Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Successors

Some Sundays I wonder why God has me up here proclaiming his word to whomever he brings to worship in this sanctuary. Sometimes I wonder if the words he gives me to speak make any sense to anyone. I’m just a farm boy who finally responded to God’s urging to be a pastor.
Most of the pastors who have preceded me did a pretty good job of leading this church through the years. Some were very good teachers and preachers and some provided just the right kind of pastoral care to this church’s members. And some were just plain good at doing both. That’s kind of intimidating.
Elisha had the opportunity to be an apprentice to Elijah. And just before the Lord took Elijah away Elisha was given a most wonderful gift by his mentor. Elijah asked him what he could do for him before he was taken away. Wouldn’t that be something to be given a chance to receive a gift from our predecessor(s) that would help us in the work we’re taking over from them? Opportunities like this aren’t always available to everyone.
I think that’s what Jesus was doing for the three disciples he took with him to the mountaintop. When Jesus was transfigured and Elijah and Moses appeared alongside him they saw him differently. They didn’t understand it all and it scared them.
Jesus had been preparing them by telling them he would suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. And yet he continued his plans to enter the city. And his disciples didn’t understand why, when it would have been just as easy to avoid that confrontation.
I don’t think they really believed that he was going to be killed and would be going away. I don’t believe they thought that they would be left behind to carry on the work of proclaiming his Message. I think they believed or maybe strongly hoped that what he was saying wouldn’t actually happen. I think they believed that he was going to establish his kingdom here on earth right away and the Roman oppressors would be vanquished from Palestine. This is what the whole Jewish nation had been waiting for their entire lives.
They hadn’t been with him long enough to learn everything they needed to know to do this evangelistic work he was calling them to do. But are any of us ever really thoroughly prepared to go forth and evangelize. I’ve always been reluctant. I’ve often thought I’m ill-equipped and not prepared to speak the Message Jesus wants proclaimed.
Oh that we could all have the opportunity Elisha had, to be asked what we would like to receive from our mentor before they were taken away from us. Have you ever thought who you would like to be like? Elisha wanted to have a life just like Elijah’s. He wanted to be a holy man, a prophet just like Elijah. Who do you look up to and what would you say if you were asked that question?
But then we listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians and we remember that it’s not about us. We are messengers, gofers for Jesus, the Master. It all began when we accepted Jesus' invitation to be the light of our lives. When we committed ourselves to serving him then our lives weren’t any longer our own. We were changed and whether we realized it or not we were changed; we were transformed.
Maybe we weren’t born with the natural abilities we thought we had to have to be a teacher or a preacher or a minister or evangelist for Jesus but when we let the light of Jesus come into our hearts the Holy Spirit changes us and enables us to do many things we never knew we were capable of. Even Jesus struggled with his own doubts at times. Look at how many times he went away by himself to pray. Remember his trip to the wilderness and his last evening praying in Gethsemane. He never doubted in God or his abilities but he may have had doubts about whether he could go through all the suffering and pain. That may have been why he went up on the mountain. That may have been why it was important for him to talk with the greatest prophet Elijah and the man of the law, Moses. He may have needed to hear God say, “This is my Son…listen to him!”
Elisha didn’t want to let Elijah out of his sight. Peter didn’t want to come down off the mountain. We are afraid to be sent out into the world.
God’s Message for us today is this, just as he was in and with Jesus so he is in and with us in the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to go out and change the world, to bring the light of Christ into someone’s life.
We may not feel any different when we leave here today but just by being here and listening to God’s proclamation we have been empowered to tell others what God is doing in our lives and what he is able to do in theirs all because he has a deep yearning to have an intimate relationship with all his children.
Jesus is the light of the world. God speaks and the darkness is made light. Friends, trust in the One who knew you before you were conceived to provide everything you need to do the work he has chosen for you.
Thanks be to God for the Light he brought into the world. Amen.

After the Transfiguration
By Kathy Coffey

Grinding up the steep incline,
our calves throbbing,
we talked of problems
and slapped at flies.
Then you touched my shoulder,
said, "turn around."
Behind us floated
surprise mountains
blue on lavender,
water-colored ranges:
a glimpse from God's eyes.
Descending, how could we chat
mundanely of the weather, like deejays?
We wondered if, returning,
James and John had squabbled:
whose turn to fetch the water,
after the waterfall of grace?
After he imagined the shining tents,
did Peter's walls seem narrow,
smell of rancid fish?
did feet that poised on Tabor
cross the cluttered porch?
After the bleached light,
could eyes adjust to ebbing
grey and shifting shade?
Cradling the secret in their sleep
did they awaken cautiously,
wondering if the mountaintop
would gild again-bringing
that voice, that face?

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