2 Kings 2: 1-12 & Mark 9: 2-9
“God Enlightens the Journey: (Part Four) Looking Deeply into God’s Light”

“God Enlightens the Journey: (Part Four) Looking Deeply into God’s Light”

2 Kings 2: 1-12 & Mark 9: 2-9 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Northwood United ~ February 11, 2024


Someone once said that the topics of sex, politics and money do not belong in the pulpit. So, if you subscribe to that belief, then you will be pleased to know that we will only be talking about one out of the three. And, as we further consider that statement, we are reminded that Jesus commentated on each of them…particularly the later two. We should begin by acknowledging that we have A LOT happening today: Transfiguration Sunday and Stewardship Sunday. So let’s get started!


Stewardship Sunday can be problematic as many might recall days gone by. Perhaps you remember when well-meaning elders of your church visited to discuss your family’s financial pledge for the upcoming year. This annual conversation, on the one hand was helpful for the church in setting a budget for the year ahead. On the other hand, however, it may have been a conversation that left people feeling that the church was only after their money. This, of course, was never the intention. And over the last generation or so, churches have applied a variety of approaches to stewardship. Visitation campaigns still occur in some cases, mailouts in others, stewardship segments regularly shared as part of worship, and a Stewardship Sunday focus in an annual service. At Northwood, over the past several years, we have utilized the last two: regular stewardship conversations during Sunday worship and an annual service where we can dive, a little more deeply, to consider our personal beliefs of stewardship. And as we will find…stewardship is about far more than just money. Stewardship calls us to look deeply into God’s light as it informs how we live, how we love and how we serve.


This Sunday brings us to the conclusion of the Epiphany season. And, as we always do, it brings us to one of the gospel versions of Jesus’ Transfiguration. In this lectionary year, we focus on Mark’s version that Jennifer so beautifully read. Stewardship Sunday often looks at various gratitude texts in scripture: the story of the grateful leper in Luke’s gospel, the teaching to share the first fruits of the harvest in Deuteronomy, and so on. (indeed there are many biblical teachings that speak directly to stewardship). The challenge that I found myself this week was…should we forgo the Transfiguration Sunday text and choose a more traditional stewardship text? Or…does Jesus’ Transfiguration have something to teach us about stewardship? As you have guessed, I will propose that Jesus’ Transfiguration has some deep truths that promise to inform our stewardship.


For Mark, this event that we examine is all about enlightening us to more deeply ‘see’ who Jesus is; it is all about looking deeply into God’s light; it is all about gaining the eyes of faith. Mark, as many know, is the shortest of all the gospels. Mark is very succinct in laying out his presentation of the stories of Jesus’ life. This passage is located right in the middle of several chapters full of stories focusing on sight and blindness. This reference, is not about visual acuity. Rather we are speaking about our spiritual vision: looking deeply into God’s light to see. Mark begins this section with Jesus’ healing of the blind man at Bethsaida, Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the meaning of Jesus’ upcoming suffering and rejection, and a call to all his followers to deny themselves. When they argue about the nature of true greatness, Jesus places a child among them. He calls them to be “salt and light” to others; he challenges the rich for the ways that their wealth holds them down; and challenges those wishing to be first by instructing them that they must put themselves last and be a servant to others. And in the midst of these 3 chapters….teachings designed to enlighten us…Mark proceeds to tell the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration: the most powerful moment of light throughout the gospel!


So what vision is clarified with Jesus’ Transfiguration? This passage touches upon the core of Jesus’ identity for his followers. People had been speculating on who this healer, teacher, challenger of the religious establishment was. Some said he was in the line of John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the earlier prophets. Mark sets out to clarify exactly who Jesus. In case we missed it, we see it right there in his opening words: “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In case Peter’s confession of Jesus, that he is the Son of God. We have a pyrotechnic show the likes of which the early Christians had never seen. The at the mountain top…a holy place where God’s people find the divine, the holiness of Jesus is revealed with a full-effect show of light! His clothes become dazzling white and the ones who people considered him to be like ~ Elijah and Moses ~ were to be found beside him at his left and right. As we come to the end of the season of Epiphany, this passage enlightens us to the identity and place of Jesus.


What follows this pyrotechnic display is, of course, our natural human response. And, with this wonderful pairing, we examine it in the light of stewardship Sunday. Jesus is transfigured…revealed on the mountain top, dazzling white, flanked on either side by Moses and Elijah. And what do his followers want to do? They want to fashion buildings, hide them away, place a monopoly on their glory! Theologian, Fred Craddock, put it quite harshly “like Peter, we want to build tabernacles; like the quarrelling disciples, we want our little egos to bask alone in Jesus’ power and glory”. And as a counter to this temple-building mentality, the heavens cry out “this is my son, the Beloved; listen to him”. Just like in Jesus’ baptism, the heavens cry out: “this is my son…don’t build temples, listen to him. This is my son…listen to him…share him…follow him. “This is my son, the Beloved; listen to him.”


A few moments ago, we observed how these three chapters in Mark contain various teachings on heightening our spiritual vision. And sprinkled carefully through this section are three passion predictions where Jesus teaches of his coming suffering, death and resurrection. We learn that Jesus did not die merely because his suffering could purge the world of sin and evil. He dies because the powers of evil sought to destroy his way of nonviolent love, his way of justice and truth. Jesus’ passion reveals the “evilness of evil”…and…the transforming power of God’s divine love. A love that is even more powerful; an assertive love that does not dominate; a love that embraces evil, exposes it. And whose pure light transforms it. This love, and this love alone ultimately will reveal God’s triumph as the first Easter sunrise breaks the new day.


When the voice from heaven calls out to (not to build temples but to) “listen to him”, this is the love that we are challenged to offer as stewards of the cross. You see, if Stewardship Sunday was merely about money, it would be an easy day to talk about. Stewardship, rather, is about the stewarding of our entire lives! We are not called to exhibit a passive love that simply tries to be good and avoid evil. The transfiguration reveals a love that refuses to play in the world’s power games of domination and exploitation, of greed and deception. The transfiguration reveals who Jesus is unto you…and calls you to respond, as we begin to listen to him!


There is a growing awareness of how meditation and prayer will ease one’s level of stress. Researcher, Hans Selye in his book “Stress of Life” shows how stress damages our human tissues. In his book, he proposed that life can be lived somewhere between the poles of gratitude and revenge. And where we find ourselves between these poles has huge determining implications upon our health, our overall capacity of humanity, and even our mortality. He argues that where there is no gratitude, we lose our connections. Where there is no gratitude, people are cut off and they perish. Where there is no gratitude, we are cut off from all others and we wither away and die. I think stewardship is the most natural expression of our full humanity because it is a pure expression of gratitude. It sheds light upon our interconnection among others and calls us to nourish it. It celebrates the light we have received, refusing to allow us to hide it away. Stewardship enlightens us; it calls us to throw a party and share it with all!


Friends, God’s light has shone brightly upon each and everyone of us! We are all wealthy in ways far beyond that which we realize. And we all have this challenging task of discerning how we shall share these blessings back into the world. The divine light shining upon Jesus, revealed who he is to all. And the light that shines from the ways we live, love and serve will reveal who we are…and whose we are as well. As that timeless 1960’s Christian hymn proclaims: “They will know we are Christians by our love…We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. And we pray that our unity will be one day restored. And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes! they'll know we are Christians by our love.