February 14, 2021 “Trying to Tell Us Something Important”
“Trying to Tell Us Something Important”
2 Kings 2:1-14
Rumors is a Christian e-magazine that I quote from time to time. It was headed up by two Canadians named Ralph Milton and Jim Tayler. I was first attracted to their publication when I read the description, “Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor.” At the top of every week’s publication is the quote from Proverbs 17:22 which reads, “A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” I’ve been a faithful reader ever since. It’s right up my alley.
One of the things they create in this publication is something called Reader’s Theater. It is a script designed to be read by 2 or more people in a church setting that speaks to the scripture passage of the day. In today’s Theater script, two people are talking about both Elijah going up into the heavens on a chariot of fire and also the story of the Transfiguration. I’ll use the names Ralph and Jim, well….just because. Ralph starts by saying,
“It feels like tiny little people with cold feet running up and down my backbone.”
“What does,” Jim says.
“Those two scripture readings for today. The story of Elijah rising up into the sky, and the story of Jesus on the mountain talking to Elijah and Moses.”
“They are a bit weird. It’s hard to believe that this kind of thing really happens,” says Jim.
Ralph pipes up saying, “Maybe that’s why they are important.”
“Because they are weird?” Jim asks.
“Yeah,” Ralph says. “Weird stories like this are usually trying to tell us something important.”
The two-part dialog goes on further, but you get the idea. “Weird stories like this are usually trying to tell us something important.” We don’t need to study the cause and effect of firestorms to feel better about this weird thing that happened with Elijah. Nor do we have to travel to Israel and climb Mt. Tabor to get the full sense of where, and maybe how, the Transfiguration happened. We don’t need to find simplifications and explanations and justifications to make stories like these less weird. We only need to know that they are important. Because, here’s the thing: I have to believe that when God spoke to the prophets, they were not private conversations. And when our Lord placed the Psalms in David’s heart and wisdom words in Solomon’s head, they weren’t meant to stop there. No, and when Jesus spoke or healed or loved or fed the multitudes, these were meant to be known for thousands of years into the future. When God spoke to the prophets, he spoke to us. When Jesus showed the disciples – when he allowed a glimpse of his glory to be seen – he allows us to see it as well.
You know, people tend to think of Methodists as being a stodgy bunch: a bit dreary and uninspired. Even the name “Methodist” is not so appealing if we’re looking for something flashy and awe-inspiring. But one of the reasons I remain a member of this denomination is because I have learned that in the middle of the thousands of sermons John Wesley preached and the hundreds of hymns Charles Wesley wrote, there is a theme – an underlying theme – of transfiguration. John Wesley was raised in the church. He later studied at Christ Church in Oxford, and eventually became an Anglican priest. He was smart, he was ambitious, and he was on his way to a promising career. But the Lord had other plans and so at a group meeting studying Paul’s letter to the Romans, John Wesley was touched by something he couldn’t explain with a textbook. And it was this revelation of warmth and light and love that changed John Wesley forever. I find it interesting that one of the qualities our denomination asks of their clergy is that they have had such an experience: a defining moment in their faith journey that flipped the whole thing upside down; a defining moment that changed everything. A moment when for whatever reason, you caught a glimpse of the glory and the majesty and power and unconditional love of the Almighty God, and it just knocked your socks off. Elisha was determined to stick with the prophet Elijah until the very end and even when things got wild, he never looked away, he never doubted, he was never afraid. Likewise Peter, James, and John upon witnessing Christ in his glory were changed forever. They didn’t fully understand it, they didn’t really know how to feel about it, but all of a sudden things were different; and that’s a start. That’s a real good start.
Coming back to earth now, I have to ask what does it mean to be transfigured? Is it some magical transformation like an ugly duckling that turns into a swan? Is it like a drunk or an addict who gives up their addiction? I might even venture the question, are you and I transfigured when we fall head over heels in love? Jim Taylor tells us, “I would suggest that transfiguration doesn’t mean glowing in the dark, but seeing others (and ourselves) in a new way. The three disciples were changed by seeing Jesus in a new way. We are changed when we see a girl/boy we’ve taken for granted, with the eyes of love. The world is changed when we begin to view other religions, other races, other genders, with caring and compassion.
It’s pointless to ask how Jesus’ transfiguration took place – we’ll never know. But we can ask how our own transfiguration will take place – and that transfiguration we can monitor, day by day. And then, perhaps, we too will seem to glow.”
So yes, weird stories like this are usually trying to tell us something important. They are trying to tell us that our God looks to reveal himself to us on the mountaintop; he means for us to be stubborn and persistent and follow him, even if it is against the advice of this world. And when that moment comes, don’t be surprised if we see things in a different way. But you know what? I think that’s the whole idea.
Amen & Shalom