Daily Devotion 08 June 2021
Luke 9:33-35 ‘Clouds’
32 Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’
At one end of the Langdale Valley in the Lake District are the famous Langdale Pikes, two distinctive steep fell-sides rising up from the valley floor. One of them is my namesake, ‘Harrison Stickle’, which I climbed one cloudy day. On reaching the top, the sun came out, but below me a foggy bank of cloud enveloped the valley. Similarly, it always fascinates me to fly above a thick layer of cloud and suddenly encounter the sunshine, unseen from the airport on take-off.
Clouds come in all shapes and sizes –we’ve had some amazing cloudscapes recently. They can seem to be static or fast-moving as they glide across the sky. They can change their nature within a short space of time, or hang around for days on end. They can bring welcome or dreaded rain. They can be the ushers of rainbows and the subject of artists. In the Bible clouds are often seen as emblems of the sacred: places of disclosure, insight, illumination and grace. They are the locus of the Divine. Moses emerges from the clouds on Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments to guide societal behaviour. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the three disciples are overshadowed by a cloud and afraid, yet out of that dark experience comes the awareness of the significance of Christ, and for a time they are on ‘Cloud-9’! This doesn’t last for long – the next day they return to the valley where they all encounter a man with a big ‘cloud’ over him – his sick son.
We all experience ‘clouds’ in our lives and indeed most of the time. Sometimes they’re on the horizon; at other times hanging over us. They may only be light, wispy trailing ribbons of high ‘cirrus’ clouds suggesting issues of minor concern enlightened by some hope, or mixed-message ‘mackerel-style’ clouds. They may be dark, foreboding clouds of anxiety, or angry ‘anvil-shaped’ clouds precipitating a human version of thunder and lightning! With the singer Joni Mitchell we must often acknowledge that “clouds got in the way” of happiness and peace of mind.
The Cloud of Unknowing is a 14th century classical piece of mystical writing. The title refers to our experiences of ‘the dark night of the spirit’ and how by entering into the heart of that dark cloudy night through reflection, prayer and the expression of our deepest feelings we can discover the profound, the sacred and the numinous. This discovery can bring some light and warmth into our dark and frosty experiences of despair and unknowing. Our ‘clouds’ at times may seem impenetrable to sunlight, but above and beyond them the sacred solar rays burn bright. Clouds often bring rain so let us not forget the line from the hymn: “we trace the rainbow through the rain” – something I literally experienced on the way down from the top of ‘Harrison Stickle’.
On blue sky days may we rejoice and be glad.
On light cloudy days, may we be encouraged by hope.
On dark cloudy days, may we know grace sufficient for our need.
And may we uphold in our prayers others for whom the ‘skies’ seem overwhelming. Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Gordon Harrison.
Image freely available online.
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