Up a high mountain

A young boy plays outside my window. A hedge divides us but I hear his shrieks of delight and sometimes his wails of distress. His mood changes rapidly.

Twenty years ago, Russia wanted to join the North Atlantic Alliance and 59% voted to join the European Union. Two years ago today, they invaded Ukraine.

Hidden away in the early chapters of the Bible is an account we read each year as Lent gets underway of Abraham climbing a mountain to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice. His offering is accepted and his son is spared.  As Lent gives way to Easter, Jesus carries his cross up the hill of Calvary. His offering is accepted and he endures a terrible death. Stat crux, the Carthusians say, dum volvitur orbis.  The cross stands still, while the world goes round. 

Everywhere, in the scriptures, there are echoes of the cross. And everywhere in our daily news these echoes reoccur. Alexei Navalny’s death makes no sense otherwise nor does the death of 7,000 children in Gaza.

Each second Sunday of Lent we read of the ‘high mountain’, where Jesus showed himself in glory to Peter, James and John. But the conversation was about the cross. The disciples had no idea what he was talking about and neither do many today. Mountains? Climbing a mountain raises you up, gives you a far and wide view. In Nyanga, in Eastern Zimbabwe, you can even drive up high and look about. ‘World’s View’ it is called. It is the bigger picture. 

And the bigger picture is that our lives make no sense without the cross. It is the threshold we have to cross (that word again) one way or another. Alexei Navalny, while he was alive, reminded us of Nelson Mandela. Mandela survived. Navalny did not. Yet one thing they had in common was a sense of humour and a sense of humour means one has risen above the disputes and entanglements politics and indeed day to day life throws up. Navalny too went up a high mountain and there is no telling the influence he will now have.

Belief in the power of sacrifice is common to many cultures and I first came to know it when I was young and found it written on my uncle’s mortuary card when he was killed in the Great War: ‘a person can have no greater love than to lay down their life for their friends’. Lent is here, as I wrote last week, to lengthen our view; to see the destiny of humanity beyond the immediate view. It should be obvious to those dazzled by the power of weapons of war. But it isn’t. Human beings still narrow their vision and exclude compassion. They have no notion of how history will see their actions. Perhaps children understand.

25 February 2024 Lent 2B Gen 22:1-18     Rom 8:31-34 Mk 9:2-10

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