Good morning everyone.
You know, we worship a Gods who illuminates the everyday so that we might see how Christ is calling us to live in a new way. To live a new way, not just for ourselves, but so that others might be carried along in the goodness being worked in our lives by a greater hand.
After all, though we may be able to do great things by exerting great effort, by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps as the saying goes; true transformation work, as Christians understand it, and the illuminating transfiguration work that precedes it, that comes by the hand of Jesus. And it seeks to change not only our understanding of ourselves, but of God’s calling for us to serve the world around us.
So, let’s take some time to think about what the transfiguring work of God looks like in our scripture readings today and then think about some present-day examples and applications as well.
Our first reading plunges us right into the high scriptural drama of Elisha witnessing the prophet Elijah, his mentor and the one who is like an adopted father to him, parting the Jordan River with his rolled-up cloak, and then being carried up into heaven in a whirlwind, transported by a chariot of a fire and horses of fire. With this illuminating, transfiguring moment of witness to God’s power; with this opportunity to see the situation of his life and world in light of the illuminating power of God, Elisha steps into the fullness of his own calling as a prophet and successor of Elijah. Whatever Elisha thought his life might have been before, its fuller purpose has been revealed.
The prophet Elijah makes another appearance in our scripture passages today, in our gospel lesson from Mark; in which Jesus takes along the disciples Peter, James, and John, and together they climb a high mountain. And suddenly, as the disciples are looking on, they see Jesus bathed in heavenly light and standing with him are the prophet Elijah, and also Moses. Jesus, who had been baptized in the River Jordan that had once been parted by the prophet Elijah’s well-placed smack with his rolled-up cloak, stands now with Elijah and also Moses, who had once parted the Red Sea so as to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into freedom. Jesus stands with the prophets of old, but he is not one of them. And we and the disciples come to see that this is the case just moments later, as a cloud overshadows them and a voice says, “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.” Jesus stands with the prophets of old, but he is not one of them, he is God’s Son. Jesus will lead the way - be the way - to freedom, not by parting waters, but by climbing onto the cross.
We might remember that on the occasion of Jesus being baptized in the river Jordan God’s voice had also spoken. Yet it was in the second person: “You are my Son…with whom I am well-pleased.” Here on the mountaintop God’s voice speaks in the third person, “This is my Son…listen to him.” (Working Preacher, Feb 14th, 2021) At the river Jordan we are privy to God’s message to Jesus and this changes us for the Son with whom God is well-pleased is the Savior being baptized for our sake and our sins. On the mountaintop the disciples - and we – have seen the prophets of old appear, we have seen Jesus’ true radiance shining forth, and we are being spoken to directly about Jesus, to listen to him, follow him down the mountainside and back into this world in need and then to the cross so that the fullness of God’s saving work might be accomplished. The tableau of the mountaintop and our lives is being illuminated so that we might see that we are disciples not of another prophet, but of God’s own Son who will be sacrificed for the saving of the us and the world. This is Jesus who will illuminate our greatest needs, and who will also be the means by which new life can come out of the greatest of sorrows.
For indeed, the illuminating power of God in Jesus is at work not just on the mountaintop, but here in this world of sorrow, a world Jesus seeks to accompany and resurrect.
Did you catch the story in the news this week about Henry Darby, the high school principal down in South Carolina? Principal Darby, when he saw the trials and tribulations of his students and their families, some of whom didn’t have enough food and basic supplies, or were struggling to pay their bills, took on a second job three nights a week so as to make the money to be able to help them out.
Darby helped these students because he took the time to really see their circumstances – bring light to them once might say. He saw beyond their outward facing challenges so as to set about changing their circumstances, giving them a better chance at charting their way successfully forward. And whether principal Darby or we may see and understand it, it is when God gets in the mix of our lives to help us really look at what is going on, that our lives and other folk’s lives can be transfigured - the circumstances illuminated so that a new way forward can be charted.
Do we want to chart a path out of addiction? We have to illuminate the circumstances first. Do we long to find a pathway out of the depression that we or others suffer from? We have to illuminate the circumstances first. We are living in the wealthiest nation on earth and still people do not have enough to eat, inadequate or no healthcare at all while others live in what equate to palaces. If we would change this and other injustices, we have to illuminate the circumstances to be able to find a way forward.
We’re heading into Lent this week. A time, if we will let God help us to see and take advantage of it, for allowing Christ to illuminate the circumstances of our lives and this world. Illuminate our circumstances so that we can really get in deep to see where Christ the great Illuminator; Christ who is the inheritor and embodiment of all the promises of scripture and the prophets can get into the mix and transfigure and resurrect these circumstances so that they become examples of the new life and new hope, made possible refashioned by the refiner’s fire as masterpieces that give God glory and praise.