I hear it uttered in the halls of St. John’s School. It’s one of the first
commands a rider learns to speak to her horse. Backseat drivers are quick to say
it. But how do you spell it? I confess, I had to look it up: Whoa!
“Whoa!” has a homonym cousin, “Woe!” The former calls out to stop; the latter
calls for sorrow. I’d like to suggest that we can use both to help us take a
step farther this week as the seasons change for spiritual pilgrims.
Sunday is called “Transfiguration” in the church because it recalls a
mountaintop experience with Jesus. His appearance was miraculously changed
before the disciples. His glory peeked out from under the covers of his ordinary
guy likeness. He was transfigured. It was a time of “Whoa!” and “Woe!”
To those gazing at his glory, it was a moment that halted them in amazement.
Whoa! And as the glory of God enveloped them, they trembled in fear. Woe!
God’s voice from heaven declared, “This is my son,” and then said, “Listen to
him!” Whoa! Alongside of Jesus were two heroes alive from ages past, Moses and
Elijah. They were talking with Jesus, “about his departure.” They were talking
about his death. Woe!
Peter was moved to suggest they set up camp and stay awhile. Whoa! Jesus,
however, had taken this short stop to prepare them for a different route, “If
anyone would come after me,” he said, “he must deny himself and take up his
cross daily and follow me.” Woe!
This Transfiguration Sunday and story sends us a message of “Whoa!” and “Woe!”
also. We are transitioning into a season Christians call Lent. It is a time to
slow down and stop at the feet of Jesus. Lent cries out, “Whoa!” It is a
long-needed respite from the hurried lives we live. I would venture to guess
that someone who cares about you has recently said, “You need to slow down.” We
all hear that wise counsel, but we have a lot of reasonable excuses why that’s
not possible. That’s where the, “Woe!” comes into the picture.
Lent begins this very week with Ash Wednesday. The mark of ashes does more than
slow us down; it confronts us with our mortality. Woe! “Dust you are,” the ashes
touch our forehead, “and to dust you shall return.” Woe! Ash Wednesday isn’t all
ashes and sorrow, but it is a grievous confrontation with everything that Jesus
needs to cleanse and heal in our lives. If there isn’t that “Woe!” we won’t be
able to receive the healing benefits of the Lenten respite found in a peaceful,
Today is the day to look ahead and begin applying the brakes and prepare a
Lenten plan for your life. As a supportive community around you, St. John’s has
prepared a number of tools that might help us together spend a little more time
with Jesus and find a greater freedom from the daily race. The insert included
with this issue of The Mission provides a framework that you can customize to
your own Lenten plan for refreshment. Our framework takes place in three
movements: a daily personal quiet time in the Word of God, a weekly small group
and our larger gatherings for worship. These 40 days of Lent get us to stop with
the brutal reality of the “Woe!” but they fill us with the joy and wonder of
stopping at the feet of Jesus. “Whoa!”
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