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A Blessing for Coming Down

St. John’s Lutheran Church
11 February 2024 + Transfiguration of Our Lord
Mark 9:2-9; 2 Kings 2:1-12
Rev. Josh Evans

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It’s tempting to want to stay in certain moments, isn’t it? Moments where everything is dazzling and bright and clean and safe – far removed from the pain and brokenness we experience on an all-too-regular basis.

It’s tempting to want to stay. Such moments are happy and safe and make us feel good – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But: These moments are also made for coming down from the mountain.

Coming down from the mountain doesn’t take away from the experiences we’ve had. If anything, those experiences give us strength for what’s to come – whatever we might face at the base of the mountain.

Strength to draw from when we most need it, when the dazzling glory of the mountaintop starts to grow dim and the doubt and worry and uncertainty start to creep back in.

Goodness knows the disciples are going to need that strength as they move on with their rabbi to the events of Holy Week – as both Mark’s gospel and our own liturgical calendar make the shift towards Jerusalem, to Jesus’s suffering and death, toward Judas’s betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ abandonment and fear.

Goodness knows Elisha is going to need that strength as his mentor Elijah is taken from him, leaving him to pick up the mantle and to continue the hard work of being a prophet alone.

Goodness knows we, too, need that strength for the living of these days – with what often feels like endless uncertainty and anxiety and discord in our world, in our church, and in our own lives.

With the disciples and Elisha, we’d love nothing more than to hold on to “the way things were before.”

Who can blame Peter for wanting to set up camp? Only six days earlier, after his stunning confession of Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus explained to Peter and the rest of the disciples just what that meant – his suffering, rejection, and death. No wonder Peter wanted to hold on to exactly the way things were.

It’s tempting to want to stay – to go back to how things “used to be.” It’s tempting to look back to the church of years ago and to want to return to the “glory days” when pews and Sunday School classrooms were packed full.

But the stories we get today are about letting go … coming down from the mountain … moving forward.

It’s okay and even faithful to mourn the loss of the good things that have been … but we don’t have to get stuck there. We can’t get stuck there.

We can dare to dream boldly, to imagine what can be, drawing strength from those mountaintop moments when we most need them … drawing strength from the promises of God: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Words almost exactly the same as those spoken over Jesus at his baptism and now addressed to a wider audience that invites the disciples and us to hear them too: “You are my [Child], the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus’s belovedness goes with him into Jerusalem – even to the cross. The disciples’ belovedness goes with them – even when they’re terrified and don’t know what to say. Elisha’s belovedness goes with him – even as he tears his clothes in anguish and grief.

Our belovedness goes with us too – even when the dazzling glory of the mountaintop starts to grow dim and the doubt and worry and uncertainty start to creep back in.

The blaze of the Transfiguration and the fiery heavenly chariots are moments of glory and affirmation of God’s promises that give God’s people strength for what lies ahead.

And: They remind us that God cannot and will not be contained by any one dwelling or experience alone.

As the hymn writer puts it:

“Justice, mercy, and compassion:
these the booths [Christ] bids us build,
that the earth he loves may flourish
as each life with grace is filled.”

The blessing of the Transfiguration is made for coming down from the mountain.

As we are filled and nourished in this space, we are also sent forth into the world, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of God’s word of good news for all creation, for the sake of the work of justicemercy, and compassion.

The blessing of the Transfiguration and those moments where we experience God’s glory in its fullness don’t end with the last few notes of the organ’s postlude.

It’s precisely then that the blessing is only beginning.

This blessing is made for coming down from the mountain.

This blessing is made for going with us – out the door, on the way, and into the world – today and every day.

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