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Ascending the High Mountain of Lent

00:00 / 19:31

11 Feb 2024


2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Cor. 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

‘And he led them to a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.’


-       Ash Wednesday approaches, the beginning of Lent.

-       Lent period of penitence and devotion, preparation for joy of Easter.

o   Liturgical calendar helps focus on aspects of Christian life.

o   In culture, time is homogenous. All the same. No difference between seasons. Example: all food available all the time, no seasonality. No appreciate of waiting for things (eg asparagus in spring) and therefore enjoying it more.

o   So with liturgical calendar. We abstain now, for more joy later.

-       Lent requires preparation.

-       Let us consider our readings and their relevance, particularly the Transfiguration which can act as a type of the Lenten journey.

The High Mountain

-       First, disciples ascend a high mountain. Speaks of the ascent of the soul to God, particularly during Lent.

-       The mountain is high. Difficulty, challenge. True of life but especially of Christian journey.

o   Lent is long and traditionally requires sacrifice: fasting, almsgiving, prayer. Could water it down, but to receive benefits challenge must be embraced.

o   General rule: if we take Lent seriously, we will find greater joy in Easter. Contrast greater.

-       Mountain means we must ascend. No ascent is easy. Gravity pulls us down.

o   Those who ascend can find joy in so doing. Example of “free soloing”. Why do people do this? Risk, challenge, exhilaration, possibility of great achievement. So too the Christian journey: failure a possibility but also spiritual progress.

o   Ascent means sacrifice: ropes, boots, gear, essential food, but other things left on earth. In Lent, our tools are prayer, fasting, repentance, almsgiving, greater devotion to Christ: requires sacrifice: food, time, energy, other resources.

o   Ultimate goal is summit. Disciples saw a new vision of Christ in Transfiguration. Elisha saw Elijah taken up to heaven, received a double portion of his spirit. In Lent, the Easter vigil, renewed relationship with Christ, Easter joy. Christ is the summit.

o   Remember: Lent is “dark” but the light will come. Symbolised by transfiguration.

Jesus led them…

-       Disciples led up mountain by Christ. Christ is the summit, Christ is the way.

-       Motivation of our hearts: not from guilt or duty but love. We follow Christ because we want to be with him, to know him more.

-       Elisha followed Elijah though he had three chances to turn back. He had to persevere. Why did he? Love for his master, desire for a portion of his spirit.

o   Our perseverance founded in love for Christ, desire for his presence.

By themselves…

-       Three disciples went with Jesus. They went “by themselves”. Elisha followed Elijah alone, though he was told to turn back. NT reading: Gospel is veiled to unbelievers, minds are blinded by “the God of this world” (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

-       Speaks of hostile environment. World carries on as normal, ignoring Lent. No desire for Christ, no faith. Scorn for those who do. Can feel lonely, even pointless.

o   To observe Lent, expectations of world must be scorned. Could mean being left out or abstaining from certain things. Necessary sacrifice.


What may prevent us?

-       Unwillingness and Fear. Physical difficulty, psychological/emotional pain.

o   Health must be taken into account when eg fasting.

o   Consider Daniel’s fast in Babylon: refused King’s meat and wine, had vegetables and water for 10 days. Daniel more healthy than those who had meat and wine. Implication: Daniel blessed by God for abstaining, even physically (Daniel 1:8-16).

o   Have faith like Daniel. God will bless your abstinence. Consider him during this season.

-       Lack of Desire. Sometimes hard to bring ourselves to do something, even though part of us wants to.

o   Helpful quotation from recent film: “Don’t think. Just do.” Not no thinking at all, but, once resolved and planned, just go for it.

o   Biblical principle: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our hearts follow our actions.

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