Pilgrim People: Study 2 - Destinations - Where do we find God?
Sermon Date: June 25th, 2017
Readings: OT Reading - 1 Kings 19:11-18 - Elijah on the mountain
NT Reading - Mark 9: 2-13 - The transfiguration
In week 1 (18 June) we looked at God’s call and promise to Abraham, to leave his home and journey with his family and household to the promised land. When he got there, Abraham was able to pitch camp and move around, finding hospitality and help from the local people. But God’s promise to posses the land would only be fulfilled to Abraham’s descendants. Abraham’s pilgrimage was therefore a journey of faith and hope for the future, believing God’s promises would be fulfilled, even though he would not see it himself.
Week 2 marks the climax of the parish pilgrimage to Canterbury, when the pilgrims reach their destination. Our bible texts are both mountain-top experiences. Elijah after his prophetic struggle with the prophets of Baal flees for forty days and nights to Mount Horeb, where he hides in a cave exhausted, and has a vision of God. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain where he is transfigured, and meets and talks with Moses and Elijah.
Both these visions follow crisis points. Elijah is so spiritually exhausted by his battle with 800 prophets he just wants to die. Jesus has taken his disciples away (Mk 8; 27) and tells them he must suffer and die, which throws them into confusion. Peter, James and John go up the mountain and share the vision, which affirms Jesus divine nature and mission. The disciples are terrified and amazed.
The study questions are in three parts- before, during and after the visions
Question: What were the special circumstances which led to these revelations from God?
Elijah: Exhaustion, disappointment and let-down. Despite his stunning spiritual victory, King Ahab his enemy was still in charge, and his wicked wife Jezebel is out to kill him
The three disciples; They had followed Jesus enthusiastically, gone out two by two and returned triumphant (Luke 9), but are now told it will all end in tragedy
Question: How do the visions enable the prophet/ the disciples to see things differently?
Elijah is a dramatic prophet and loves spectacular events. But God is not in the wind, earthquake or fire – only in the still small voice. And he gives Elijah very specific instructions about what he must do next
The disciples need help to understand Jesus mission. Jesus hardly ever uses supernatural effects to convince people yet here there is a powerful divine presence. This gift was given to the disciples for the future, when they would be alone
Question: How does the experience (pilgrimage) up the mountain change things for the pilgrims?
Elijah is told to go and find an assistant (Elisha) to share his load. God tells Elijah there are still 7000 faithful in Israel whose leader he remains
The disciples ask Jesus if they can build a shrine (three tabernacles) to commemorate their experience. They hear a voice from heaven, look around, and then see ‘Jesus only’.
This Jesus is not the divine shining figure any more, only the poor teacher from Galilee, tired and weary.
John Watts, 13/06/2017