22 February 2009

feast of the transfiguration; year b

2 kings 2:1-12
mark 9:2-10

Elijah and Elisha. Two friends on one huge journey. First they find themselves called by God out of Gilgal, just west of the Jordan river. They are to head from there to the land of Judah into a town called Bethel.

“Stay here,” Elijah says to his friend and successor-prophet Elisha. “I gotta run this errand for Yahweh, and it’s forever away. Stay here and preserve your strength.”

“Nope,” says Elisha. “I’m totally coming with.”

Elisha knows that Elijah’s days are limited. It had been made know to them by God that as soon as Elijah’s prophet-work was through, that he would be taken up in a whirlwind—a mysterious, miraculous taking up to a land far, far beyond the Jordon. Elisha wasn’t going to miss a second of his mentor’s last days.

“As long as you live, I will not leave you.” And so they went.

Once the two hit Bethel, they were joined by fifty other prophets. They questioned Elisha’s friendship with Elijah: “Don’t you get it?” Elisha answered: “Yes, I get it.” His devotion was unswerving.

Elijah heard a word from God to carry on southeastward to Jericho.

“Stay here,” says Elijah. “It’s safe.”

“Nope,” says Elisha. “I’m coming with you. As long as you live, I will not leave you.”

When they arrived in Jericho, the scene was similar. More prophets came out of the woodwork to meet the prophet Elijah, the voice of Yahweh. “Don’t you get it,” they asked Elisha, “Why are you attaching yourself to him if he’s just going to leave you?” “Yes, I get it. And I’m sticking with him. Now y’all hush.”

The scene repeats itself one more time. This time, Elijah gets a call from God to head to the Jordan River again, and Elisha is not leaving the side of his friend, his mentor.

As the two men approached the Jordan, the band of prophets hung back a little. The water was deep, and Elijah knew he had to cross it, so he struck the water with his mantle, and the river parted. The land in the gap was perfectly dry, and the two men crossed it to points east, to the other side, leaving the gaggle of followers on the west bank.

This was Elijah’s final destination. This tour through the Promised Land was his swan song. The miles trekked were his last. The words spoke were final. The minutes passed were a means to an end. And there, at the other side of the Jordan, Elisha asked for even double the inheritance: “You’ve done such good, master, I hope for double of your spirit,” he said. And then, the clouds swirl and part and chariots! of! fire! swoop down between the two friends. Elijah is scooped up and spirited away in a whirlwind of power and dust and glory.

For crying out loud, it took chariots and horses on fire from heaven to separate the two men. Such friendship can only be from God.

* * * *

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, where we remember another friendship story. Jesus took with him his pals—Peter, James, and John—to the mountain top where he was greeted by the late great Moses and Elijah, prophets who arrived from heaven for a brief spell to give Jesus a celestial high five of sorts. For it was on this day, atop this mountain, among these friends, that Jesus—literally—dazzled with holiness and then the skies parted for God to speak to the others present: “Jesus is my Beloved!” God said. Jesus is my Beloved.

Friends, there is one thing I know for sure:

God did not want us to do God’s work alone.

This grand experiment of God’s isn’t just to keep God company. Sure, we are to live for nothing short of God’s glory, but what is that glory? What does that look like?

I am convinced that the thing that keeps us connected to our creator, the thing that glorifies our God the most, is our capacity to be in relationship with one another. Community. Getting in it with each other, holding hands tight, not letting go, waiting for nothing short of burning, magical chariots to pry us apart from one another only to be joined at last in the company of the forever saints.

Here’s something else I know beyond any shadow of any doubt:

And I can only speak from my own experience….

But my darkest places come when I am not connected to others. I feel furthest from God when I fall out of community. When, for whatever reason, there’s a wedge in my relationship with others, I realize that I miss God’s work around me. I miss Jesus, sparkling on the mountain top. I miss the chariots of fire. I miss the Kingdom at work.

I know for sure that God loves us through the agency of one another.
When we are open and vulnerable enough to never leave each other’s sides.
No matter what. When we find it in our hearts to be honest—truly, blessedly honest—with one another. When our love for each other parts the Jordan River. When we care so deeply that we follow each other up mountains and through Jerusalem, just for the sake of being together.

Because life is short.
And we don’t have much time to gladden each other’s hearts.

It is our call to stick together. Through it all. Until we are parted by death. It is our call to be friends in community with one another so that we may, in turn, know all too well the indescribable, huge friendship of God.

How right and good it is that in a minute we will see a glimpse of God’s character through the sacrament of baptism. Baptism is nothing more than our way of welcoming each other into the presence of community in the name of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today we will welcome these two little ones into the St. Anne’s Community. Blessed are they, and, because of them, blessed are we.

I love this place. This community shows me over and over again what it means to be in friendship with God through your friendships with one another. I see here a true community of people—you’re not always perfect, but more important than perfect, you are always, always together. If this is your first time here, we welcome you. And hear me say that you will find at here at this church a community of friends who pray together, serve together, read together, play together, cook together, love God together.

You bless me.

And you bless each other.

And I feel certain that God is smiling on you through the rays of sunlight jetting through these windows.

We are about to enter a Holy Lent. During this time we walk with our God to the cross where the skies part once again, and we see God’s Love, bigger than we could ever ask or imagine. Go there together. As long as you live, never leave each others’ sides, and believe me, you will know the power and love of God—as grand as chariots swooping down from the heavens.