Changed from Glory to Glory
The Season of the Epiphany has to do with God manifesting his presence to humankind in various ways. There were three special times recorded in the Bible when God manifested his glory. We recall the event of the children of Israel encountering God at Mount Sinai. They became afraid and were unwilling to listen to God directly. They ask Moses to listen to God and tell them what God said. Thus, Moses became the first prophet of God.
Today, we have a second time that God manifested his glory. Reading from 2 Kings:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. (2 Kings 2:9-12)
Elisha was in awe of the glory of God. In a way, he resembled the children of Israel in the wilderness. He became a prophet, but first he had a learning curve. When he tried to exercise his new position, he did so in a curious way we read:
He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. (2 Kings 2:13-14)
Our own relationship with God matters more than any mantel of authority we may have.
In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, we have a third remarkable example of God manifesting his glory:
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. (Mark 9:2-8)
The two men who experienced God’s glory directly were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. But only Jesus could fulfill both of them. We need to look to Jesus. We need to look upon Jesus. The Apostle wrote:
Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)
We are called by God to come up to his mountain so to speak. He wants us to experience his glory within our hearts. How do we do that? We must spend time with Jesus. We must worship him in Spirit and in truth. Again Paul wrote:
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)
We become like the one we meditate upon and worship. Where is our heart today? Whom do we worship? Are we afraid to draw near to God? Is his glory overwhelming? Or does it beckon us to draw closer to him? We have an advantage over the children of Israel and even Elisha. we have a covering of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for us. Was he sacrificed in vain?
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect from the Book of Common Prayer)