Sunday, February 14, 2021, Transfiguration

St. Paul’s Congregational Church, UCC – sermon


St. Paul’s Congregational Church, February 14, 2021

2 Kings 2:1-12, Mark 1:2-9

Transfiguration – Year B


Transfiguration Sunday is the last Sunday after Epiphany, a season that often gets overlooked as a bridge between Advent/Christmas and Lent, the two seasons of the Christian calendar that take up so much of our attention and energy. But Epiphany as a season, rather than as a distinct day, is a time that seems to encourage us to “Look at God!” Look at Jesus being baptized in the River Jordan with the whole Trinity showing up for the occasion. Look at Jesus venturing out into ministry and calling those first disciples to come along for the journey. And, this Sunday, we seek Jesus revealed before three of his closest disciples in his transfigured, dazzling glory. Look at God! A real mystery right in front of us. Don’t try to explain it – you can’t – just stop and savor the mystery.

This is a proper time to take a pause. To be still and know. To gaze upon the beauty of God’s splendor.

Pauses mark transitions that can help us to pivot to a new thing or notice the change in circumstances. Our reading from 2 Kings does just that as well. The story of the transition of religious leadership from Elijah to Elisha: the story climaxes in a space between heaven and earth. Also a mysterious story: a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

Both of our passages today are about the prophets – those called out by God – Elisha, Elijah, Peter, James, John – those who took on the role of ministering in the name of the Holy One. While they dedicated their lives to the telling of God’s truth to power, this moment paused that activity.

Kevin Williams is the Director of Welcome at the Westfield Congregational Church in Killingly, Connecticut – in a devotion this week he wrote, “Well, here we are at Transfiguration Sunday, 2021. The temptation is to lean into the Mark passage and reflect on that scene on the mountain – that would be the comfortable path. But I’d like to turn away from that comfort and reflect a bit on Elijah and Elisha.

“There are definitely similarities between the two stories – both involve a journey toward the end of one identity and on to the next. Both involve seeing God’s glory in an unexpected way – and both stories leave us wondering, “So what’s next?”

He continues, “I am certainly NOT a prophet like Elijah or Elisha but by now we’ve had nearly a month of a new Presidential administration, COVID vaccinations have not only progressed, and science has no doubt learned a great deal about how people have responded to the vaccine. And we’ve established what the early 2021 economic conditions look like – at least for now. We’re actually looking forward to the end of the current chapter and emerging on the back side of the pandemic, headed toward a new future.

"The question this text asks us to consider isn’t so much the ability to predict future events with precision. It’s not about asking for what we want and then seeing a guarantee that we will get what we ask for.

“Instead, the question on Transfiguration might just be, where are we fixing our gaze? Not what we are looking for, but what are we looking at? Sure, we don’t have chariots and horses of fire or a “shiny Jesus” to look at. But both of those examples do represent something we can see – just in a different form.

“Because both examples involve looking at God’s light. That’s what we’re called to look toward – God’s light – shared in chariots with Elijah and Elisha, and in Jesus’ identify being named – still surrounds us. We just sometimes need to look with more intent to see it.

“So, how do we look toward the light, “he asks. To do that we need to turn our back to the darkness. We have to make sure that we don’t engage in negative chatter, in the placing of labels on people and then criticizing traits associated with those labels, in the tearing down of our fellow people.”

There has been SO much of that lately, hasn’t there. Tearing down by both word and deed. Such dark times we’ve endured, been stuck in. But you know what? The light is still there.

Kevin says, “Instead we need to invest our energy in spotting the light and calling it out. Just this week, he relates, I’ve seen that light in people responding to pleas on social media asking neighbors if a missing package was delivered to them by mistake and the neighbor who received the package quickly answering and offering a safe way for it to be returned.

“I’ve seen it in larger than usual tips, at times in excess of the bill itself, being given to service workers wondering if today will be the last day they remain employed. I’ve seen it in volunteers pumping out flooded basements and providing pick up and delivery services for home-bound neighbors in need.”

And I will add my personal testimony: I’ve seen it in neighbors who shoveled my sidewalks, my stairs, the apron of my driveway and cleared off my car, not once but twice. And I’ve seen it in the cards and the notes, the emails, the texts, the soups that have been dropped off at my house these past weeks, the beautiful flowers I’ve received. And you know, I saw it on Friday night on TV – after days of rancor, contentious presentations, harsh and violent words, right there in the Senate chamber Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell came together to offer a resolution to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Officer Eugene Goodman in recognition of his heroism saving lives on January 6 – as one, members of the Senate rose and offered a standing ovation to this man. A glimmer of light – in an otherwise dark and dreary and painful week in the Senate chamber which didn’t get any better yesterday.

Think about where you have seen that light. Remember how it made you feel? Think about where you have shared the light! How did that make you feel?

Kevin finishes his meditation, “That light is there all the time. And the thing is, the more we focus on seeing it, the more we can reflect it back. We get inspired by the light in some people to try to have a similar impact on others. When we do, we just may find ourselves filled with a double share of Elijah’s spirit! May it be so for us all, according to God’s will.”

When should we take a moment…catch a breath…just stop what we’re doing for a moment and take a pause? Even our individual and corporate missional ministry needs a pause, not a break that separates us from our calls, but a moment of rest to refocus and refuel, to see and participate in the coming of the Light and our call to share the Light – maybe in new ways! Perhaps these events: the chariot in the clouds, the Transfiguration event, remind us of what our labor promises, what our commitment pursues, what our hope proclaims and points us in the direction of where our ministry leads – again maybe in new ways!

Worship of God does that: it doesn’t distract us from ministry – it reminds us that we are reaching for a destination that is glorious – not simply better or adequate, but glorious. Our goal is not just to feed the hungry but to participate in a world when all are fed. Our call is not to merely accept the immigrant in our midst, but to shape a world in which no one is labeled stranger.

Through worship, we are reminded that a just world for all is not a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it’s real and it’s do-able, with God’s help: the mission of the body of Christ is to participate in realizing the realm of God on earth as it is in heaven where hope, joy, love, peace abide for all people. All people. That’s our call. That’s why we exist as a church.

We take a pause to stay ready – to stay ready to shine the light in a world so desperate to see the light. We take a pause to rest and reflect: the glory of God will be revealed. Hope will flourish. The promises will be, are fulfilled. Are we ready to move into God’s future?

Let us pray: God of light and love, be with us as we accept the risk and challenge of seeking to know you better. Turn our fear into courage and our apathy into hope. As your presence shown in the face of Christ, so may we too be open to you shining through our hearts and lives. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.