11 February 2024

Once again Epiphany closes with the Transfiguration of Jesus – the turning point, the final affirmation, before Jesus set his sights on Jerusalem and the coming confrontation and sacrifice. The challenge of this week is for us to learn to recognise God’s glory – in Christ, but also in all people and all things. It is this capacity for glory that can make a massive change to how we live in the world, and then through us, make a change to the world itself.

May God’s glory fill our eyes, our hearts and our lives as we worship this week.

2 Kings 2:1-12: Elijah prepares for his time to leave the earth (since he never dies in the Scriptural account) and Elisha refuses to be separated from him. Then, when Elijah asks Elisha what he wants before he leaves, Elisha asks for twice Elijah’s spirit. Elijah tells him that he will receive it if he sees Elijah being taken away. Then, Elijah is caught up in a wind and carried away, but Elisha sees and grieves the departure of his master.

Psalm 50:1-6: God radiates and God’s voice speaks across all the earth calling God’s people to God’s self.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6: Jesus is the glorious image of God, and God has shone into our hearts the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in Christ. It is this glorious Jesus that the Apostle preaches.

Mark 9:2-9: Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where they see Jesus transfigured into a radiant white, and Moses and Elijah appearing and talking to Jesus. Then they hear God’s voice of affirmation and then all is back to normal. Then Jesus instructs them not to tell anyone until after he is raised.

The Transfiguration is the obvious focus of this week, which is both exciting and challenging. The excitement comes from the wonderful celebratory possibilities that this amazing event offers. The challenge comes from having to choose how to approach this week with all the options, but also in how to ensure that our worship avoids the familiarity which so easily dulls the transforming potential of the theme. When all of the readings are placed together one strong message emerges – God allows God’s glory to be seen in order that God may communicate with human beings. In the Kings passage, Elisha seeks to see the glorious departure of Elijah in order to receive Elijah’s spirit. It also offers an opportunity (if we keep reading past the end of the set pericope) for others to recognise God’s anointing on Elisha once Elijah has gone. In the Psalm, God’s radiant glory is accompanied by God’s voice calling God’s people to God. In the letter to the Corinthians, Christ is praised as the glorious image of God – communicating the knowledge of God to whomever will receive Christ. Finally, in the Gospel reading, the glory and affirmation of God is communicated both to Jesus but also to the disciples who witness this event. It is clear that the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets (represented by Moses and Elijah) which Jesus brings is to be recognised by the disciples, and with the coming death and rising to which Jesus alludes at the end of this passage, they will need to memory of God’s glory and God’s communication to and through Christ to sustain them on the road to and through the cross.

Global Application:
God’s glory and God’s communication are two ideas that may, at first glance, seem to be thoroughly theological and philosophical, with little real connection with the very real and pragmatic work of justice and peace in the world. However, it is the loss of our ability to perceive God’s glory and to hear God’s voice that has resulted in much of the injustice we encounter in the world. When we fail to see, as the Psalmist describes it, God’s glory shining over and through the created world, it becomes easy to use the earth and its resources as commodities, forgetting their sacred nature. When we fail to recognise that Jesus is the image of God, revealing God’s character and values, God’s ways and God’s purposes, it is easy to believe that God calls us to actions that contradict Christ’s sacrificial life and teaching, and to ignore Christ’s message of God’s Reign as the basis for faith and life – the peaceful, compassionate, gracious and just Jubilee-style Reign. When we fail to recognise that God’s glory is also revealed in all people – that Christ hides within them in a “distressing disguise” (as Mother Teresa put it), it becomes easy to abuse, dehumanise and exploit others. But, when we learn to recognise God’s glory in Christ, we also learn to recognise God’s glory in all things and in all people – and this changes everything. The moment our lives become flooded with glory we grow more celebratory, more compassionate, more careful of other people and of the earth, more just and more selfless. God’s glory draws us inexorably into a life that seeks to reflect that glory – which is what Paul testifies to in his letter to the Corinthians. More, when we become aware of God’s glory, and begin to reflect it, we also become those who, like Christ, call glory out of everyone we meet, inviting them to radiate as God has created them to – listening to hear the voice of God’s affirmation even as Christ did, even in the darkest journeys of our lives. How different our world would be if we could develop an international culture of awareness of glory. It’s certainly a dream worth striving for!

Local Application:
In homes, communities and even churches, relationships, systems and structures break down when we fail to recognise their glory. At the heart of this truth is the belief that God revealed God’s glory in Christ, and that Christ taught us to recognise God’s glory in all things and all people. When we fail to be aware of glory, we start to take one another for granted. When we fail to see glory, the “broken windows” syndrome that Malcolm Gladwell described kicks in, and our environment begins to deteriorate for lack of care. When we fail to see glory, we lose our sense of connectedness with God, and God’s voice grows silent for us – or we become blinded by the things of this world and its systems as Paul describes. It is glory, however, that stirs us to care and reverence for other people and for the world. It is an awareness of glory that reminds us that God is always with us, and that enables us to recognise what God is saying to us at any point in time. Further, when we have learned to recognise God’s glory around and within us, we, like Jesus, are inspired, strengthened and given the courage to face the darkness, knowing that, whatever we may suffer, the light will never be completely extinguished. It may sound naive, but what the world needs is people who have learned the capacity to recognise glory wherever it may be found. This is the capacity that sustains relationships, that maintains communities, that unites people and that drives us into selfless service of one another and of our world. Without a vision of God’s glory, of God’s glorious Reign, it becomes very difficult to work for true justice and healing. But, with this vision, no sacrifice is too much in the quest to let God’s Reign be manifest among us – not even the cross.

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Whole-y God
Darkness And Light
The One We Worship

Hymn Suggestions:
Crown Him With Many Crowns
O Wondrous Sight, O Vision Fair
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The Mountain
Out Of The Darkness (Link to YouTube video)
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Sacrament

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