9th Sunday after Epiphany

March 5, 2000
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Hosea 2:14-20
Reading 2: 
Psalm 50
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Reading 4: 
Mark 9:2-6
Alt Reading 1: 
2 Kings 2:1-12
By Tari Lennon

Psalm
Since a central concern of the Psalm is the notion of sacrifice and since our booming economy and bull market have rendered us the least "sacrifice-sensitive" in memory, The preacher/teacher will have to become a bit ironic to claim people's interest in the merits of sacrifice. The psalmist does that very thing by having God request thanksgiving as the appropriate form of sacrifice.

Drawing on 12-Step programs or other recovery resources will immediately disclose the centrality of gratitude in the recovery process. Then, learning to surrender and be thankful take the addict or the one seeking restoration of stability and health to an awareness of a Higher Power-a Higher Power that is at the heart of all things and all of life.

The psalm acts like a hymn, or song being sung by God to God's people inviting the people to think in new ways about the purport of sacrifice and in the new thinking, establish a new relationship with God-one based on gratitude and thanksgiving.

II Kings
Similarly in the Kings passage the concern is to ready Elisha and the people for a new relationship. Not infrequently Elisha has been viewed as an Elijah wannabe without comparable credentials. To read the entire Elijah-Elisha cycle, however, is to see that not only did the two men bring different personalities and abilities to their vocations, but also the religio-historico-political contexts in which the two men worked were significantly different.

In our highly charged political/election year, it could be enormously beneficial for the preacher/teacher to help people see the interplay between people and events, historical moment and personal choices: relationships between event and response; personalities and possibilities; national character and how that character is reflected in a nation's leaders, or how those leaders influence that character.

II Corinthians
The Corinthian passage uses images (and metaphors) similar to those in the Hebrew texts to make a similar point: Seeing is about knowing and knowing is about relationship. To be in relationship with God is to see and not be blinded by any of lifes drama or distractions; to be clear, not veiled; to be open, not hidden; to be grateful, not ashamed; to walk in the sun, not in darkness; to live in light, not shadow. To know God is to be in relationship with God and to be in relationship with God is to see and to know the same glory Jesus, whom we call the Christ, knew through his relationship with God.

Mark
The dramatic account of Jesus' defining moment-his theophany-engages him in a new way with God. Born of his intimate, altogether familiar - i.e., familial-relationship with God, he comes to see his connections to a larger history and to the divine invitation to expand his understanding of the meaning of family.

To travel with this Jesus is, like Peter, James, and John, to see beyond what one is looking at, to move toward bold horizons, and to hear intimations of significance that enlarge imagination-even as the story itself does. Because of their relationship with Jesus, Peter, James, and John experience a walk up a mountainside in an exciting and enlivening way. Because they have allowed themselves to see life through Jesus' eyes, however fleetingly and partially, they have come to know God in new ways and to see Jesus as the vehicle for that new knowing.

Conclusions:
As with so much of sacred literature, there are so many directions to take with these lessons. These stories and observations are so layered and so rich with inspiring possibilities that there is almost no way to go wrong with these texts. The only wrong way would be to approach them as holy writ rather than colorful revelations; as lections rather than gifts; hermeneutically rather than humbly. Enjoy!

The Rev. Dr. Tari Lennon is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and holds degrees in theology, ministry and psychology. She retired from parish ministry after 43 years and now convenes Open Gatherings which draws people together from all faiths and nonfaiths to explore topics of spirituality, relationships, and personal ethics.