|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 18, 2012||Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 11, 2012||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 4, 2012||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Mark 8:31-38|
|Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 26, 2012||First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15|
|Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012||February 22, 2012||Ash Wednesday||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|➤Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B||February 19, 2012||Last Sunday after Epiphany||2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 12, 2012||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 5, 2012||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 29, 2012||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 22, 2012||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 15, 2012||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51|
|First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 8, 2012||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:4-11|
|Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012||January 6, 2012||Epiphany||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011||December 25, 2011||Christmas Day, 2012||Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011||December 24, 2011||The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord||Luke 2:1-20|
Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B
Sermon Date:February 19, 2012
Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
Liturgy Calendar: Last Sunday after Epiphany
With hope and longing, we hear these words. Heaven is real.
Elisha saw the heavens open in a burst of light and a chariot of fire and horses of fire swing low and sweep Elijah away in a whirlwind to heaven after Elisha had followed Elijah through the wilderness and across the Jordan.
Peter, James and John saw Elijah, Moses and Jesus, who shines bright as lightening, in conversation on the very high mountain where Jesus had led them.
In these two stories, heaven and earth collide. Elisha sees that the end of the long journey through the wilderness and across the Jordan continues for Elijah, who is lifted straight up into heaven, although Elisha must stay firmly rooted on earth for the time being.
Peter, seeing the shining transfigured Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses, wants to remain on this high mountain—“Let us make three dwellings,” while at the same time he feels the profound awe and fear that the shepherds felt when they were surrounded by the light of the glory of God in the presence of the angels who announced the birth of Jesus.
These stories make me tremble with hope and with longing. I, too, want to experience a vision of heaven now, so that I will know that my own journey through the wilderness, that trudging over the very high mountains of my life, will someday lead me into the presence and the brightness of the glory of God.
Oliver always says in Bible study that he’s there to focus on heaven, because he wants to enter into God’s heavenly kingdom when he dies.
And that is what we all want and hope for after our deaths—eternal life, to live forever in the light of the glory of God, in the company of Jesus, who shines bright as lightening, and to be with those we have loved in this lifetime, and with the whole communion of saints.
During the season of Epiphany, we have had weeks of seeing and hearing again that God is truly in our midst in the person of his Son, Jesus, and today, we catch a glimpse of the heaven that awaits us in these final Epiphany readings.
But these readings contain something else. In the midst of all of this blinding light, chariots of fire and horses of fire, God returning to judge those of us in covenant relationship with him, preceded by consuming flames in Psalm 50, Jesus, transfigured and wearing a mantle of light more brilliant than blinding sunlight reflected from a bank of pure white snow, in all this fearful joy, we also find sorrow.
For our journeys are not ended. Heaven is real, but not yet.
Elisha, having watched Elijah ascend in the whirlwind until he could no longer see him, grasped his clothes and ripped them apart in his grief at the loss of this person who had guided him and had taught him how to be a prophet.
But now, even in his grief, Elisha must retrace his steps, back across the Jordan, to live out his own prophetic ministry.
And Mark tells us that on the mountain, a cloud overshadows them, and suddenly when the disciples look around, only Jesus remains.
And then Jesus, who has led them up the mountain, leads them back down to continue their journey as his disciples, with the reminder that the disciples are to tell no one what they have seen until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead. And the disciples question what this might mean—because it’s hard to look the truth in the face.
Jesus had already told them that he must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Peter, who cannot imagine living through such grief, rebukes Jesus for speaking the truth.
So as they came down the mountain, the disciples wondered how they could continue their journey if Jesus would no longer be with them. What did being risen from the dead mean? Entering into the grief and darkness of Jesus’ coming death, they couldn’t figure out that light would be at the end, even though they had just seen it.
On this last Sunday of Epiphany, we too come down the mountain in the company of Jesus-
And the church, in its wisdom, now gives us the season of Lent to participate in the very journey that the disciples themselves entered into at this point—
the journey toward Jerusalem, where Peter will deny him, where the disciples will desert him, and where Jesus will die a horrible death on the cross, and then be risen, the resurrectionabout which, according to Mark, the stunned and grief stricken disciples can only remain silent.
We, too, make this journey through life, so often filled with grief. We travel through this life loving people, and then losing them, facing the death of our fondest dreams, and if we live long enough, growing older and feeling the world literally shrink around us. Particular parts of this journey are full of grief and darkness and insurmountable challenges that we aren’t sure we can manage. And like the disciples, we frequently come up short in the ways we manage our lives, giving in to the darkness in infinite ways unique to each one of us.
With that trembling hope that we have for eternal life, how do we see those glimpses of heaven now that remind us that heavenly light and life await us at the end our journeys?
The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to remember that we travel in the light and to develop the practice of finding the light of God’s presence through even the darkest and most grief stricken days of our journeys.
Today’s readings provide us with the guidance we need to enter into the season of Lent that is now upon us.
First of all, let’s return to Elisha. Three times Elijah says to Elisha, “Stay here: for the Lord has sent me farther along—to Bethel, to Jericho, to the Jordan.”
And three times, Elisha replies, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”
“I will not leave you.” Exactly what Peter promised Jesus, and then spectacularly failed to do when he stood by the fire warming himself and denied that he had ever known Jesus. “I will not leave you” is what we promise Jesus and constantly fail to do. But the season of Lent gives us a chance to reflect on the times we have left God out of our lives, and provides us with the help to rectify that situation. We have the opportunity to work on what is often our shaky loyalty to God.
On top of the mountain, the disciples hear directly from God when the voice comes from the cloud.
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”
Lent is a season of listening to what Jesus has to say to us, so that we can learn from him how to complete our journeys on this earth faithfully and loyally.
If we enter the times of darkness and grief in our lives seeking the light of heaven, and listening to what Jesus has to say to us, and faithfully following his example, then we receive the promise that the Corinthians heard described so eloquently by Paul.
God, the One who said at the beginning of time, “Let there be light,” shines in our hearts.
We ourselves become full of light, the same glorious God given light that shines in the face of Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that our journey through Lent can be one of loyal listening to God’s word and the faithful following of that Word, a journey in which we seek the light of Christ in our lives, especially in the darkest times.
The Lenten season gives us the opportunity to do what Peter wanted to do on top of that mountain—to make a dwelling place for Jesus then and there, to hold on to that moment.
Jesus promises us that we can make this dwelling place that Peter wanted to make. We can make it here and now.
Jesus said, in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel according to John, that
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them, and make our abiding place, our dwelling place, our home, with them.”
Loving him, loyally keeping his word—that is how we prepare a dwelling place for God in our hearts.
So that can Jesus come to dwell in us, and we in him.
The coming season of Lent gives us the help we need in constructing his dwelling place in our hearts,
a dwelling place that we hope that Jesus will fill with the glorious brightness of God’s presence, eternal life now,
a dwelling place filled with that light that points to our eventual entrance into the heavenly land of light and joy, where sorrow and sighing will be no more.