Taking Up The Mantle

Mark 9:2-10
Six 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, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then 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.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.  As 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. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

Transfiguration Sunday / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church / 2-19-12

Children’s Time: Who do you look up to in life? Baseball players, hockey or volleyball? Musicians who play in bands or who sing? Writers or poets? Scientists who make discoveries or go exploring? Do you look up to your big sister?  Or mom & dad?  One of the coolest things about being a kid is you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up! In the Bible, Elisha looked up to Elijah. He wanted to be just like him. The disciples looked up to Jesus. They, too, wanted to be like him. And today there are still people who look up to Jesus – who want to be like him. The good news is that you can still be what you want to be when you grow up and still be like Jesus. Wherever God puts you there will be a way to serve others in Jesus’ name!

Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

When I was a kid, I never wanted to play pro football – but I did admire certain players: Fran Tarkenton, Carl Eller, Alan Page. We marveled at the athleticism of Meadowlark Lemon and the Harlem Globetrotters. I also enjoyed comic books as a kid, and admired artists like Jim Aparo, George Perez and Frank Frazetta. My parents were very much into music, so there was Elvis Presley and Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins. And when it came to the drums all you needed to hear was Buddy Rich vs. Gene Krupa in the drum battle at Carnegie Hall, September 13, 1952!

Today we mourn the loss of yet another great musician, Whitney Houston. We listened in on her funeral yesterday and heard how many lives she touched – how many young voices she mentored (including Alicia Keys, who spoke highly of her mentor and angel, Whitney Houston).

In our first lesson today, we hear of how Elisha looked up to Elijah – of how he earnestly prayed for twice as much spirit as Elijah had.  Each time Elijah was moving on to another town, he ordered Elisha to stay behind and Elisha ignored him, “I’m coming with you!”  On to Bethel, on to Jericho, on to the Jordan… Elisha persists, out of devotion to his mentor.

So, who have you looked up to? And how is it going in following their lead?

I suppose the most natural thing for me to say is “My Mom & Dad.” Both are now gone after losing the battle to cancer in their 60’s. It’s just me now, standing there like Elisha, looking up into heaven.

What will I do now? Will have have even half of the Spirit my parents did? Don’t we all want to carry on in life and make it a little bit better for our own children? Don’t we all want to leave a lasting legacy – to make our mark in a meaningful way?

I think we have more power than we realize. Unlike Frodo Baggins who was tempted by a magic ring, we have all we need through faith in Christ. Unlike Dumbo the elephant, who needed his magic feather (and really big ears!) to fly in the circus… we need only one thing: faith that God is with us always.

This coming Lent we begin our mentoring ministry. For the next few weeks, adults will be sitting down with teens to talk about their faith, their hopes and dreams, and the way God might be calling them to live out that faith.

So, what do you look for in a mentor? What do you expect to receive? Jesus let his disciples in on a secret – it was his transfiguration – he let them in on something huge! Now they knew his true nature, and he told them not to speak of it until after the Son of Man was raised from the dead. But wouldn’t you know, no sooner had they come down from that mountain, than they began to argue amongst themselves as to which one was the greatest: “Jesus loves me more.”  “Well, I saw Elijah first!”  “Oh, and did anyone else offer to set up camp?”  And Jesus puts a stop to it.

What goes up must come down, as the saying goes. We can’t stay on the mountain with our heads in the clouds. When we puff ourselves up… well it won’t be long before we’re put in our place. “We have this power as in earthen vessels,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians. We’re clay pots, bearing the living waters to a thirsty world. It comes from God and not from us.

And so, even though what comes up must come down… we are never the same after coming down from that mountain.

Jesus himself said that his disciples would work wonders – even greater things than these: raising the dead, healing the sick, bringing good new to the poor. It’s all there. And yet, it’s not like we go looking to be swamped with people in need. Truly, we can do no good apart from God, so we give credit to the power at work within us. Still, to follow in the steps Christ trod could get us in a heap of trouble. Taking on the establishment, being ridiculed for our faith, standing up for the outcast before those who would cast the first stone. In order to follow in the footsteps of Jesus we must first ask: “Are we prepared to go there?” Or is it too late? We’ve already decided to follow Jesus and there’s no turning back.

I mean, who prays to do greater things than these? I don’t. Some days I just want to be left alone. And usually those are the days God puts people in my life I had not seen before. One example of people being put upon my heart happened last fall when people in our community were killed due to domestic violence. It’s always harder for me when children are involved. So, God set it on my heart to ask some friends to do something about it. We’re making an album entitled We Are The Children and it’s going to inject some hope into the community through music. All the proceeds after production costs will be donated to victims of domestic violence and also our Building Bridges tutoring program.

But I will admit, there are days when the whole endeavor seems overwhelming! How are we able to carry on and do God’s work in this life when so often it feels as if we’ve been brought onto this field and shoved out in front of everybody to perform a miracle? It happens nearly every Sunday. People gather, hungry for God or hungry for real food in their bellies, and Jesus looks at me and says, “You give them something to eat. Stand up. Preach the Word!”

The good news is that the Word does work wonders!  Death is not the end. That person everyone else has all but given up on really does have a shot at a second chance. That the child everyone thought was dead to gang violence and a life of drug-dealing really is rising in service to others and paying her due to society. That washed up career really is on the verge of a new business venture.

And what about you when you face circumstances in your daily lives? How do you “take up the mantle of Elijah” or follow in Jesus’ steps? Is it in the attitude you bring to a negative environment? Is your refusal to despair rooted in Christ somehow? And why is that? Why are you such a doggone optimist? Is it more than ‘pie in the sky’ optimism?  Something like, say, faith? Are you ready to give a testimony to the hope that is within you? That’s when you’re taking up the mantle of the faith – you’re living by the power of the Holy Spirit within you.

So, here we are… I’m just one person. All I have is God in my heart and a week of past experiences to draw upon. And that’s really all you have, too.

And it is enough.

Let us pray: Dear God, it’s true that without you we can do nothing. We pray for power from on high to do even greater things than these through Jesus Christ, your son our Lord. Amen.

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