It’s time to move on.

Part of the St. Lawrence experience is being near Adirondack Park. Although it is not a required part of our curriculum, all Laurentians are encouraged, at some point in their academic career, to climb at least one of the forty-nine Adirondack peaks. I had my opportunity early on, in fact, within a month of my arrival freshman year.  
By this time in my life, I was no stranger to climbing the mountains of New England. As a Boy Scout, I had climbed Mount Monadnock several times, along with several mountains on the Appalachian Trail. I am not sure why, but there was something qualitatively different about ascending that particular Adirondack peak. Perhaps it was because of its majestic height, ascending well above the tree line. Or, perhaps it was because there was something special about the grandeur of the view as you looked out and saw nothing but the grandeur of creation all around you.
It is also possible what made this climb particularly memorable had more to do with its juxtaposition in my life as opposed to any of its physical reality. I realize this climb was symbolic to where I was at that time in my life. Having graduated from High School less than two months before, I had spent the summer at the peak of adolescents as I anxiously awaited the next leg of my academic career and took what would be my first foray into independence and adulthood. The peak of that climb literally represented where I had been emotionally all summer long. Now, as the time came to descend the mountain, I was literally descending into the reality of the next part of my life. I was literally descending into the uncertainty, the doubt and the reality of higher education and adulthood.
No wonder why there was this sense of sadness when it came time for our descent. All that I had known and been comfortable with was behind me, what lay before me was new and uncertain territory.
We have all experienced those moments in life when we moved from one phase to the next, from one company to another. All of these moments are full of joy and hope, accompanied with anxiety and loss. This morning’s Gospel is about this type of moment. Jesus ascends the mountain with Peter, John, and James. While at the top of Mount Tabor, there is this incredible moment, when for the first time, the three disciples clearly see who Jesus is. No wonder why Peter wanted to build three booths or dwellings. Why wouldn’t he want to stay on top of mountain and live in that moment forever?
Besides, what could equal this? Down below, in the towns and villages of Galilee, life was contentious. Both the religious and the Roman authorities were becoming concerned with Jesus’ popularity. At every opportunity they were looking for ways to discredit and silence him. Now Jesus was planning to leave Galilee and journey to Jerusalem. The disciples knew this couldn’t be good. What they didn’t know is that this was the turning pint when Jesus shifted his focus from his ministry on the shores of Galilee to the gates of Jerusalem and to the cross itself. 
This is also our moment of change as well. For the last month, we have resided with the Peter, James and John on top of the mountain. We too have reveled in the revelations of Epiphany. And now, we too have to descend the mountain into Lent as we join the disciples and journey with Christ into Jerusalem and to the cross. 
I doubt anyone looks forward to Lent. As I mentioned in this week’s reflection, after twelve years of living in Central New York, I have come to despise Lent. During what is already a dreary and depressing time of the year due to the weather, Lent only increases the gloominess of North Country Winters and what seem to be the endless days of clouds and lake-affect snow.  
Unfortunately, no matter where we live, no matter what the weather we must endure is, we all must make our annual pilgrimage to the cross. Now comes the time when we put away the last vestiges of Christmas. Now is the time we leave behind the awesomeness of revelation to come to terms with the darkness within and without. 
In the confession from Enriching our Worship we pray for God’s forgiveness, both for the sins we have committed and the sins which have been committed on our behalf. It is the sins committed on our behalf that we will journey with at St. Peter’s this Lent. St Augustine tells us we are born into a cloud of sin, and even when we believe we are doing what is right, we are sinning. Our symposium for Lent, Journey to God’s Grace, will explore what Augustine meant by this as we are asked to allow the scales which blind us to the darkness which surrounds us fall from our eyes. We will then explore how to reconcile our imperfect world and our imperfect lives with the perfect love of God. We will explores ways to accept the grace of God’s perfect love. Together we will descend the mountain. Together, we will walk to the foot of the cross and beyond as we deepen our dependence on God. 
As I journey with St. Peter’s this Lent, I will also be in the midst of a personal journey to the cross. Three weeks ago my father became delirious. After a week of CAT scans, blood work and MRI’s his doctor’s informed my brothers and me that my father’s delirium was due to advanced dementia. This came as a shock since my father hadn’t shown any signs of dementia until two months ago. And now, for the first time in four years, we were asked to begin making decisions on his behalf. Difficult, living will decisions which focused on resuscitation and palliative care. We made decisions that made sense for the moment as we now await further clarification as to what the immediate future holds for him. It’s not easy being in a place and a time where I have no idea what the next day, let alone the next moment, will bring. What I do know is, I suddenly have two parents in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s who require more time and attention as my sister-in-law and I take responsibility for their medical care, and as Maureen and I do what we can to support my younger brothers who are caring for my parents on a daily basis. 
I share this so you will know what is happening in my life, why there may be times when i will have to spend more than a day or two in Hartford. I have spoken about this with our wardens, the bishop and Fr. Mead. Together, we have put a plan in place in case I need to take an extended period of family leave. I can assure you, no matter what happens, the ongoing pastoral and sacramental needs at St. Peter’s will be covered.
The past few weeks have been difficult but not filled with despair. Four years ago, when my father lay near death for several weeks, I realized no matter what the outcome was, it would be okay. If Dad lived, that would be wonderful and I would cherish the extra time we had together, if Dad died, I would be sad, but he would be with God. The words St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Where, O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?” I now fully understand.
 The journey I have begun is not one I ever wanted to take. The again, nobody wants to descend the mountain into the valley of uncertainty and into the darkness of the cross, not Peter, not James, not John. However, at some point in our lives we all must make the descent and walk with Christ to Jerusalem, to the cross and into the very heart of darkness itself. For it is there, at the foot of the cross, and only there, where we will find what we seek, the portal which takes us from the darkness of evil to the light of truth and from the sorrow of death to the joy of resurrected life. 
Amen

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