The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Message for Transfiguration Sunday, February 15, 2015

Offered for the people at Knox United Church

Based on 2 Kings 2: 1-12 and Mark 9: 2-9

Opening Prayer:  May our reflection on these stories from scripture be a springboard for new and fresh insights into our mission and ministry here at Knox United Church this the day of our annual congregational meeting.  

May it be so, amen.

Today our readings from scripture bring us two strange and wonderful stories set on mountaintops. 

In our first reading from the book of Kings, we meet the ancient prophet, Elijah, and his successor, Elisha as they travel together from Gilgal to Bethel and then from there on to Jericho.  Finally, after safely crossing over the Jordan River, the two men are separated by a chariot of fire and horses.

The pathos and the drama of the story are evident as Elisha resists being separated from his mentor saying essentially, wherever you may go, so also go I.

Elisha’s commitment to his elder reminds me a bit of the story of Ruth and Naomi.  Perhaps there are other stories of commitment and crossings of bodies of waters that come to mind for you as well.  

Nevertheless, as the two travel on, Elisha finally comes to understand that he must take up the mantle of authority for which he has been well prepared and he must let go his relationship with Elijah.  He reaches this conclusion none too soon as the story tells us that his mentor and leader, Elijah is taken up into God’s presence in a whirlwind.  

Our second story from the ninth chapter of the gospel according to Mark echoes some of the same drama but ‘terror’ rather than ‘pathos’ is the emotion that comes to mind for me as I heard Helen read the story again for us this morning.

Here on the mountaintop, Peter, James, and John have found themselves alone with Jesus who is quite suddenly transfigured or transformed as his clothes become dazzling white.  As if that wasn’t strange enough, now Moses and Elijah appear at his side out of nowhere.

 

And what do Jesus’ followers do in response to this strange experience? 

Well, of course, not much is said about how James and John respond, but the story tells us that Peter, ever the impetuous one, immediately wants to set up a shrine of a sort on the spot, which Jesus refutes.  There is work to be done down in the valley and no time to pause. 

At this very moment, the story tells us, the scene changes again, a cloud appears, and a voice from the cloud declares:  This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him”.

Further, as they make their way back down the mountainside, Jesus instructs the disciples that they are to keep their counsel to themselves and not tell anyone what they have seen or experienced here.

What incredible stories about our faith ancestors we have on offer this morning as we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday that acts as a kind of bridge between the season of Epiphany and then seguays into the season of Lent this coming week with Pancake Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. 

So much for us to consider but so little time.  The revelation of God’s glory over and against the hard and demanding work of healing and teaching and then the costs of discipleship and servanthood.

If I were to try and capture the meaning of our stories for today in just one sentence, I would say this:  Transfiguration is an experience of God’s glory that exposes us to a new way of seeing the world.  Like Elisha and Jesus, we are called to be faithful to the past but yet curious and imaginative about an unseen and mysterious future.

All this and more I commend to God’s care as we anticipate our annual meeting after worship this day.

Thanks be to God for our stories from scripture. 

May they continue to inform our awareness of the thin spaces or the boundaries between the known and the unknown.  May it be so.  Amen.