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Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; Mark 9:2-9; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Transfiguration Sunday marks the movement from Christ’s entry into the world (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany) into Christ’s Resurrection (Lent/Easter/Pentecost).
We begin by reading the ascension into heaven by Elijah, preparing us for the vision of Elijah we will read in the Gospel. The ascension of Elijah marks one of those Mystery times in the Bible, when heaven and earth fully meet, where the Divine and Human intersect. People do not die but instead ascend into heaven. People’s faces are transformed. What has died is brought to new life.
While this passage may be about Elijah’s ascension into heaven, it really is about Elisha’s faithfulness to both God and to his friendship with Elijah. Elisha is willing to go the distance for his friend, even to the point of being grieved as Elijah is taken up in the whirlwind. Elisha probably did not fully understand what was going to happen to Elijah, but he chose to accompany him rather than let him go the journey alone until the time he was taken up.
Psalm 50:1-6 also speaks of the intersection of heaven and earth through God. The fire and tempest or whirlwind that Elijah experienced is present here before God in verse 3, and in the following verse, God calls to both the heavens and earth. These moments of intersection, where the Mystery happens, where the Divine and Creation intersect are not just for prophets, but can happen to those who are faithful.
Mark 9:2-9 is the story of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John experience this moment of intersection as they witness Jesus with Elijah and Moses. Jesus’s clothes become dazzling white, transfigured as Jesus appears to enter the veil between heaven and earth and stand between the two. But Peter does not get it. Peter does not listen and keep silent, as Elisha did. Peter, terrified of this space where heaven and earth meet, tries to fill the silence, tries to say something but does not understand what is happening. Perhaps Peter, as some scholars speculate, assumed Elijah and Moses were also divine beings or equals with Jesus and made his declaration of building tents. Perhaps Peter was ready for the restoration of the earthly kingdom of Israel and took this as a sign. We don’t really know.
The Transfiguration is one of those passages that we don’t clearly understand what happened nor do we understand why Peter reacted the way he did. But what we do know is this: heaven and earth, Divine and Human, intersected on that mountain, just as they intersected in the person of Jesus the Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 reminds us that the call to proclaim the Gospel is always at hand, and it is our call to proclaim it for the sake of Jesus, not for our own gain. There are some that will not receive and will not understand. We are called to bear the light of Christ to the world.
There are moments when heaven and earth, Divine and Human, Creator and Creation intersect in our lives. They may not be as earth-shattering as the whirlwind and fire that Elisha saw Elijah taken up in, or as incredibly brilliant as Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses. But they do happen to us: in our moments of baptism, when we fall and rise out of the waters anew; when we let go of loved ones as they pass on to God’s sole care; and in moments such as watching a brilliant sunrise or experiencing the Northern Lights: there are moments in creation and in our relationships with others where we experience the veil being torn and heaven and earth intersecting. Elisha experienced this in his faithfulness to Elijah; Peter experienced it on the mountain with Jesus and Moses experienced it on the mountain alone with God. But we all have our own experiences of the great Mystery, when we realize that the kingdom of heaven is very near. And as we remember, both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ preached the same sermon that we often hear as we enter Lent: “The kingdom of heaven has drawn near; repent, and believe in the Good News.”
Call to Worship:
Leader: God of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Rebekah, all of our ancestors, draw near to us now.
People (singing): Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.
Leader: God of Creation, of water, earth, fire and wind, draw near to us now.
People (singing): Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.
Leader: God of Wonder, of dazzling light and sheer silence, mountaintop experiences and shadow valley shepherds, draw near to us now.
People (singing): Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Leader: Creator, Spirit and Christ, fill us with your love and grace in this time of worship.
All (singing): Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.
Prayer of Confession:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, we confess that at times we miss Your wonder in the world. We are caught up in the busy-ness of the world around us, caught up in the way our world works, and we forget that You are Creator. We fail to believe in miracles and we fail to see how close You really are to us. Forgive us when we ignore Your presence. Forgive us when we cover our ears and fail to hear Your voice. Forgive us when we close ourselves off from You by not seeking deeper relationships with our neighbors. Call us back into relationship with each other. Open our eyes, our ears and our hearts so that we might experience Your love and grace more fully. In the name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
God has been here all along. God had been present with you from the very beginning. There is no place you can turn away from God’s presence, no place you can hide. God will seek you if you seek God. You are found. You are forgiven. You are given the promise of new life in Christ. Go and share the Good News.
Mystery with a capital M, You fill our world and lives with wonder and amazement. We might miss it if we aren’t looking for it, but every day there are miracles. Every day someone does get well. Every day someone does recover from addiction. Every day someone does come off the streets and into a home. Every day someone does find a job. Lord, we know that not everything we ask for happens, and we do not know why some are healed and some are not, but we hold on to hope and believe that there is good in the world and that You are still at work. We know that death does not have the final word and that there is the promise of resurrection, the greatest wonder of all. When we are down, Lord, lift us up. Remind us of the beauty and joy of the world and help us to cling to hope when all else fails. On this day when we remember the Transfiguration, transform our hearts so that they may be full of hope and joy. In the name of Christ, our promise of salvation and resurrection, we pray. Amen.
Release Date: October 8th, 2019