Sunday, March 2, 2003

Transfiguration of Our Lord
2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9 

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth.

We've reached the end of the Epiphany season, Ash Wednesday is soon and we will enter into the journey of Lent. We began Epiphany with the Star of Bethlehem shining in the darkness, guiding the wise men toward the place where Jesus lay. Now, we leave the season with a new light, a light of God's glory shining through the One who would bring reconciliation to the world.

We begin this day with the transfer of God's power from Elijah to Elisha. It was time for Elijah to end his ministry, time for him to go away. He took a journey from Bethel, to Jericho to the Jordan. Each time he set out to leave, he told Elisha to stay and wait, but Elisha refused to let him go. They traveled together. At each stop, the prophets of that place came out to greet them with the message that Elijah would be taken away. Elisha new this to be true, but did not want to hear the words. He had been with Elijah for some time. In 1 Kings 19, Elisha gave up his entire life -- slaughter his oxen, burned his plow and fed his people and bade them farewell. Then he followed Elijah into the unknown. He would go on to be a great prophet, but he was not willing to have that moment happen any sooner than was necessary.

Finally, Elijah and Elisha came to the Jordan. Elijah struck the waters of the river with his cloak and they parted, leaving dry land for them to walk across. Elijah asked Elisha for one last request. Elisha asked for what seemed like the impossible -- a double portion of the Spirit upon him. Elijah made no promises. He simply let it up to God to give according to His will. Elisha would know if he saw Elijah taken away. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire swept Elijah away to heaven. Elisha called out to him one last time, and then mourned his loss. He then took Elijah's cloak and used it to part the waters of the Jordan once again, just as his master had done and he knew his request had been granted. The group of prophets and their servants knew also that Elisha had the same Spirit upon him. Though they had been with Elisha when Elijah was taken away, they did not understand what had happened. They went looking to find Elijah, thinking that God must have sent him down elsewhere in the valley. Elisha said "no" for he knew it was a worthless task but they went anyway. When they came back disappointed, Elisha reminded them that he told them not to go.

A new generation of prophet had been anointed that day, as Elisha took the knowledge he gained from his relationship with Elijah and the power that God gave him that day. He did many incredible things such as feeding many with little, raising the dead, and healing leprosy... miracles like those of Elijah that Jesus would repeat during his ministry. The mantle had been passed on, the light given to a new prophet who would continue God's work.

Though things got worse for the people of Israel, the Baals gained more and more power during Elisha's time as prophet, God did not abandon them. His plan was to bring forth the greatest of all, His Son. One day, Jesus of Nazareth went to a mountaintop with a few of his friends. While they were there, a great light shone on Jesus. Elijah and Moses appeared at His sides. Shortly before this experience, Jesus had predicted his death, an event that none of his followers wanted to believe would really happen. What would they do when He left? How would they go on? How could they continue His work without Him?

So, Peter, James and John witnessed the most glorious moment of Jesus' earthly life, His transfiguration. Truly this must have been what He meant when He said, "Verily I say unto you, There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power." There wouldn't be death, for their Master is crowned like a king, with power! So, they asked Jesus if they should set up some shelters on the mountain. Wouldn't do to have a king hanging around without suitable honor and protection. But Jesus had his eyes set toward Jerusalem. This was not the moment of glory, which would come later. He had to get off the mountain, suffer death and rise again for God's promises to be fulfilled. They could not stay at the top of the mountain, or the disciples would never know His power in their lives, with their lives and through their lives. The mantle had to be passed once again, from Jesus to those whom He chose to carry the light into the world.

Paul writes, "Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ was truly a moment of glory, just as the taking of Elijah was spectacular to behold. But it was not the end of God's Work, merely the beginning of what was to come. Though we are just like Paul, preaching a Word that is often unheard by those who are perishing, it is not because the power is gone, but rather because the god of this world has blinded them to the truth. But we continue to preach Christ as Lord -- in the valleys, in the darkness, in the loneliness of this world, knowing the God's light will shine even in the worst circumstances because He has overcome this world and defeated the adversary. That victory did not come on the mountain, but in the valley, on the cross, in His death. The ultimate victory came when He was raised to new life, which He now gives us. As we enter into the season of Lent, leaving behind the light of Epiphany for a renewed understanding of our own sin, we walk in faith, just like Elisha. We know that the story isn't over at the cross, even if our Master has disappeared, for though He was dead He now lives.

He lives in us, through us and with us shining His light in perfect beauty. Thanks be to God. 

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