Love Shining with Beauty, February 14

Love Shining with Beauty

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill, Palenville, Quarryville UMCs; February 14, 2021

 

Today is the last Sunday before Lent, and the lectionary gives us this same story on this Sunday each year.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the story of the Transfiguration in basically the same way, set at the same time in Jesus’ ministry.

 

I can tell you lots of important things about the Transfiguration.  The fact that the vision on the mountain included Moses and Elijah makes it clear to the disciples, and to us, that Jesus is part of the whole story told by scripture.  The connection that God made with the people on Mt. Sinai through Moses’ work, and the connection God continued with the people through the work and words of Elijah and other prophets, is a connection that is made manifest, too, in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus isn’t some new appearance of a new God, but part of the work and grace and revelation of the same God who has been reaching out to the people from the beginning. 

 

The words that are spoken from the cloud at the Transfiguration?  Very important.  They are a boost for Jesus as he turns his face away from the mostly friendly neighborhoods of Galilee and heads to Jerusalem – This is my Beloved Son.  Those same words he heard so clearly at his baptism.  And then the phrase clearly directed to the disciples there – Listen to him!  The story that is told before this one in each of the three synoptic gospels (Synoptic means seeing together; the first three gospels see, and portray, Jesus similarly, as if with the same eyes.) is the one where Jesus asks his disciples, Who do people say that I am?  And who do you say that I am?  Peter blurts out, you are the Son of the Living God!  Jesus says, you’re on target, Peter.  And then goes on to tell them he will go to Jerusalem and be rejected by those in power and be killed.  No-one likes that idea, and Peter begins to try to talk him out of it.  Therefore, these words at the top of the mountain are timely.  This is my Son, my Beloved.  Listen to him!

 

Even the dazzling light is important.  Light is a strong hint throughout scripture that God is involved in what’s happening.  Luke’s angels and Matthew’s star in their birth stories both offer heavenly light that clues us in that God is deeply involved in this venture of Jesus’ appearance among us.  In John’s gospel, Jesus says I am the light of the world.  The light of God in Moses’ encounter with the divine back in Exodus is so strong that Moses’ face shines, and the people implore him to wear a veil.  They can’t handle the shininess.  We heard today of Elijah ascending into heaven not just in a chariot, but in a fiery chariot, blazing with light.  Paul builds on the close association of light with God in that wonderful succinct statement of theology from 2 Corinthians.  “It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.”  Light is integral to the presence of God in the world.

 

There is a lot to say about the theology and the example of right behavior we can learn from this story of the Transfiguration. 

 

And there is also beauty, dazzling, shining beauty in the vision of Jesus on the mountain with his friends, Moses and Elijah.  There is a reason that artists have chosen to paint this story so often.  It’s a beautiful sight.  As much as it is a stern word of instruction for the disciples, it is also a heart-stopping sight – three holy humans, and the one whom they know best shining so brightly they can’t imagine it possible. Such a dazzling sight needn’t be understood; it can simply be appreciated.  That’s what beauty does for us; it carries us beyond only using our minds.  It involves our whole being, our eyes, our hearts, our souls.  Like that wonderful insight from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, God gets angry when we walk by the color purple and don’t notice, God is angry, or at least deeply disappointed, when we hear a story about a dazzling display of beauty and ignore the beauty looking for meaning. Today I invite you just to claim the beauty.

 

Today is also Valentine’s Day.  And Valentine’s Day is about love.  Like the Transfiguration, love is important, and there are basic truths about love that I could reasonably articulate in a sermon on Valentine’s Day that would be appropriate.  Love is more about choice than feeling.  Love takes effort, time to listen.  Love needs grace, forgiveness, space to be wrong and space to grow.  Love isn’t just for romantic relationships; a life as Jesus’ disciple involves love for friends, for neighbors, for enemies, for God, and for yourself.  

 

And just as we did with the gospel story, I encourage you to claim the beauty of love, the joy, the lightheartedness of flowers and chocolate.  Not as the ultimate meaning of love, but as a good and healthy part of our experience of love.  If you have romance in your life, celebrate it today.  Enjoy a meal together, take a walk hand in hand, share a box of chocolates or heart-shaped cookies. If you don’t have romance in your life today, enjoy the day anyway.  Appreciate the love that your life offers.  Send a few Valentines to old friends – they’ll appreciate them, even late.  Call your mama, or your brother or sister, or a dear friend, tell them you love them and you’re glad they’re in your life.  Or just remember a few great stories together. 

 

Revel in the beauty of love, not just the duty of love today. 

 

Beauty and depth and meaning are not mutually exclusive.  We can be amazed at the dazzling light around Jesus and hear God’s word to listen as well.  And we can enjoy roses and appreciate the hard work that it takes to keep a relationship healthy and happy.  But we are too often ready to forget the joy, the beauty, the laughter and hope as we work hard on getting the work right.  Especially in the midst of these tough days, while we hold on for just a little while longer, claim the beauty.  Claim the pink hearts and the flying cupids, the cherry jellybeans and a red bow around your dog’s neck.  Remember the dazzling beauty of God’s love made known in your life – in mountains and sunsets and love songs that make you feel sixteen again. 

 

Enjoy today’s beauty.  And be blessed.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Second Kings 2:1-12

2Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.” 4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.” 6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

 

Psalm 50:1-6

The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth

     from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

Our God comes and does not keep silence,

before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.

He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:

“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”

The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge.

 

 

 

Second Corinthians 4:3-6

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

Mark 9:2-9

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

 

 

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