40 Days in a Cloud
Originally published at Barefoot Theology
The Rev. Josephine Robertson
All Saints Bellevue
Feb 24th, Last Epiphany A,
Growing up Lent was 40 days of deprivation. And that’s maybe not an entirely bad thing in a culture so suffused with excess. But today, Transfiguration Sunday, perhaps offers us a slightly different window into this long season of preparation and transformation.
The people of Israel have escaped slavery in a most dramatic fashion, walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the waters forming a wall for them on their right, and on their left. Behind them the waters rush in to drown the Egyptians.
They have in a way been reborn, through the flood waters of a second earthly womb. And they have settled at the feet of Mt. Horeb, the holy mountain of God. It is here they will be slowly transformed from a band of former slaves with little else to bind them together, into a people.
But before that can happen there are things that must take place. And so God descends on the mountain like a great cloud, and it is into this cloud that Moses is invited to walk.
You all know that I spend a week in a little cottage on the Hood Canal every Advent reading, praying, and being intensely introverted. Across the canal are the Olympic mountains including one particularly regal and jagged peak. Routinely that craggy, snowy peak is wreathed in cloud. This last year was very foggy.
I woke up one morning to beautiful sunshine, and as I stood there sipping my coffee watched the clouds gather around the mountain. They slowly but surely poured down her shoulders, down over her skirt of trees, rolling over the cold grey waters of the canal and finally enveloped my little house in a fuzzy grey mantle.
In that cloud was rest. Nothing to do, no need to hurry, no where to go.
I picture Moses walking up the mountain into the cloud, into the glory of God. At first his steps are hesitant and nervous but as the damp air closes around him the sounds of the camp and the constant needs of so many people become muted, fade, and finally fall to silence.
In the fog he is not a leader, a husband, a father, he is just one soul, climbing.
Up, up, up through the enfolding layers of cloud until…
Well that we are not told. That was just for Moses. His 40 days wrapped in God’s mantle. He came out of them shining with glory, he came out of them with tablets of stone meant to guide and guard. But his 40 days with God were his alone.
And this dear friends is one of the promises of Lent. Perhaps what you need is a little simplification and deprivation. Up there in the fog, there probably wasn’t chocolate, or cell phones. Perhaps you need to be wrapped up in God’s candy fluff fog, protected and swaddled and carried like a child again.
Perhaps you need to climb a mountain you cannot see clearly, be a little unsure. That is for you alone, you and God to decide.
But if you go up, and if you spend 40 days in that place with God, you will emerge transformed. Maybe with everything you thought you knew turned upside down.
For all of us, the invitation has gone out from God, come up the mountain and spend time with me. That invitation will be renewed on Ash Wednesday as the Church herself enjoins us to observe a holy Lent.
Only you and God know what that holiness looks like for you.
As you climb the mountain, as your feet set down on holy ground, as the clouds descend to wrap you up and set this time aside.
Let the sound of the world become fuzzy, muted, fade away.
Walk boldly up this blind slope, the One who loves you waits above.
And He or She or They has something prepared. Something for you alone. And if we are brave enough to climb the mountain, the vanish into the glory of God we will emerge 40 days later different, transformed, and equipped with something our people desperately need for their journey…
But what happens next, in these 40 days? That my friends is for each of us alone.