TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD + FEBRUARY 14, 2021

PRAYER OF THE DAY

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. May we be transfigured through this experience of your beloved Son, to illumine the world in your Image, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A READING FROM THE SECOND BOOK OF KINGS 2:1-12

Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”

Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet,

if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

WE PRAY PSALM 50:1-6

The mighty one, God the LORD, has spoken; calling the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God shines forth in glory. Our God will come and will not keep silence; with a consuming flame before, and round about a raging storm. God calls the heavens and the earth from above to witness the judgment of the people. “Gather before me my loyal followers, those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice.” The heavens declare the rightness of God’s cause, for it is God who is judge.

A READING FROM PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:3-6

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

THE HOLY GOSPEL, ACCORDING TO ST. MARK 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Sermon

No! Please! No pictures! Far beyond vanity about how we look in photos, there are folks, whole cultures in fact, for which photography is forbidden. From the suspicion of the soul being stolen, to the biblical injunction against graven images, the ban on photographing a person, or persons, or memorializing an event, is looked upon with anything from disdain to dread by more religions and ethnicities than you might imagine!

Although photography as we know it, using a camera to imprint a lasting visual image, did not exist in Jesus’ time, the word images conveyed orally, and eventually in written form were just as powerful for those who shared them. I have come to think of Jesus’ strong admonition not to tell anyone what Peter, James and John had just witnessed as parallel to the forbidding of a photograph, albeit not for the same reasons. Certainly Jesus didn’t think that telling the story prematurely (before the resurrection), would steal his disciples souls, but I suspect he well understood that this miraculous vision, if told too soon, would be as flat and motionless as words inscribed on papyrus, or a photograph. What had been revealed to the disciples was a glimpse of the Divine, the Eternal, and more importantly, the destiny of all Creation. It was shocking, scandalous, and frankly, traumatizing! No wonder Peter stammers about trying to hold it still and keep it for further examination by building tents for the three Holy Ones! No wonder they are terrified! No wonder the human impulse to gather it into small “bites”, to be more easily digested, to attempt to digest what had been displayed, rather than to risk the unknown, the unimaginable, by entering into it instead. That is exactly what we are invited to do! Resist the human impulse to wrap our minds around the Divine, to translate God into words and pictures our heads can feel less intimidated by, or place our experience of Jesus into a structure where we can visit, but never really remain, rather than inviting Him into our hearts and minds and spirits and very being, without knowing how that will “look”. Beloved, this is the challenge and the invitation of Transfiguration Sunday, to put down the intellectual “camera”, to lay aside the many, many words of interpretation, to abandon even the appearance of hospitality that masks possession, and welcome the awesome One who stands before us, seeking not a moment frozen in time, not a cherished souvenir of a dazzling event, but an intimate relationship with the One who still forms us in God’s own Image, transfiguring us each moment and with every breath. Amen

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