How Am I To Know?

Readings: Genesis 15:1-18; Psalm 27; Luke 9:28-36

2nd Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019: This is the third meditation in a series of Lenten reflections and suggestions for spiritual practices. I invite you to first spend some time in the lectionary readings because they are deep and rich and interconnected. I recommend sitting with these readings and doing the spiritual practices over several days. Schedule some time and prepare a quiet place for reading and practice. My purpose this week is to lead you to “recollect” and explore your encounters with the Divine Presence.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless…” The word of the Lord came to him… “your very own son shall be your heir…” And God said to Abram: “I will give you this land to possess.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, how am I to know? Genesis 15:1-8

How am I to know?  In every generation, this question asked by Abraham moves us through the struggle to know and believe in God’s presence and activity in the world and our personal lives. The worries and things of this world often lead us to ask as Abram did, “O Lord God, what will you give me?”  We want some reassurance that our faith will result in knowing the answers to our question: “O Lord God, how am I to know?” Show me. Let me see you.

What is it you long to know? And in the knowing what will you see and hear and do? Allow this week’s readings to take you from Abraham to David to Jesus in order to wrestle with “knowing.”

In covenant with God, Abraham became the promised father of many nations and then the patriarch of the Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  Not knowing this future reality, he had stood ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac, the promise and the reward of his faith.  Abraham must have flashed back to the beginning, when he was called by another name, Abram, and the Lord God spoke to him in a vision.  As he hears the promise of God, “I am your shield; your reward shall be very great,” he had a lot of questions. And he wanted solid assurance, as becoming a father was humanly impossible for himself and his wife Sarai in their old age: “O Lord God, how am I to know?”

“What assurances can you give me, God, that by taking this risk, helping these people, moving far from home…and, well, uh, that believing in you and what you promise will be worth it all?”How am I to know? 

So, God took Abram outside, a good place to see things clearly, and pointed toward the night sky, saying: “Look toward heaven and number the stars…so shall your offspring be.”  And generations later, one of his promised offspring, David, wrote today’s Psalm: “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life!  David’s great assurance of knowing, passed down from Abraham, came in his heart’s desire to seek a relationship with the God who invites his children to: “Seek my face.” (Psalm 27:8) Can you see his face?

Fast forward many more generations to the promised Christ, the Savior who is the son of David.  Jesus himself asks the religious leaders what David meant when he wrote, “The Lord says to my Lord.” (Psalm 110). Jesus questions them: “What do you think about the Christ?  If David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matt 22:44) Jesus wanted them to know that he is uniquely both David’s son and David’s Lord, because he is God. And he was born “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matt 1:1 

From the promise to Abraham, carried on through David and many others, Jesus, the son of God came into the world to bring us face to face with God.  And many genuinely wrestle with the incarnation of God as Jesus the man and ask: “O Lord God, how am I to know?” Can you see his face?  Can you Hear his words?

Take a few moments to look again at Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Like Abraham and David before them, the disciples of Jesus experience the Sacred, the Divine Presence when they went to the mountain to pray. In a face to face experience, they see Jesus glorified and receive a personal invitation from God to listen.

Jesus leads the disciples to a place of transforming prayer. Even though they were “heavy with sleep,” Peter, John, and James become “fully awake” witnesses of the Divine Jesus. They are enveloped in the cloud of God’s presence and hear his voice saying of Jesus: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”  (Luke 9:35)

Christ Leading Peter, James, and John to the High Mountain for the Transfiguration, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

Practice: Search your heart and mind for experiences, images, and memories of encounters with the Glory of God or Divine Presence.  In the ancient practice of Recollection, Teresa of Avila, encourages us to remember the moment by returning to it using our imagination, not words. Recall what was going on around you, where you were, who you were with. Allow a symbol of the encounter to fill your awareness, such as a warm embrace, clouds, or healing light.  Throughout the week allow the symbol to return you to the assurance of God’s active presence in your life.

Reflect: Does the question, “O Lord God, how am I to know?” resonate with you?  What doubts or questions do you have about God’s purpose and activity in your life? The Scriptures guide us to know our God by “seeking his face” and “listening to Jesus, the Chosen One.”  David said, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after…” Ps 27:4 What is the “one thing” you would like to ask from God this week?

Act: Peter, James, and John were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake, they saw the Glory of Jesus. What can you do this week to be a “fully awake” disciple?

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