepest level.

The most basic need we feel is to be loved. We soon get knocked off course if we sense that people dislike us or that we are not exactly crucial to anyone’s plans for the future. This is because we are created in love by Love. Some of us learn to live with being rejected by most people, like the Samaritan woman at the well. But it doesn’t stop us from yearning. And it came as such a surprise to the Samaritan woman that Jesus should just treat her like a decent human being.

 ‘I only want to be happy’ is something we’ve all heard. Happiness and joy go hand in hand with being fulfilled. And when Jesus speaks about the water that is on offer to those who believe in him, he is talking in part about being freed from fear, from worry and anxiety. He is talking about knowing that we belong, we matter and that nothing can ever come between us and the care and concern of God.

And everyone has time when they wonder what its all about. What’s the point of life? Where is its meaning and significance? We can get hung upon drink what the rest of the world take for water, yet it doesn’t satisfy our thirst deep down. Jesus tell us that the water he gives us will well up to eternal life, a life that has a purpose now and a promise for the future.

 When the woman sits and talks with Jesus at the well she begins to enter a whole new outlook of life. Jesus promised something she’s never had and yet always longed for. And he does it again to us during Lent.

 Feeling thirsty already?

 

MOUNTAIN VIEWS

FAITH IN FOCUS: MOUNTAIN VIEWS

We’re not told in today’s gospel what the name of the mountain was that the Transfiguration took place on. Tradition says it was Mount Tabor, but it doesn’t really matter. In fact, whenever a mountain features in the bible we can be pretty sure that God is about to appear in some form or other and tell us something significant. That’s what happened to Moses on Mount Sinai and to Elijah on Mount Carmel. Mountains are a sort of scriptural code for an appearance of God.

In our run-up to Easter we can be forgiven for thinking that mountains don’t matter. But we all need them. Mountain moments are those in which we seem to catch something of God’s presence amid the humdrum of our daily routines. Out of the blue we see something or hear something that makes us realise that there is more to life than meets the eye. Mountains are what bring us our spiritual experiences. It could be something natural like a sunset; it could be the birth of a child, the success of a friend, the embrace of two lovers. Whatever it is, it takes our spirit beyond our bodies and lets us have a glimpse of something that is greater than the merely human.

Because primitive peoples thought that God lived in the sky they went up mountains to be closer to him. But we have lots of mountain experiences down here on the ground. These moments of breakthrough sustain us through all the days when God’s presence can seem a bit more distant from us, when like the people of Exodus we wonder whether God is with us or not. They act as a booster to our faith.

 Today we see Peter, James and John. They have been given some bad news that Jesus is destined to be put to death and they are feeling low. Yet the Transfiguration is a flash of God’s glory visible in Jesus. The Transfiguration is a defining moment for them. From being fearful they are strengthened.

As we journey through Lent on our way to Easter God will offer us our own moments of Transfiguration. He’ll let us see his glory and, just as on the mountain top, he’ll tell us “This is my Son. Listen to what he’s got to say.” So, wherever we bump into our own mountains, we need to keep our eyes and ears open.

 

PLENTY OF TIME?

FAITH IN FOCUS: PLENTY OF TIME?

One day the devil called a meeting in hell with all his demons. Top of the agenda was the question of how to get people to stop believing in God and end up ignoring sin and being forever at each others’ throats. This would then swell hell’s numbers.

One of the chief demons said, “I have a plan. Let’s tell the people that there is no God and they’ve been tricked.” Another demon said, “No, that’s too obvious. Of course, there’s a just and holy God. Anyone except a fool knows that.”

 “Well then,” another demon said, “Let them believe that he is a just and holy God, but tell them that they are so sinful that they’ve had their last chance and now he won’t accept them. That will demoralise them.”

But another said, “No, that won’t work. Everyone knows he’s also a God of mercy, and anyone who recognises their sinfulness and repents is assured of his forgiveness.”

“I know exactly what we can do!” another demon exclaimed, “Let them believe there is a God – a just and holy God, full of mercy, but let’s just tell them that there’s plenty of time.”

Lent is the season of penance and self-denial. It’s six weeks when we take stock of our lives and see whether they are taking us closer to God or further away from him. Is there any rush? Should we get urgent about it? Should we begin looking to see if there is a pattern about the way we fall into situations that we know are sinful and do us no good? Are there aspects of our lifestyle that need checking? Are some of our desires questionable? Are we genuinely trying to purify our motives? Do we do enough for others, close to home or those abroad who are in need?

Lent is about action, about opening ourselves to the working of God’s grace, about having a change of heart, a U-turn in the normal pattern of our behaviour.

It’s a holy season of self-denial. But don’t worry; there’s plenty of time. Or so the devil says.