Year B, Transfiguration Sunday
Transfiguration, metamorphoō in the Greek, seems to have something to do with fire and light, with glory and holiness, with surrender and commitment to mystical experience of some sort in our scriptures this week. Elijah is taken up into heaven in God’s chariot of fire drawn by fiery horses. There is a whirlwind as his disciple, Elisha, watches in terrified awe from the banks of the Jordan. In Psalm 50 God’s voice is preceded by “devouring fire and a mighty tempest”, summoning the righteous to gather with God from sunrise to sunset. (It seems God is inviting us into a dramatically transforming relationship at every moment of our lives!) Paul proclaims to the Corinthian church that their knowledge is from a God who says “Let light shine out of darkness”. Knowing God through Jesus has shines in their hearts. Mark tells us that Jesus is transfigured, transformed, from his apparently everyday appearance into a shining apparition so that he may consult with the ancient prophets and be pronounced God’s Beloved, God’s Son, once again.
Metamorphosis, transfiguration, a change of being tied to – or caused by? – experiencing God’s glory and holiness, God’s very presence. I think that Jesus excelled at being open each moment of his life to a dynamically transforming relationship with God. That is why he could do all he did in proclaiming God’s realm as a place of transfiguration in the midst of and within the people. His undivided attention and focus upon the God who shines light into darkness rippled out from him to empower others, to transfigure them. Putting ourselves in the place of the awe-struck disciples who followed Jesus to the mount and beyond is just the transition we need between Epiphany, season of light and revelation, and Lent, season of journey into and through darkness to resurrection.
The congregation I serve at present revealed in a recent survey for strategic planning that they long to experience God and not just learn about God. Yet they are a heady, intellectual bunch suspicious at times of anything that smacks to them of shallow sentimentality or easy answers. They are wary of more prayer classes or more Bible study. As a staff we are praying earnestly to lead them in through Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Eastertide with multiple opportunities for “transfiguration”. We want to invite them to the mount to hear for themselves the proclamation of God, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him!” We are asking ourselves how do we step into this dazzling light of God’s presence and absorb its power to be empowered for the transformation of those we lead. For we are all called by God into the transfiguration of the world.
I invite you to look carefully at the story in 2 Kings for your story in a children’s time this week. Re-telling the story of the older teacher, Elijah who was so loved by his student, Elisha, is a story illustrating the ways we are called to follow Jesus. Closely listening, with persistence, trusting, asking for God’s spirit that we experience in Jesus, picking up where he left off in bring the realm of God to fruition in the world. The story has two delightful repetitive verbal formulas that can engage participation from even younger children.
- “Elisha, you do not have to follow me.” “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!”
- “Do you know your teacher will be taken up to heaven today?” “Yes, shhh!”
You could contemporize the groups of prophets they are visiting making them groups of community leaders or church leaders (maybe the boards or committees of the church?) What would fit your setting? I would include the ending that goes beyond the pericope in the lectionary. Make sure that Elisha picks up the mantle of Elijah as he moves into his own teaching work.
Another story that comes to mind is a story from the Native Americans of the northwestern United States. There are several variations of Raven bringing light or fire to the world. You can find them at the websites below.
The Legend of Raven
How Raven Brought Light to the World
Raven and Seagull
How Raven Brought Fire
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2015. Can be reprinted only with permission.