I have heard many of my colleagues talk about serving congregations that express a profound fear of change. It seems as though the common thread is that the members of these congregations want to return to the time of greatest growth in the UMC by asking outsiders to conform to their vision of worship. This – of course – in lieu of listening to the community to learn what is needed.
This is not a critique of worship styles, but rather an observation that the congregations who have been fearful of change have a tendency to change anyway: in continuing decline.
But change can come in many forms.
2 Kings 2:1-12 (CEB)
1Now the Lord was going to take Elijah up to heaven in a windstorm, and Elijah and Elisha were leaving Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, because the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3The group of prophets from Bethel came out to Elisha. These prophets said to Elisha, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
Elisha said, “Yes, I know. Don’t talk about it!”
4Elijah said, “Elisha, stay here, because the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
5The group of prophets from Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
He said, “Yes, I know. Don’t talk about it!”
6Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, because the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So both of them went on together. 7Fifty members from the group of prophets also went along, but they stood at a distance. Both Elijah and Elisha stood beside the Jordan River. 8Elijah then took his coat, rolled it up, and hit the water. Then the water was divided in two! Both of them crossed over on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I’m taken away from you?”
Elisha said, “Let me have twice your spirit.”
10Elijah said, “You’ve made a difficult request. If you can see me when I’m taken from you, then it will be yours. If you don’t see me, it won’t happen.”
11They were walking along, talking, when suddenly a fiery chariot and fiery horses appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm.
12Elisha was watching, and he cried out, “Oh, my father, my father! Israel’s chariots and its riders!” When he could no longer see him, Elisha took hold of his clothes and ripped them in two.
Mark 9:2-9 (CEB)
2Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified.
7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One had risen from the dead.
Consider these questions:
- Consider changes you have observed and/or experienced – both big changes and little changes. How have various changes affected you spiritually and emotionally?
- How is the emotional/spiritual experience different before an experience of change and after?
POST-SERMON FOLLOW UP ON 2/13
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message looked at the Transfiguration through the lens of Elisha’s final journey with Elijah. We explored how through the journey, through the community, and even in solitude, Elisha experienced a complete change in form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. In doing so, we took a moment of introspection at how we ourselves might experience such change, such transformation, such transfiguration.
But this isn’t easy. This is profound and life-altering and paradigm-shifting and earth-shaking. At least, it can be. If we let it.
Consider these questions:
- Have you had an experience of a complete change in form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state? Please feel free to define “form,” appearance,” “beautiful,” and “spiritual” in ways that are authentic to you so that you can freely explore this question.
- Did you observe or experience any hints or harbingers of this experience? If so, what was that like?
- What was your emotional and spiritual state before, during, and after this experience?