Transfiguration B


Voice in the Wilderness:Tremaine Combs

Featured Musician:Jonathan Rundman


Tasty Wafer:

Featured Musician: Gillian Chen


Exegetical Notes

Mark 9:2-10

Initial Thoughts

  • Only time you or anyone else will ever use the term “transfiguration.” Christianese can be a turn-off to some, a teaching point for others.

  • “Transfiguration is an occasion of wonder and awe over the revelation of the person of God in Jesus Christ.” (Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 172)

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • The voice from the cloud "This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!" is a close mirror to the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness."

      • Mark 1:9-15 is reading for the first Sunday in Lent, so that phrase will be repeated for two weeks.

    • Lead up to this story:

      • Jesus predicts his death, Peter objects, Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan,” (8:33)

      • Jesus tells crowd that they must “take up their cross and follow me,” and he assures them that, “some of you standing here won’t die before they see God’s kingdom arrive in power.”

        • Is this story the response to that? Is this a taste of “God’s kingdom arriving in power”?

    • Cuts off verses 11-13 about Elijah and alluding to John the Baptist.

    • After this story: They come down from the mountain right into a squabble between other disciples and legal experts. The disciples are unable to heal a boy. Jesus does, and says, “You faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you?”

  • Moses, Elijah, and Jesus form a connection with time. Reminder that Jesus is not an isolated incident, but a part of a story of redemption.

    • That they are dressed in white that shines reveals a holiness that can barely be looked at.

  • Peter, James, and John form an inner circle of three. Same guys he took with him apart in Gethsemane. Also involved in first two call stories (Andrew gets left at bottom of mountain).

    • Peter’s response is justified.

      • Fear is sometimes the right response to God.

      • We (progressives) often do not like to think about a proper fear of God, but when faced with the power of God, fear is the only true response.

    • Peter’s response is faithful.

      • Building shrines is a way to house one of these men in preparation for the coming kingdom. Peter thought that they were going to stay and spend the night. He has no way of knowing that they aren’t sticking around. Jesus tells him otherwise.

    • Peter’s response is bad timing.

      • The coming of Moses and/or Elijah signaled the beginning of the end. Building booths was the right thing to do. The problem is that Jesus says, “Not yet. I still have to suffer and be rejected.”

      • You cannot skip over the bad parts.

  • Markan Secret and Disciples’ confusion.

    • He orders them not to tell anyone and they are confused about the concept of being raised from the dead.

    • Both are common themes in Mark. Serve as story-telling device and as a way to contrast those who were there and do not understand, and those who hear the stories, and do.

Sermon Thoughts

  • Parallel between Jesus’ baptism/transfiguration and our liturgical understanding of baptism/confirmation? Next week begins Lent, which is the season of preparation for new members. Lenten journey may begin this week, with a reminder of what lies ahead. Cannot skip the hard parts to get to the good stuff.

  • The Transfiguration reveals Jesus’ full divinity. Clothed with white, talking with Moses and Elijah, and voice from heaven leave no doubt that this is the Messiah. That he continues to go about his business as a healer and teacher reveals his utter humanity.

  • Much can be made of the three who were on the mountain, but we must also remember the other three that were there - Peter, James, and John. They were invited into this experience for a reason. They were meant to be witnesses, at the right time, of Jesus’ glory that was revealed in this encounter with God. We are invited to the same mountain, to take our place with the disciples, armed with the luxury of hindsight. We can know that it is not time to build shrines. Instead, it is time to build bridges.

2 Kings 2:1-12

Initial Thoughts

  • Familiar, mythological image: Chariot of Fire, Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Bible Study

  • Part of a larger chiastic structure that shows the ending transfer of Prophetic leadership from Elijah to Elisha

  A. Elijah and Elisha (E&E)  leave for Gilgal

      B. E and E at Bethel

         C. E & E at Jericho

            D. E&E cross the Jordan

               E. Elijah ascends

            D1. Elisha crosses Jordan

        C1. Elisha at Jericho

     B1. Elisha at Bethel

 A1. Elisha returns to Samaria

  • Journey:

    • Gilgal - place where the ISraelites camped after crossing the Jordan

    • Bethel - Sacred temple site (house of God) where Jacob dreams of the ladder to heaven

    • Jericho - famous victory of the Israelites over the Canaanites

    • Jordan - sacred river the Israelites parted to pass into the Promised Land

    • Undisclosed location is where the ascension occurs (outside of time and space - not unlike the Transfiguration)

    • God interrupts our lives in the most unexpected places and times

  • Elijah and Connections to Moses

    • Divides the water in two and walks on dry land (Ex 14 and Josh. 3)

    • Elisha is to Elijah as Joshua is to Moses - the inheritor

    • Neither Elijah nor Moses have tombs (unlike the Patriarchs)

  • Prophetic transition - similar to the Eli/Samuel story that came much earlier in this Ordinary/After Epiphany season

    • Elisha is not a boy- he immediately assumes the mantle of leadership (both figuratively and literally)

    • Transfer of the spirit- not Elijahs to grant because it is not Elijah’s Spirit, but God’s (the group of prophets get it wrong cf v. 15)

  • The focus of this story is as much Elisha (if not more) as Elijah

    • Elisha stays with Elijah- he has 3 chances to turn back ,but refuses to- instead he enters into the known and accompanies Elijah on his final journey

    • Call for silence - the Prophets seem like they want to “talk out” Elijah’s passing, Elisha knows and affirms what is going to happen, but also knows there is no explaining- only accompanying and being with Elijah during this time

    • Request of double portion of the spirit

      • Proper request- the eldest son’s inheritance was typically a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:17)

      • Elisha rightly perceived his inheritance as the Spirit, but it is not Elijah’s to give

    • Grief - Elisha’s faith does not insulate him from grief over ELijah’s leaving

      • dismantles the “be happy- your loved one is in a better place” platitude

  • Prophets

    • Not called to be separate from the joys and griefs of everyday life but are called into it: the grief, the accompaniment

    • Called to be vulnerable and in relationship

    • To listen, affirm and encourage the same from others (i.e. to encourage them to listen as well)

Sermon Thoughts

  • Elisha accompanies Elijah, knowing that Elijah is going to leave him. Are we able and willing to walk with people into the unknown- knowing that death, grief and pain may be ahead?

    • Walking with people through transitions of life and faith (without trying to fix it or make it better) is a difficult but vital ministry

  • Elisha calls for silence. Maryann Mckibban Dana notes the rhythm: question, answer, silence; question, answer silence and asks “What would it look like to make this rhythm more explicit in worship?”

    • We come with questions and together seek the answers but are we willing to sit in the silence and let the story, the answers sink in without talking it to death?

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Initial Thoughts:

  • A little background on 2 Corinthians:

    • Written about 50 CE, several months after 1 Corinthians and Paul’s visit to Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:5-7)

    • Third letter to the Corinthians. Paul refers to his second letter written in tears and anguish (2 Corinthians 2:4). This “letter of tears” is lost

    • Paul’s relationship has become increasingly strained

    • Paul is addressing claims from other evangelist who have better backgrounds (were one of the 12) or better gifts

    • According to Luther Seminary professor, Mary Hinkle Shore, Paul chooses his words carefully to prevent the relationship from deteriorating, but is also having a hard time keeping his emotions in check. Furthermore he is constantly framing his letter in the theological concept of God’s reconciling work in Christ

Bible Study

  • End of a larger section 3:1-4:6

    • Paul is defending or justifying his ministry over and against others

    • He is comparing the ministries of other (false) apostles as being justified by their credentials and proposing a ministry of death as opposed to his ministry of grace and the Spirit which is life giving and written on our hearts (as opposed to credentials and letters of introduction)

    • READ CHAPTER 3!!

  • Glory of God

    • A new covenant not written on stone (10 Commandments) but written on the heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

    • If a covenant of stone made Moses’ face shine with glory- then a covenant of spirit will make everyone shine w God’s glory (3:8)

    • We are being transformed into a living covenant and witness to the spirit working within us

    • Those who cannot see our glory are on the road to destruction already and are  “blinded” to it

    • Don’t forget it is not our glory, but God’s glory in Jesus Christ

  • The Superapostles vs Paul (Ronald Allen, Feasting on the Word)

    • The other apostles were presenting a glory of Christ they negated suffering and drew people out of the world

    • Paul presented a transformation of the world through suffering - the cross

  • The gods of this world blinding people to the light of Christ

    • What are the gods of this age that continue to blind us to God’s light?

    • How compelling is the way of the Cross to your congregation?

    • The false temptation to self actualization- that we can do it without the help of God

Preaching thoughts

  • Beware paul’s supersessionist theology. Lift up the light of Christ without disparaging Moses and Judaism

  • What is the good news? What keeps us from hearing it? How do we respond to those are unable to hear it?

    • We live in an increasingly polarized society in which each side claims to have the truth while the other side is blind. Does the good news encourage us to gloat in our self-righteousness? Or should we ask ourselves how we can best let the good news been seen in our words and actions?

  • What are the gods of this age that continue to blind us to God’s light?

    • How might Lent offer spiritual reflection and practices to see the light of Christ around and within us?


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).