Musings on Scripture

– and what isn’t always said

26th February 2017 – (not Tranfiguration)

Published / by Steven Secker / 1 Comment on 26th February 2017 – (not Tranfiguration)
psalm131-reflect26
© Dorothea Steigerwald

For centuries Tranfiguration has been celebrated on 6th August. Only in recent times has there been a move to take this festival from the period in which we look at Christ’s ministry and what happened to Him, and put it either at the end of his early life and temptation, and thus before His real ministry, or into the early part of Lent, which is where His farewell discourses are read. Of those, the more appropriate is the Roman Catholic use of the second Sunday of Lent because it lies within the period in which we look at His ministry, though I believe we should leave the celebration in August, and I will provide a reflection on a Tranfiguration reading then.

Psalm 131
1O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me,

2but I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

3O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and for evermore.

Text © The New Revised Standard Version (English Edition) alt, used with permission.


What strikes me on starting to read this short psalm – it’s not the shortest – is that the author is admitting to God that his, and it probably was ‘his’, life is not in order because his focus is not on God’s work. His heart is not engaged with the holy mission, he is afraid to lift up his eyes lest he should see God, and see the disappointment in God’s face, he admits that the things with which he occupies himself are well within his means and skills, are not too challenging, and will not give him a sense of marvellous achievement.

As I try to balance the needs of an election campaign which is placing time demands on me like never before, as well as pushing the bounds of physical fitness and lack of resources, against what I would really like to be doing for God, I’m finding myself not looking to God enough. I’m reminded of the time I joined the University Choral Society two months before my first year university exams, learned my own part in “Messiah” and taught my Mum and Dad their parts before converting a half-year fail in one unit into a full-year credit. Though it is still hard to lift up the heart and look up to God when walking street after street in the hot sun, I am trusting that the message is getting out, and if God wants me to win I will win. Even if I don’t win, God’s message is still getting out to the people.

The psalmist continues that he has taken steps to overcome those issues which have taken him away from a focus on God, and has disconnected himself from what appeared at the time to be his source of life. Paul spoke of feeding people spiritual milk and weaning them off that as they grow in the faith so that they are ready for a full-blown meal. How attached are we to the things in this world which seem to give us life? Do we labour in vain for the best house or garden, the best car or the best-paid job, as if they will give us fulfilment? Can we wean ourselves off those ideas and focus on God?

The realisation comes in the third verse (fourth if you read the version in A Prayer Book for Australia) where the psalmist encourages Israel, and by association us, to look to the Lord and keep looking to the Lord for inspiration, love, support, guidance – in fact, everything. We are all human, so however much we feel that we are focussed on what God wants us to do there will always be other areas which we neglect, and need to refocus to bring us closer to Him.

One Comment

  1. I agree that we should celebrate The Feast of Transfiguration on August 6. But I think I understand why the reading is set just before we enter the challenges of Lent. Malcolm Guite (who likes me writes liturgical sonnets, only his are much more accomplished than mine) calls it a little bit of light before Lent. (https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/transfiguration-a-glimpse-of-light-before-lent/)
    So it doesn’t necessarily detract from the Feast; it really is an encouragement from our point of view as pilgrims, whereas the Feast celebrates God’s extraordinary ‘ID’.

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