Sunday’s sermon: Exposed and Changed

changed

Texts used – 2 Kings 2:1-14; Mark 9:2-9

This past Sunday was our congregational annual meeting. We incorporate the elements of the meeting in with our worship to remind us that even the technical (and sometimes tedious-feeling) work that we do as the church is all for the glory of God. Yesterday was especially special because, in addition to electing and installing a new deacon and 2 new ruling elders, we also welcomed 4 new members into our congregation! 

  • Over the last six weeks, we’ve been talking about the mystery of Jesus’ identity as he began his ministry.
    • May remember: began with a revelation at Jesus’ baptism
      • Holy Spirit coming down in the form of a dove
      • God’s words: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”[1]
      • But this revelation, at least according to Mark’s gospel as we read it, was private. It was a revelation for Jesus’ eyes and ears alone. So despite this incredible revelation that we as readers of Scripture are privy to, Jesus’ secret was still safe.
    • Today’s Scripture reading brings it all full circle → another, very similar revelation … but this one’s not-so-private
      • Text: Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!”[2]  → If you’re Peter, James, or John, this is not the kind of interaction you’re going to forget! Your teacher’s face and clothes are glowing a brilliant white. A couple of dead Fathers of the Faith suddenly appear with you. And you hear the voice of God emanating from the clouds, declaring your teacher as God’s Son and directing you to listen to him. Yeah … this revelation brings things around full circle and fully exposing Jesus’ secret at the same time.
        • Have to wonder what Jesus thought when he heard God speak those words – words that were almost exactly the same as the words he heard at his baptism
          • Nostalgic and heartwarming?
          • Reassuring and bolstering – sort of a boost in the midst of his ministry?
          • Frustrating because they unequivocally revealed the identity he had worked so hard to keep under wraps?
        • Whatever Jesus’ response may have been, we know how Peter, James, and John were feeling – text: Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified. → And can we blame them?! Whatever Peter, James, and John expected when they followed Jesus up that mountain, this encounter with Moses and Elijah and God almost certainly wasn’t it! And yet they found themselves there in that moment of powerful transformation.
  • Transfiguration Sunday = all about transformation
    • NT reading
      • Physical transformation of Jesus – glowing face and robes
      • Transformation in their own understanding – unmitigated confirmation of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son → not the first time they’d heard such a pronouncement, but definitely the most authoritative and unambiguous (literally straight from God’s mouth to their ears!)
    • OT reading – one of the most sensational stories in the Bible (and frankly, that’s saying something)
      • Dramatic transformation of Elijah → taken up into heaven in a whirlwind by a chariot and horses of fire! – text: They were walking along, talking, when suddenly a fiery chariot and fiery horses appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm. Elisha was watching, and he cried out, “Oh, my father, my father! Israel’s chariots and its riders!”[3]
        • Reminders about Elijah
          • Elijah = powerful prophet in southern kingdom of Judea, one of the real heavy-hitters in the OT → brought God’s word time and time again to evil King Ahaz and his wife, Jezebel (did horrible things, worshipped other gods, ignored God) → time and time again had to run from them for fear of his life after delivering that word
      • Powerful transformation of Elisha, Elijah’s chosen successor – text: When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I’m taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Let me have twice your spirit.” Elijah said, “You’ve made a difficult request. If you can see me when I’m taken from you, then it will be yours. If you don’t see me, it won’t happen.” … When he could no longer see him, Elisha took hold of his clothes and ripped them in two. Then Elisha picked up the coat that had fallen from Elijah. He went back and stood beside the banks of the Jordan River. He took the coat that had fallen from Elijah and hit the water. He said, “Where is the LORD, Elijah’s God?” And when he hit the water, it divided in two! Then Elisha crossed over.[4]  → transformation of Elisha from watcher to doer, from follower to leader, from disciple to prophet
    • And that’s why it’s so fitting that our annual meeting this year falls on Transfiguration Sunday. Friends, we have had an incredibly transformative year as a congregation. We took a leap of faith in deciding to dissolve our 50-yr. yoke relationship and try this “life in ministry” thing on our own. Despite the added expenses and worries that came with that decision, we remained committed to doing what God calls us to do and being what God calls us to be in this community, in the surrounding area, and in the world. We continue to give to missions. We continue to welcome people into our midst. We continue to gather on Sunday mornings for worship. And this year, we have seen ourselves transformed: in spirit and attitude, in engagement and idea-sharing, in dedication to who we are as the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco, and even in numbers (both attendance and financially).
      • Celebrating and welcoming new members today
      • Installing new deacon and elders
      • Discussing budget that, while not perfect, has been in the black more often than not in the last 6 mos. → more than any other time in my entire 5 yrs. here so far!
    • Like Peter, James, and John and like Elisha, we don’t know what lies around the corner following this transformation, and frankly, I don’t think our transformation is even complete yet! But we cannot deny that God is doing great things in us and through us because we were willing to take that leap of faith – to follow God into the unknown, to expose and submit ourselves fully and tenaciously to the call of God, and to not only expect but desire to be changed. And we do this, not alone, but together.
      • Scholar: At Jesus’ transfiguration, he is surrounded by those past and present: Peter, James, John, as well as Moses and Elijah. We too are surrounded and do not journey alone. We carry with us the cloud of witnesses who have lived before us. We carry with us our friends, family, colleagues, and strangers in our midst. Together we are transformed. Together we are a beacon of light to others, inviting them to join on the walk as we circle back to the One who created us, loves us, and calls us to follow him.[5]  → And so, friends, as we continue to review the year we’ve had as a congregation, let us also continue to move forward in hope and joy and faith. Because God is not done with us yet. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Mk 1:11.

[2] Mk 9:2-7.

[3] 2 Kgs 2:11-12a.

[4] 2 Kgs 2:9-10, 12b-14.

[5] Theresa Cho. “Epiphany Series: Jesus, Man of Mystery – Transfiguration Sunday: Exposed” in A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 100.

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