Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
11 February 2024
2 Kings 2.1-12
1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 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. 3 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.’ 4 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. 5 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.’ 6 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. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 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. 9 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.’ 10 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.’ 11 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. 12 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.
Most people know about Elijah being taken up to heaven by the chariot. One of my favourite songs by Paul Robson is,"Swing Low Sweet Chariot" The chariot and Elijah's going is only a small part of the story. The journey with Elisha plays an important part in the story. We see Elisha told to stay behind three times by Elijah and approached by other prophets to inform him of what is going to happen. Why? Is it to give more emphasis to Elijah's going, or is Elisha's journey as important as Elijah's? Seeing Elijah go was important for Elisha and to stay with him was important for Elisha to receive the blessing. The request and information were the tests for Elisha.
1 The Lord our God, the Mighty One, has spoken:
and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting in the west.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty:
God has shone out in glory.
3 Our God is coming, he will not keep silent:
before him is devouring fire,
and tempest whirls about him.
4 He calls to the heavens above:
and to the earth, so he may judge his people.
5 ‘Gather to me my faithful ones:
those who by sacrifice made a covenant with me.’
6 The heavens shall proclaim his righteousness:
for God himself is judge.
2 Corinthians 4.3-12
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 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. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 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. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Paul's reference to the 'veil' is reference to the time when the face of Moses shone so brightly with the radiance of God that he had to put a veil over his face. The people could not bear to look on this radiance. In the same way people could not bear to see the radiance of the gospel message. Paul calls himself a slave to the people, so that the message may be the important thing. He also refers to our bodies and life as 'clay jars.' Most of this reading is focused on trying to get them to understand how important Jesus' life and death are to their lives,
2 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, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 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.’ 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 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.
What is the focus of the Transfiguration? Jesus becoming as white as snow? The appearance of Moses and Elijah? I believe the event has two parts, the meeting is important for Jesus, and the importance to have witnesses. If it was only about the meeting, the others didn't need to be there, but they were deliberately there, so they could testify. The relevance of Moses and Elijah is that they represent the law and the prophets. Jesus said I came to fulfill the law and the prophets. He fulfills the law perfectly. No one has lived the law the way Jesus did. He fulfills the prophets because they all point to his coming and the need for his coming.
Acts of God are at times necessary for the faith growth of believers. The acts are not necessary for God. When we surrender ourselves to God, then God will reveal God's self to us and through us. We will be transformed, and we will see the world for what it is and to live into the fullness of God. We will be willing to let go of the things of this world and strive for the things of God.