Changed by Love

Kenora                  Last Sunday after Epiphany – Transfiguration

Year B

14 February 2021

2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6 pg 768

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

Lord of the mountain peak, whose light reveals the earth to be a dwelling place for love; Lord of the overshadowing, whose darkness confounds the lie that we can possess you: transform our hearts and minds, so that we may listen to him who bears the weight of glory in the lightness of our flesh, Jesus Christ, your Chosen One. Amen.

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Have you ever seen how love is displayed, in the pages of the bible?

We can see it in the readings for today. In the gospel, we see God’s love showcased in the transfiguration of Jesus, as he meets with two of the greatest sages of Israel’s history, as his divinity shines through his humanity for all to see.

We can see it in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as he points out that its our love that is what the world sees shining bright as we are transfigured by the work that is before us, as the love of Christ shines through us for the world to see.

We can see it in Elisha’s desire to stay close to Elijah for as long as they have together, as Elisha permits love to dominate his actions, his path forward in the service of God.

We are surrounded by love, by God’s love. We see it in the relationships we’ve formed, those that have helped us to grow and to develop into the children of God that we are, today.

We see God’s love in the way that we deal with the world around us, in the way that the world responds to our efforts to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus the Christ in the world.

We live out God’s love when we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us and to do the work that is put into our hands to do, not just for our benefit, but for the glory of God.

Today we see Elisha striving to stay with Elijah, although Elijah is going where Elisha cannot follow. “Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.” (2 Ki 2:2)

And this pattern is repeated throughout today’s reading. Each time, Elijah seeks to spare Elisha the grief of seeing him leave this world, and each time Elisha clings to the love that is between them, that has enriched their lives, in service to God.

At the same time, Elisha and Elijah are not the only prophets in Israel. Other companies have also seen the signs that Elijah is to soon return to God, and they come to try to comfort Elisha in his impending loss. But Elisha is directed by his sense of love for God, for Elijah, the work they’ve done together.

The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”” (2 Ki 2:3)

And our pattern repeats, yet what is repeated, over and over, and over again, both within our readings and throughout the pages of the bible is the love that God expresses, that we strive to imitate in our lifetime.

When we think about love, the most obvious that comes to mind are the passages that we turn to for weddings and for times when we join one life to another.

The book of Ruth begins with a heart wrenching declaration of affection, of love, when Naomi urges her daughters in law to seek love and marriage in a different direction. “16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.” (Ruth 1:16-18)

Paul, in the well-known passage from 1 Cor 12:31-13:13, describes the effect that love has on each one of us and on our actions, when we allow love to be our guiding factor.

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3)

And yet, the most well-known actions of God’s love is found when we look at the gospels when we see the birth, the teaching, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, not for God’s sake but for your sake and for mine.

In John’s gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:14-17)

The pages of the bible are filled with examples of God’s love for humanity, and humanity’s love for humanity.

Yet, from a human perspective, we strive to use love, twist love, and reconfigure love so that it more imitates what we feel it should resemble instead of striving to be loved by God and reflecting God’s love to the world.

This is something that we don’t come into the world knowing in our minds, but we are able to grasp it with our hearts. Our journey through life, then, is getting our minds to recognize what our hearts know of God’s love and demonstrating that love to the world.

Today we celebrate the transfiguration of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate that he sets his face toward Jerusalem, toward the cross, toward the sacrifice of good Friday that breaks down all barriers and opens the way for us to have a relationship with God.

Throughout the coming season of Lent, when we ponder this sacrifice that God makes on our behalf, that God makes because God loves each one of us.

Remember, God so loves the world, and that love continues today.

Elisha today says, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” (2 Ki 2:2b)

This is God’s message to each one of us, not just today, but every day.

The summary of the law reminds us, every day, to love as we are loved, not just by God, but by each other.

Love defines us. It defines our actions. It defines our reply to the actions of those in our lives.

I love to watch movies as I write, and lately the Disney movie Moana has been playing. It brings to light the idea that we need to know who we are to be the best of who we are, not just for ourselves, but for all those around us, as well. And the best that we are is best revealed in the light of love – our love for each other and God’s love for each one of us.

This is the love we see in the readings today, and throughout the bible.

We see this when we remember the ways in which love has enriched our lives and continues to do this, not just as we gather in our congregations, but as we allow the light of Christ to shine in our hearts and our lives so that the world can see.

As we meet, even by distance and through the reliance upon technology, in this season of Annual General Meetings, we actively seek to discern the will of God, the action of the Holy Spirit in and for our lives, and for the lives of our congregations.

This is the time of year when we, like Elisha and Elijah are able to look backward at what we’ve done, what we’ve experienced, and at the same time we look forward to see how and where God is guiding us into tomorrow, when we look at the will of God through the eyes of love.

The future, the unknown is always a scary prospect, but when stand together, when we embrace the love of God, the assurance that we never travel into the unknown without God in our hearts, then we are able to face the future, and we’re able to see what God wishes us to see, to do, today and tomorrow.

In today’s gospel, Peter James and John are overwhelmed by what they see, by the transfiguration of Jesus, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mountain top, yet they strive to respond. “Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)” (Mk 9:5-6)

And yet, although they’re afraid, they still hear the voice of God. They still heed Jesus advice, and learn from Jesus teachings.

Although there are times when the love of God struggles to find a foothold in our lives, we are encouraged, every day, to look to love as our guiding action. Paul reminds us: “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:5-6)

We are surrounded with love, in our lives, in our relationships, in the pages of the bible. And that love is from God allowing us to follow where Christ leads, into the arms of God’s love, every day.

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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