St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermon

February 14th Transfiguration Sunday, 2021                    John Marsh


2 Kings 2:1-112; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9



Play “I’m Going Down to the River” by Fannie Lou Hamer…


Echoing through time, intertwining, intermingling within the hallways of history, invitations are issued, calls heard though perhaps but barely…


Cross over…


Cross over the river…


Cross over the Jordan and take up your mantle…


Cross over…


Within stories told and retold, within tales recorded, written, a poetic sensibility calls, invites…


Then Elijah said to [Elisha],"Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan." But [Elisha] said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So, the two of them went on… Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. (2Kings 2:6, 8)


As Elisha’s story continues, he picks up Elijah’s mantle, living out haunting invitations within call…


[Elisha] 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… 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.   (2Kings 2:13-14)


Within stories told and retold, within tales recorded, written, a poetic sensibility calls, invites…


Cross over…


Cross over the river…


Cross over the Jordan and take up your mantle…


Within stories told and retold, within tales recorded, written, a poetic sensibility announces…


...Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come; repent and believe in the good news.”                                                                  (Mark 1:14-15)


Within the undercurrents of Mark’s gospel, a seduction is astir, a call to pick of the mantle of god’s reign drawing near, a call for us to ‘repent’, to turn around, to be of a different mind.¹ Jesus calls us to go beyond the limits of our minds and other’s definitions to embrace life renewed and renewing…


Yeshua calls us to open to unfolding’s of the commonwealth of god, to let go of that which ‘possesses’ us. Jesus calls us to new gatherings of people which are alternative to the usual structures of dominance, inequity, and the impoverishment of soul and social vision…


Yeshua calls us to follow, today’s gospel a hint that within Elijah’s presence an invitation stirs, that we risk picking up his mantle and follow the ‘ikon of god’ – see 2 Corinthians 4:4b – that we too risk transfiguration and transformation, that we risk opening to the reign of god calling, perhaps drawing near...


And yet, if honesty has any currency, is there not drag, the entropy of convention, the distortion of dominance…


Yeshua invites mature participation but slowly, as history unfolds, such participation trades places with immature adulation…


That which is directed to the transformative movement of god stirring within all life – our life – begins to shift, focusing increasingly on just one life...


...they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." (Mark1:37b)


...and people came to him from every quarter (Mark 1:45b)


That which points to the transfiguration of our life, revealing, perhaps, god stirring within the whole, all too easily coalesces into the holiness of the One…


That which is concerned with active participation in the mission of divine compassion slips and slides into the comfortable embrace of domination’s dispensation of grace - of course, a dispensation only for those who curry favour.


Does it really matter if domination is politically or religiously cast? Imperial or spiritual, either way life becomes little more than obedience to hierarchical and imperious authority. Is this the reign proclaimed by Yeshua?


As the One is increasingly the focus of adulation, we slip and collapse into the pathos of pity, the dynamic of compassion forever reduced to begging for the attention of the divine wonder worker, begging masquerading as prayer…


That the human condition is so reduced, that a holiness available to all is so projected onto the One is to weep with angry tears…


Is it any wonder that we encounter Jesus’ stern warning to be silent?


As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.                                                                                         (Mark 9:9)   


Perhaps Yeshua saw signs of an impending reversal - the reversal of the message and the messenger where the messenger becomes the message...


Truth to tell, within the gospel of Mark there are repeated calls to silence. As for why, there have been many attempted answers but perhaps it is as simple as this – the reign of god, if it is simply a matter of talk or projection onto the One, even, perhaps especially, the Christ, is always a distortion!


Imaginatively understood, you can almost hear Jesus’ exasperated cry: “It’s not about me – it’s about all of us! The reign of god is drawing near to us! Pick up your mantles and live differently!”


You can almost feel Yeshua’s desperate attempts to shift the focus away from empty phrases and the ‘gilded cage’ of holy fame…


Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.                                                                                                                            (Matthew 7:21)


The reversal, in which the message is overtaken by the messenger, puts Yeshua’s mission at risk; it is a reversal diminishing god’s reign to little more than a marquee event of the ‘Cirque du Dieu’, the ‘Circus of God’. Honesty compels me to say I am resisting the urge to add to my comment about the ‘Cirque du Dieu’ the phrase, ‘or in other words, the church’. I resist yet, obviously, seldom succeed!


When the commonwealth of god becomes such a circus event, know that almost all of us will move from center stage to the bleachers, from participant to observer thereby trading compassions’ active courage for the passivity, dare I say civility, of convention...


Truth to tell, compassion is a matter of the heart – courage literally means ‘of the heart’ – in which we risk change within and without. Compassion transforms and transfigures that which would otherwise conform, at least such is my hope, my prayer…


As Yeshua could have said...


‘The kingdom of God is like a finger pointing at the moon, but all the fool sees is the finger’.²


Jesus came proclaiming the reign of god, but we have settled for proclaiming Jesus Christ!


We tell the story of Yeshua’s transfiguration yet betray it by letting go of our own!


It is to weep with angry tears³…


And through my tears I pray…


I pray…


Cross over…


Cross over the river…


Cross over the Jordan and take up your mantle…


Cross over…


Play “My God” by Jethro Tull until 3:45


 ¹ ‘Metanoia’ - repentance – literally means ‘to go beyond your usual mind’ in both an intellectual and an existential sense. To repent is to be of a different mind.

 ² This is a paraphrase of a well-known Zen story which I believe encapsulates the mission and message as well as the faith and frustration of Jesus.

 ³ Consider the words of the song:                                 

"My God"

People -- what have you done --
locked Him in His golden cage.
Made Him bend to your religion --
Him resurrected from the grave.
He is the god of nothing --
if that's all that you can see.
You are the god of everything --
He's inside you and me.

(Lyrics by Ian Anderson excerpted from the song, ‘My God’ by Jethro Tull)