Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Transfiguration Sunday

My apologies for those looking for a discussion about the gospel text but after preaching the Transfiguration every year of my 25 years in ministry, I’m taking a year off and going to the 2 Kings 2:1-12 lesson. I will offer this note however on the Transfiguration which could be described as a “Thin Place.” Marcus Borg in The Heart of Christianity, says Celtic Christians t described as “Thin Places.” those occasions where the veil is lifted and the truth about God becomes apparent. God is with us and around us all the time, but there are moments when you sense it more fully. Times in worship, nature, community, retreat and service can all become “thin places” for us and have a transfigurative quality to our spiritual journey.

I’m drawn to the Elijah/Elisha story because of the chariot of fire. (All the gear-heads will appreciate it if you point out that God is their kindred spirit because God invented such a spectacular vehicle). But the story isn’t really about the chariot or even Elijah’s mystical departure that allows him to be an eschatological figure who returns as John the Baptist and on the mount of Transfiguration.

The story is about transition. Folks kept saying to Elisha, “Don’t you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” I hear echoes in the church halls. “Soon all the ladies who cook the funeral dinners will be gone, then what?” “Don’t you know that the financial resources to the region have nearly dried up?” “Don’t you know that we are we are in dire need of theologically educated younger clergy?

I love Elisha’s response. “Yes, I know; keep silent.” That is “shut up” about the losses we will experience. Turns out that God is still on the job. Be silent and trust that God will provide.

Before Elijah mounts his sweet ride home, Elisha asks him for a double share of his spirit. A bold request! The spirit of Elijah carries on in his successor—God provides! During the ordination service in the United Methodist Church, candidates about to be ordained ask the retiring pastors for a double share of their spirit. At that point the retirees present the new pastors with a clergy stole—just like Elijah handing off the mantle. It’s a powerful service.

I’m wondering if there might be a way to incorporate something of that service into a Transfiguration service where an older generation will give a symbol of blessing to the younger folks. Before you object and say that the older folks still have a ministry too, I say, “Yes I know; be silent.” All who remain on this side of glory have ministry to do—that is our inheritance from Christ.

David Clark
Ankeny Christian Church

1 comment:

Dan Mayes said...

Dave, thanks for your take on this...I find it intriguing. As I meditated on the scriptures this week I found Elisha to be sort of the opposite role as you. Whereas you place him as the trusting one, saying "Be quiet and trust," I place him as the one holding on and refusing to transition. It's that "Shut Up" he's saying so that he doesn't have to hear and own up to the truth. The others are aware and proclaiming that the transition has come, but Elisha keeps holding on, refusing to let Elijah go. Truly, he does reap a great benefit from it, but he seems almost in denial about Elijah's departure. When he's finally gone, Elisha tears his clothes in sadness. I, too, am preaching on the 2 Kings text, but in the context of our refusal to accept the reality of the present while holding onto the past.

Thanks, again.