Congregational Church of Grafton MA UCC, February 11, 2018
2 Kings 2:1-12 – When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”
Mark 9:2-9 – Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Life is full of the incomprehensible. Anyone who thinks they totally understand what’s going on is deluding themselves.
Now, sure, some people understand how to build engines, or how to teach this or that; some blessed people know how to bake or make wonderful meals. Some really smart people understand computers, write code, or clean up computers after they’re infected with a malicious code.
And most of us can find our way from Grafton to wherever we need to go; we can ask Siri, or use a GPS, or read a map.
I’m not talking about that kind of knowledge.
I’m talking about the miracle of growth – just how is it that I can feed a puppy dog chow – an unappealing, hard, crunchy food – and the dog turns it into sleek & glossy fur, grows from a pound of blind puppy into a 40 pound expert sheepherding dog?
I’m talking about the miracle of meaning and purpose – just how is it that we come to understand that life has its best meaning when we serve our community? I’ve been reading General Alexander Archer Vandegrift’s story of the battle of Guadalcanal. What is it that made it possible for all those men to fight so hard in such a strange place, to fight knowing they were likely to die? Fifteen thousand American men – and close to 30,000 Japanese were killed or wounded there. Why do we love our country so much that we’ll give up our lives, our freedoms, to keep it safe?
Last week I read a newspaper story about a newbie UCC pastor, who’d given up a $200,000 a year job at Harvard to be a $50,000 a year pastor in rural Ohio. What makes that happen?
And of course, there are the other class of unanswerable question, which ask “why did this happen and not that?” or “why me, why my mother, my spouse, my child”.
Life is mysterious and filled with unanswerable questions.
Today is a time in the church year when we try to grapple with some of those unanswerable questions. We begin with the story of the death of Elijah and the emergence of his student, Elisha, and then move onto a story of the emergence of Jesus as a person of spiritual power. Each story is an attempt to both answer and ask questions about what is important, and how we recognize it.
In the midst of the worst time in his life, the death of his teacher, Elisha finds new life, new meaning, new purpose by picking up Elijah’s mantle, by carrying on his work. It’s a reminder that the work we do, whether we’re religious leaders, or parents, or whatever, is part of an ever-flowing stream of living. We live on our own timelines, but life in general goes along on God’s timeline.
Jesus didn’t do what he did to make himself a big thing; he brought his entire self into God’s way of being, and by doing that to give us a way to see and understand what God was calling the world to do and be. In much the same way, when we live out the Jesus Way in our lives, we help others to see and understand God’s call.
The gospel story tries to tell us what happened when you really listened to Jesus, really paid attention to what he was saying – it was such a glorious experience that it seemed to Peter and James and John as though he was transfigured into a glorious being, as if Elijah and Moses had shown up and they were all talking together. And then Peter suggested they build dwellings, which would allow them all to stay there in the midst of transforming glory.
But everyone has to come down off the mountain top. We can’t stay in church 24/7, but have to take our experiences of that glory, our memories of what it was like to be in God’s presence, out into the world, so that those who are lost, or lonely, or living in fear, might, through us, be brought to a place of justice and peace, built on our love for God and for one another.
God in Christ came to us that we might see and learn and know a new way of being, that we might not just exist, but prosper, enjoying a life filled with meaning.
There are times together, times of transfiguration, so filled with meaning and joy that we just want to stay there, to enjoy the feeling of being in God’s presence. It’s like being at the most wonderful concert, or most beautifully-played game, an experience we just don’t want to stop.
Underneath the special-ness of that experience, however, is another kind of transfiguration, the transfiguration of the everyday, the illumination of daily living and its transformation from one task after the other into a way of being which brings transformation and transfiguration into our daily world.
And that’s our call; that’s our task. We are called and commissioned to make love our watchword, make justice our goal, and by doing so, to bring transformation to all the world.
And in the name of Jesus Christ, we will do so.
© 2018, Virginia H. Child