Sermon Feb 11, 2018
Mark 9:2-8/ 2 Kings 2:1-12
There Comes a Time…
Last week (or is it two weeks ago now) I went to Surrey for my final admissions interview with the United Church of Canada. I prepared for it by filling out forms, writing essays, and with prayers. When my panel members announced to me at the end of the interview process that I am admitted without conditions, I was filled with a lot of emotions. My whole journey towards and during this admissions process flashed in front of my eyes. Then all the interviewees, their mentors, and panel members gathered in a small room in short celebration of hymn singing, presentation of gifts, and a message of welcome. Some of us went out for dinner; possibly the best Chinese food I’ve had in Canada. I received a lot of congratulations and welcomes and came home in an elated and festive mood.
But when I came home and rested half a day or so, I had to do my assignment for the online course I am taking this semester, and then last Monday, back to work. I had to snap out of the elation and get back to my normal duties. After all, what was the purpose of going through that admissions process? So that I can continue serving the Church of Jesus Christ, of course.
In today’s gospel story, Jesus brought three of his disciples and went up a mountain; and was transformed in front of them. That’s not all; along with Jesus in dazzling white clothes they saw Moses, the giver of the supreme law, and Elijah, the first and the greatest of the prophets of Israel. Along with hearing God’s voice, this is a scene of approval for what Jesus was (his identity as God’s chosen one), and his acceptance of his future fate, which would end in death and resurrection. At this point, Jesus had already predicted his death and resurrection to his disciples. The three disciples on the mountain were scared, but at the same time was full of wonder, which I think is a gross understatement. They actually seem to be high.
Have you ever had a moment or experience like this in your life? A glorious experience, a great place in your life to be, so good that you might temporarily be oblivious of the fact that this moment will not last forever? You graduated, you got a job, you got married, you had children, you bought a house, you had a career, or you learned to cook a full thanksgiving dinner… you may not realize that these seemingly ordinary things in your life are God’s glorious gifts. Can you recognize these ordinary things in your life as moments of glory? Peter surely knew how to appreciate the glorious moment; so much so that he wanted to build three dwellings, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah right there on the mountain and stay there.
It is understandable, not wanting to leave a wonderful place. Where Peter wanted to stay is a good and safe place full of God’s glory. But even while appreciating glorious moments of our lives, we should be conscious that we cannot stay in our safe, comfortable, and good place forever. After the safe years in school where we are protected in a lot of ways, we have to graduate and go into the society to work and be responsible. This world is not always a safe or comfortable place. I once mentioned why I think graduation ceremony is called “commencement” when this word means ‘beginning’; the end of a school education is the beginning of a new life in the scary real world. It’s the same with Peter, James, and John. They were not called to stay in the glory of God; they were called to go into the real world full of danger and discomfort to serve and proclaim the kingdom of God. Today’s text didn’t go that far but, spoiler alert, when they came down from the mountain, what was waiting for them is pathetic. Without Jesus and the three, the rest of the team was struggling to heal a boy possessed by a spirit, but without success. Why did they have to leave the glory of the mountain and come down? This is why; there are works to be done. There are sick and troubled people to heal, hungry people to feed, and sad people to console.
Think of Elisha who witnesses his teacher and master Elijah leave him in a rather supernatural and overdramatic way. This dramatic and rather heart-breaking scene is Elisha’s graduation, sort of. It is scary when the teacher and mentor says, “Now go on and do what you have to do without my help. I have taught you enough.” There comes a time when the student has to leave the teacher and go into the real world to do whatever he or she was trained to do. This change can be scary because the student is no longer protected by the teacher from whatever is out there in the world. Elisha went through it after Elijah left. The disciples of Jesus went through it after his death, resurrection, and ascension. And even when the three went up the mountain with Jesus, they eventually had to leave the glorious place and go into the scary world.
In a way, this church community is a safe, comfortable, and glorious place for Christians. We come to worship on Sunday, sing uplifting hymns, hear uplifting messages of God, and have fellowship with our church family. This is generally a safe, comfortable place for Christians to be. But then we have to remember that we are not called to stay inside our comfort zone forever. We are called to be challenged by the gospel teachings to love our neighbours and to proclaim God’s justice in our world. We are called to go out to the world, seek out the dark places carrying God’s light of love and hope.
I think it’s a good and significant thing we are ending the Season of Epiphany with the story full of glory. We are about to start the Season of Lent. Lent starts this Wednesday with the celebration of Ash Wednesday service. Lent is a season of darkness, repentance, abstinence, and quiet contemplation. As we start this dark and contemplative season, it is good to remember and recognize God’s glory in our mundane lives and appreciate it first. We are God’s beloved children. Our lives are manifestations of God’s glory, grace, and power. Then we will remember that we are called to come down the glory mountain and seek out the darkness of our world to which we should bring God’s light. So, as we greet the Season of Lent, let us look inside our hearts and lives, recognize and appreciate God’s glory and grace, and then deal with the issue of sin and human limits through our Lenten journey. Today is a time to enjoy God’s glory and give thanks. But there comes a time, which is actually this Wednesday, when we should start examining ourselves and strive to get closer to God. So today, let us give thanks for God’s gracious gifts in our lives and pray that God will help us to live as brave disciples in the world.
Rev. Sunny Kim