by Maria Evans
Both our reading from Ezekiel and our Gospel today have a fairly good dose of “Uh…this isn’t quite what I was expecting.” In Ezekiel’s vision, God gives Ezekiel a scroll with words of lamentation and woe, tells him to eat it, and when he does, the scroll is surprisingly sweet. In our Gospel, Peter, James and John thought they were going up with Jesus on the mountain to pray, and instead, they get the Transfiguration.
I’m sure when Ezekiel saw those words on the scroll in his vision, when he was commanded to eat them, he was probably thinking what any of us would think–”This is going to taste terrible.” I’m also equally sure when Peter, James and John saw the Transfiguration, they did not expect the roller coaster of events that took them from thinking at first, “Yeah, we’re going to spend some time with Jesus, and that will be pretty good,” to the glory of seeing Jesus transfigured (and seeing Moses and Elijah to boot), to the absolute terror they must have felt as the cloud came and overshadowed them.
We are reminded through these readings that life is not always what we expect, and our expectations slow us down in getting to the real truths in the various events of our lives. We forget how much expectations dictate our reactions to events, and in our readings today we see glimpses of our typical responses to things we didn’t expect. Ezekiel had to be told twice by God to eat the scroll. No doubt he was thinking it over the first time. “Did I hear that right? Those are not happy words. Why would I want to eat something that sorrowful? Not only that, it’s a scroll. That doesn’t seem nourishing to me.” Perhaps even when he did eat it, it was out of sheer fear. Yet what happened became an opportunity for Ezekiel to trust God and to pay more attention to the rest of the vision.
Conversely, we see in Peter’s response to what he just witnessed on the mountain, our tendency to take things we didn’t expect and don’t quite understand–and rather than see them for what they really are, to define them in our terms. Peter doesn’t understand what just happened, but he does understand the holiday of the festival of booths, so he tries to turn a holy moment into a backyard DIY project. Defining it by his terms was clearly inadequate when the cloud showed up!
Both stories reveal that our human ability to listen to God gets stymied by the stuff between our own ears, yet when we can manage to listen–even for a little bit–we will edge a tiny bit closer to acceptance and serenity, and there might even be a sweet moment or two in it.
Coincidentally, we presently have a great opportunity to experience the process of letting go of our own expectations in a world that seldom delivers what we expect. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the worldwide prayer initiative #ThyKingdomCome, give it a look. Although it started on Ascension Day, there’s still plenty of time to join in, even if the only thing you do in the remaining 9 days is to recite the Lord’s Prayer and hear the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” in a new way. The site has several ideas on how to participate, and any of them can be an opportunity see how praying every day alters, as our Presiding Bishop says, “the chemistry of the moment,” and when we sit with that, how it alters us.
When is a time you’ve discovered an unexpected sweet or awesome moment, where it was only later you could see that God was in it?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a transitional Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.