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The Last Sunday after the Epiphany February 11, 2018 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
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LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY  Year B
2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9 
 
The Rev. Janet Campbell
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, February 11, 2018

 
 
Last week
we were still
at the very beginning
of Jesus’ public ministry,
just as he was setting out from Capernaum
to teach and preach throughout Galilee.
 
Now,
with the sudden arrival
          of the last Sunday of Epiphany,
we find ourselves with him
on a high mountain,
nearly three years later,
          preparing to set out for Jerusalem.
 
 
Liminal places,
mountaintops . . .
places of perspective and clarity . . .
 
where the worlds
          of the urgent now
          and abiding eternity
may, for one brief moment,
          open to one another . . .   
 
Jesus was about to embark
          on his final journey,
 
that would lead him
          not just to Jerusalem,
but, as he had told his disciples,
          to suffering and death.
 
And so,
just as he had spent time alone
praying in a deserted place
          before leaving Capernaum,
 
he went up the mountain
away from the crowds
and their demands,
to pray . . .
 
except he took with him this time
the three disciples who had become
          his closest companions,
Peter, James and John.
 
 
From that mountaintop
he could see,
spread out below him,
the roads he had travelled
          in the three years of his ministry:
 
 

to Nazareth, Capernaum,
Caesarea Phillipi; Samaria,    
          the shores of Galilee,   
 
places where he had
preached, taught, healed, worked miracles,
proclaiming and enacting
          God’s coming Kingdom.
 
All that
had led him
to where he was,
made him
who he was,
  prepared him for
           what lay ahead . . .                 
 
And he could see
that road, too . . .
the one that would take him to Jerusalem,
to his final confrontation
with the arrogance and brutality
          of the Roman occupiers of his country
and the weakness and fear 
          of his own religious leaders . . .
         
He gave himself over
to prayer.
 

For what did he pray?
 
For assurance that this was indeed his road?  
For the courage to embark on it,
          the strength to be faithful to it?
 
Was this a first (unreported) time
he might have prayed,
as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,
that God would let this cup
          pass from him?
 
As he opened himself
to whatever God would reveal,
the great light of his own divinity
shone through his human flesh
          and clothing . . .
 
Moses and Elijah,
two long-dead
          heroes of his faith
                   suddenly appeared,
talking with him.
 
Moses himself no stranger
to mountaintop encounters
with God . . .
 

Moses, Law-receiver, Law-giver,
who on the summit of Mt. Sinai
          received from God
          the ten commandments,
          the foundation of God’s covenant
                    with the people of Israel,
who from another mountaintop
          saw the Promised Land,
          but did not live to enter it.
 
Elijah, prophet,
who resuscitated the dead son
          of the widow of Zarephath,
defeated the false prophets of Ba’al
          and killed them all,
fled into the wilderness
          from the murderous fury of Queen Jezebel,
encountered God on Mount Horeb,
and, finally, as we heard today,
          was snatched up alive to heaven
                   in a whirlwind.
 
Moses and Elijah,
symbolizing the entirety
of the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures . . .
          the sacred writings of the Jews
          often summed up as
                   “the Law and the Prophets,”
now summed up,
brought to fulfillment,
          in the person of Jesus.    [Matthew 5.17]
 

Moses and Elijah,
forerunners in
faithfulness to costly vocation,
          to the journey with God
from which
you cannot turn back . . .
 
and which may take you
where you never imagined
          you would go,
 
and sometimes
          where you did not want to go.
 
Moses and Elijah,
encouraging Jesus,
          for in him,
          their own journeys
                   were coming to fulfillment.
 
 
Meanwhile,
the three disciples,
(remember them?)
were having a religious experience.
 

Peter,
in his confused ecstasy and terror,
could only think
of building huts . . .
 
surely the three sages
would need a base
of operations . . .
         
Suddenly a cloud
enveloped
          them all . . .
 
and a voice was speaking:
 
“This is my Son, the Beloved;
listen to him!”
 
A revelation,
an affirmation,
for the disciples
          and for us . . .
 
if we had any questions at all . . .
 
“This is my Son . . .”
 

And blessed assurance
for Jesus himself,
perhaps,
 
harking back to the words
at his baptism:
 
          “This is my Son, the Beloved,
                   with whom I am well pleased . . .”  
         
          “This is my Son . . .”
 
his identity, his mission and ministry,
          and his destiny,
          confirmed.
 
 
It was time
for God’s Son
to continue his own journey
          from which
                   there is no turning back.
 
Gathering up his fainting disciples,
he led them down the mountain
and turned his face toward Jerusalem.
 
 

Mountains surround us
in this astonishing land
          that is the Pacific Northwest,
and some of us
may even hike
to a summit or two,
or more,
and perhaps experience
an epiphany of our own there . . .
 
God being deeply present 
in every aspect of God’s creation.
 
 
In the geography of the Christian week
every Sunday
is a kind of mountaintop . . .
 
our time,
our place,
of greatest perspective and clarity.
 
Here, too,
          the urgent now gives way
          to abiding eternity . . .   
 
Here
we gather
apart from the world
(although bearing with us
the world’s hurts and hopes and needs).
 

Here
Jesus our traveling companion
is revealed again
as God’s Beloved Son –
speaking to us
          in the Word proclaimed,
feeding us with his very life,
          in the Bread broken and the Wine poured out,
creating us a worshipping Body,
          one from many,
          his Risen Body,
knit together by Word and Sacrament –
 
Here
we are formed to be Church,
a beloved and loving community
bearing the very name
          of the Risen One, the Christ . . .
 
icon, at our very best,
of the beautiful,
          peaceful kingdom of God . . .
 
From here
we are sent,
          kingdom-bearers,
                   kingdom-builders . . .
         
into the world
where the ordinary daily-ness
of following Jesus goes on:
 
 
 
in war and in peace,
in sickness and in health,
in sorrow and in joy,
in failure and in success,
in disappointment and in hope,
in the expected and the unexpected,
in the worst of times
          and the best of times.
 
On this mountaintop
of the Last Sunday after the Epiphany,
we have seen revealed,
with Peter, James and John,
the undeniable presence of God
          in Jesus the Christ.
 
Ash Wednesday and Lent
now lie before us.
 
How might our Lenten journey
of self-examination and repentance,
prayer, fasting, and self-denial,
reading and meditating on God’s holy word,
alms-giving and service,
shape us
to live faithfully, courageously, prophetically
in these bizarre and troubling times?
 
We have received today
the best advice we could ever get.
 
“This is my beloved Son.
Listen to him.”