“Dependence on God”
2 Kings 2:1-2
Dr. Robert J. Anderson
February 15, 2015

 

Transfiguration and Elijah are not part of our everyday conversations.  We may not know exactly what transfiguration means and we have only a glimpse of Elijah.

 

I looked up transfiguration just to make sure I know what it means.  According to the dictionary, transfiguration means to change in appearance.  In the familiar scene on the mountain of transfiguration, the disciples saw Elijah, Moses, and Jesus standing together and Jesus’ appearance changed.  His clothes became dazzling bright.  Something about that moment changed Jesus in the mind of the disciples.

 

Elijah in this scene on the mountain of transfiguration sums up what most of us know about Elijah which is shame.  Elijah was a premier prophet and a forerunner to the Messiah.  Elijah was bold in standing for Yahweh at the very beginning of Israel’s corruption with the worship of Baal.  His strength was his “incredible faith in God. He loyally carried out the Lord's instructions and struck boldly in the face of enormous opposition.”  We may remember Elijah standing up to the false prophets in the famous contest on Mt. Carmel, and God’s stunning victory through Elijah.  But, he was human and not a superhero and his primary weakness was his profound depression and perhaps even despair after his stunning victory on Mt. Carmel against the 450 prophets of Baal.

 

Elijah first appears during the reign of King Ahab, whose marriage to Jezebel created security for the Northern Kingdom, also called the Kingdom of Israel.  Ahab allowed Jezebel to introduce the worship of Baal, of which she herself was a priestess, and scripture describes him as one who “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30).  Elijah introduces himself to Ahab by informing him that “there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1Kn 17:1).  The conflict between these two rulers and Ahab was unrelenting until Ahab’s death at the hand of the king of Aram (1 Kn 22:31f).

 

Elijah did mighty acts, but he was pastorally sensitive.  There’s the story of Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath (17:7-24)and his promise to not abandon Obadiah whom he commissions to tell King Ahab that Elijah wished to meet him shows Elijah’s integrity.  Few of us would make such a prayer of intercession for the life of someone who is suffering as Elijah makes for the widow’s son.  So, we understand that Elijah was tough enough to stand up to kings and compassionate enough to reach out to a widow and her son.

 

Our story of Elijah picks up today at the end of his ministry and passing of his mantle onto Elisha.  Elisha wants to be Elijah’s heir, but that is more than just doing miracles similar to that of Elijah.  It means to go where the prophet goes.  It means to bear the same burdens the prophet bears.  It means to risk the same hardships as the prophets.  It means to venture into times of both solitariness and solidarity in order to carry God’s word.  Three times Elisha showed that he was willing to stick with the prophet – go where he goes, bear the same burdens, risk the same hardships, be both together with people and be by himself.

 

In this interchange between Elijah and Elisha, we learn what it means to be a spokesperson for God and what it does not mean.  It does not mean being by yourself standing at a distance to predict the future.  It does not mean to call upon the judgment of God.  It does mean entering deeply into the realities and relationships of the people in whose midst you find yourself.  The person that speaks God’s word to people does so knowing what God wants things to be like and seeing how things are.  Being a person that speaks God’s word means that you are willing to tell the truth about things while at the same time telling of God’s mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope.  Such a person is entirely dependent upon God’s mercy and word.

 

Running forward in history from the time of Elijah to the time of Jesus, we find Jesus also vulnerable and entirely dependent on God’s word and mercy.  Jesus will go down the mountain and walk about with people, speak God’s truth with a heart filled with compassion.  Jesus will go down the mountain into betrayal, suffering, and death.  Jesus will go down the mountain accepting what lies ahead of him only by trusting completely in God’s word and mercy.

 

Elijah and Jesus were vulnerable and trusted in God’s word and mercy.  Where are we vulnerable and trusting in God’s word and mercy?  Where do we struggle?  Where are we challenged?

 

We struggle and are challenged numerically.  It is not rocket science to know that, as a congregation, we must reach out with God’s love to the people in our community offering spiritual care, compassion, and hope.  Welcoming new people into this community of faith, most likely isn’t going to happen through young families with children, because the age gap is too large.  But, it can happen through the baby boomers.  As this group retires, they are filled with experience, knowledge, and energy to do something meaningful in the next chapters of their life.

 

Our struggles and our challenges are not obstacles but points of dependency on God’s word and mercy.  The challenge is something to embrace.  We are challenged to have a strong faith, but the strength of our faith is not how the world pictures strength but in accepting our dependency on God – his word and mercy.  We are challenged to share in the real lives of real people armed with both truth and compassion.  Baby boomers are people that have the highest percentage of binge drinkers of any demographic, people wondering what to do with the rest of their lives, people that wrestle with what their marriage will look like in retirement, people with time on their hands, want to make a difference, and looking for a place to fit in.

 

But, it is not just the baby boomers; it is whoever we find ourselves around.  It is the co-worker that has trouble balancing adult children and aging parents.  It is the neighbor who just learned from her husband that he’s leaving now.  It is the family that just got the devastating news of cancer, or heart attack, or death.  You and I are called to live with real people, in real situations, with real hope.  There is no situation that is too unpleasant, too painful that you and I can live into in full dependence on God’s word and mercy.

 

It is not you and I who do, but Christ that lives in and through us.  You and I are vulnerable, for we are fully dependent upon God.  We stand naked before real people in real-life situations clothed only with our dependence on God.  First, we offer ourselves to God and throw ourselves on his mercy.  Then we can find God’s voice that speaks to peoples’ lives with power, healing, forgiveness, and hope.  We are called first to a vulnerable faith and then to God’s service.  Hear the call and go and serve.