Any number of biblical images capture my imagination and put me to thinking of the power of the Holy Spirit to connect the dots of all things seen and unseen; images that speak a thousand of God’s words. But the image that grabs me every time – whether I am dwelling in God’s Word, worshiping in God’s church or making my way through another day in God’s world – are clouds. I am simply captivated by the image of clouds the evangelists and scribes of the Hebrew Scriptures draw upon to describe God’s presence, God’s habitat, and God’s voice.
That being said, I don’t read scripture, worship, or go through the motions of my day with an eye towards clouds. I don’t seek the image for a sense of the Holy, but the clouds do show up and most often where I least expect it to jar me out of a routine – even the routine of praying the Daily Office.
So it was this morning. I really hadn’t allocated a bunch of time for praying the Office, so I entered hastily with a very very long list of TO DO’s at my right hand. But golly gee – moving quickly through the scriptures was not what the Holy Spirit had in mind for me today.
The first was the pause at Psalm 34. Ugh. I have a history with this psalm and found myself recollecting how the verses have been a God-sent over recent years, how they have comforted me, and how they have continued application:
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them *
and delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted *
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.
Comforting, but also reminding me of how my spirit still feels crushed and how undelivered I am as of yet from my troubles. I found myself hanging out in this space reading over past reflections from my journal. I was tempted to cut the rest of the readings short. Maybe I should rest with the reality check of the whispers of how little progress I have made, how my brokenness continues to need healing I thought to myself.
But as I read my reflections, I relaxed and allowed myself to be comforted by God’s reassurance articulated in the psalm and also to be comforted by my own words. After all, I am still here reading, praying, reflecting, allowing the Holy Spirit speak to me and looking at my troubles through the lens of scripture.
So, despite the desire to wrap up early and get on with things, I moved ahead with the readings, landing at the gospel and the familiar story of the Transfiguration.
The Feast of the Transfiguration was this past Sunday, so honestly I thought I might have a good excuse to cut things short, after all. I was disinclined to read Mark’s version. But. Well. I read the gospel as if I didn’t know and hadn’t heard. What might the Spirit be saying to me at this reading?
And there it was. Hovering above. In the clouds.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* listen to him!’ 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
What first came to my mind’s eye wasn’t the cloud itself, but oddly enough social media photo posts wherein someone is featuring a moment or a quip, and someone else comments back, “Those shoes, though!” or “That look, though!” or “That sunset, though!” their eye noting something in the picture that trumps the thought posted.
I recently posted this snap of our family’s new addition accompanied by the comment that his parents had dressed him as a dragon for some event and that I wasn’t sure he was thrilled with the idea. A friend commented back, “Those eyes, though!” Made me smile. So on point.
Well that’s how I would comment on the Transfiguration moment if it had been posted on the Lord’s Instagram account. A snapshot of the scene would have Jesus in white, Peter and James stupefied and even frightened, and Moses and Elijah chatting with one another, and I would have LIKED, then commented, “That cloud, though!”
At the moment of transfiguration when the light emanating from our Lord was so intense as to have made Peter and James see things before unseen, God sends in the clouds. Covers the scene as to soften the shining white light enough for them – for us – to see Jesus alone standing before them and to hear God’s voice.
God as in or of the clouds is an image that keeps me connected to what is already and always there – in scripture, in worship, in daily life.
I am grateful for the long pause at the psalter this morning. For the tears I shed over the recollection that my brokenness is yet unhealed and the assurance that it will be. And for the encouragement my own words offered to continue with the readings today all the way to gospel, where I encountered anew our loving God, hovering over us, softening the light around us enough for us to hear and hearken to his voice. I delight in resting here today under the cloud cover where I will be delivered from my troubles.
Praise God from whom all blessings – and all the clouds – flow.