Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mentor: Year B, Transfiguration Sunday

This Week's Lectionary Texts
2 Kings 2:1-14
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

This Week's Reflection
The story of Elisha following Elijah around even though Elijah keeps trying to get rid of him is one of those scriptures that always make me chuckle. In my imagination, I can see it so clearly. Elijah is old and tired and probably just wants some peace and quiet for a change. I have a nine year old, intelligent, and extremely articulate son. Every day feels like this to me! He literally follows his father and I through the house, or a parking lot going into a store, or through the aisles of a store, or wherever we happen to be. And, he talks. He talks and he talks and he talks. And, sometimes what he is saying is truly brilliant, but honestly, it gets lost in the fact that my ears feel so very tired from listening.

I'm imagining a lot, I know. All I know is that in the scripture, Elijah tries three different times to get Elisha to stay behind. I'm sure I should be writing about Elisha's dedication, but all I can think is that Elijah must have been worn out by this guy who would not leave him alone!

But, we also know that he was privy to important information. Everywhere they went, a group of people would pull Elisha aside to say, "Hey, are you sure you want to be with this guy. He ain't long for this world." And, Elisha would say, "Yes, I know what I'm doing, now be quiet."

Elijah Calls Elisha
We know that in the end, Elisha asked for a double portion of the abilities that Elijah had and that it is clear that this is not Elijah's to give, but only God's. So, Elijah says that if God wills it, then Elisha will witness something amazing and know it is so.

Was Elijah a reluctant mentor to the young man? It makes me wonder how many people have come and gone in my life that God was calling me to mentor and instead, I just said, "Hey, I'm going on now. You just stay here okay. I really need my quiet time." And, what does any of that have to do with the transfiguration of Jesus which is the gospel lesson this week?

Of course, we tie the connection between the other-worldly exit of Elijah with what happened on that mountain with Peter, James, and John. Jesus, their mentor, appears changed, not to mention the presence of Moses and Elijah. Understanding what occurred on that mountain is difficult. Peter didn't get it and I'll be honest, I don't get it either. I've never really known what to preach on Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday. Not only is the whole thing pretty weird, but then Jesus tells his boys to keep it a secret.

In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes about "seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" while reminding those reading his letter that it is hard for "those who are perishing" to see this.

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi
Elisha was given an opportunity to see something truly amazing which gave him strength to carry out the mission that his mentor had begun. Peter, James, and John had a similar experience in witnessing their own mentor in a new light, so to speak. And, Paul reminds us that if we are truly disciples of Christ, then we will be given this opportunity as well. Furthermore, I believe that we will also be given the opportunity to provide that experience to those with whom we minister. 

Who are you mentoring these days? Are you reluctant about it or do you invite them to the mountaintop with you? May God give each of us strength to shine the light of Christ with young disciples every chance we get.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Confusion: Year B, Ordinary 6

This Week's Lectionary Texts

This Week's Reflection
Bokeh Texture 003 by Poe Tatum
Don’t you love movies and television shows that are able to do the unexpected? I think most folks do which is why previews for movies so often boast, “The ending you won’t see coming,” or “Filled with surprises.”

So, why do we get upset when the Bible does the same to us? Okay, I’m taking for granted that you may think like I think and now I’m realizing how unlikely that really is. When I read the texts for this week, particularly the text from 1 Kings, I laughed out loud at how unexpected, if not silly, it seems.

Electric Jungle by Universal Pops
Here is what should have happened. A girl wants to help a man who is sick. She tells him of a person who can make him well. That man goes to his boss asking for permission to be off from work. The boss graciously offers to write the guy a note so that there will be no thinking he is shirking his responsibilities. When the man gives the note to the healer’s boss, that boss welcomes him in, gives him a chair and asks him to wait while he retrieves his employee. The healer shows up, practices a good bedside manner and makes the guy well. And, of course, everyone becomes great friends and live happily ever after.

Read the Kings text. Go on. I’ll wait.

Do you see it? What in the heck is going on here? The first part of the story seems okay, but then the King of Israel takes the letter as an insult and if someone had not overheard what was happening and if Elisha had not intervened, war could have erupted between two kings over a lack of communication. But, that isn’t the only twist to the story. The guy seeking to be healed from leprosy doesn’t like the manner in which Elisha prescribes healing and almost stomps home in disgust without even receiving the benefits. If not for some loyal companions who spoke a word of sense to him, he would have made that trip for nothing.

Clarity, Confusion by The Jordan Collective
Confused? I am. And, Jesus doesn’t really help me with this one because in the Mark text, he heals another leper and begs him to not tell anyone about it. And, rather than keeping the secret at the request of Jesus Christ, the guy goes about blabbing the secret to everyone he meets which makes it hard for Jesus to go anywhere anymore.

Then, there is Paul, the master of the convoluted sentence structure, talking about running races without being aimless and enslaving one’s body so that he isn’t accused of being inauthentic.

So, what in the world is God saying through these lectionary texts this week? Maybe not being able to find a pat answer is the answer.
Artwork appears through Creative Common License.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Waiting, waiting, waiting: Year B, Ordinary 5

This Week's Lectionary Texts
This Week's Reflection
I’m horrible at waiting. As I write this reflection, I sit on a school bus with 54 third and fourth graders as we return from a field trip. The drive is 2.5 hours of sitting in a cramped seat waiting for the driver to get us there. While I’m incredibly thankful I don’t have to drive this bunch of kids across Tennessee, I still hate waiting. Oh, how often I have wished for teleportation!

You know the old cliché, “Lord, give me patience and I want it NOW!”

“Have you not heard? Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength."

Waiting by Femto Photography
So, why do we have to wait on the Lord so much? Why does it seem to take God forever to let us in on the plan? I’m sure this sounds horrible, but I trust that I have some company here. In my line of work, I’m constantly talking with folks who are desperately seeking to follow God’s will – if only they could figure out what that will is. I believe God still speaks to us. I wish God would email or text to make things more clear, but alas, God seems to be of the Luddite persuasion. And, discerning God’s will seems to take a lifetime that sometimes feels like God is purposely withholding information.

Case in point, the gospel this week. This passage immediately follows an encounter between Jesus and a man with an unclean spirit. The writer of Mark makes it clear that the unclean spirit recognizes Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” The first being to recognize this in the first gospel written down. Now, Jesus encounters other demons and the writer of Mark tells us up front that they know him, they really know Jesus in a way that others have not yet figured out. Seems like Jesus would let them shout it from the rooftops, but nooooo. Jesus instead quiets them so that they cannot reveal his secret. So, why did the people have to wait to learn this? Why was Jesus constantly prolonging the revelation that he was the Messiah And, why is it now 2012 and we still don’t have teleportation?
Photo by Kudomomo
Obviously, God sees some sort of value in waiting. So what is a preacher to do when 30 seconds of waiting in silence makes our congregations freak out? What are we to do when waiting at a fast food restaurant takes more than two minutes and has us yelling, “You call this fast?!”

I’ve never understood the Messianic Secret found in Mark’s gospel and my patience for waiting is practically non-existent. But, I hear God calling me, calling us to wait, to stop, to be still, to stop running. I imagine God saying, “Have you not heard? Of course you haven’t heard. You haven’t stopped long enough to hear anything.” When I sit to meditate, I often feel like I’m wasting time, like I should be doing something productive. I mean, come on! I’m actually writing this reflection while riding on this bus with my son’s class! So, I can’t help but wonder if this week God is reminding me, reminding us, that there is nothing more important than waiting for Christ to reveal himself to us.
Each photo is Creative Common License