The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Last Sunday’s worship (Feb. 26, 06)

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This became surprisingly sweet. Thank you for your insights.

It was as if God was saying, as I wrote the final form, “Simpler, Monte, simpler: Let me take care of it.” And by the time we got to final songs on Sunday morning, God seemed so close and encouraging. It was delight to me.

What happened in your heart through last week’s process? I’d enjoy hearing it.

10:30 cue songs:

Every Move I Make

I Want to Know You

You Are My Hiding Place

Sharon: Prayer of Thanksgiving
We give you all thanks and praise, O God,
for your transfiguring light has overcome us
and is restoring within us the image of your glory.

When you created the universe you said,
“Let light shine out of darkness,”
and the heavens lit up in testimony to your justice.
Through the law and prophets your light has shone forth,
and your Word has never fallen silent.

On a high mountain you pulled back the veil of heaven
and, as Moses and Elijah passed on their mantles
to the one in whom your saving Word is fulfilled,
you allowed the incomparable glory of your Son
to be seen by his terrified disciples.
He was killed by those who would not listen to you,
but after you raised him from the dead,
you sent the winds of heaven upon us
with an extravagant outpouring of your Holy Spirit.

Therefore, with our hearts lifted high,
we offer you thanks and praise at all times
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton

Welcome – Evie or Terry

II Kings 2:1-12 (The Message)

[Dan acts the Elijah-Elisha story as a monologue – way to go, Dan, this was excellent! I could understand what Elisha’s emotions might be, and your work stamped this picture on our minds so I could refer back to it later.]

1 Just before GOD took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on a walk out of Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. GOD has sent me on an errand to Bethel.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” So they both went to Bethel.

3 The guild of prophets at Bethel met Elisha and said, “Did you know that GOD is going to take your master away from you today?” Yes,” he said, “I know it. But keep it quiet.” 4 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. GOD has sent me on an errand to Jericho.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” So they both went to Jericho.

5 The guild of prophets at Jericho came to Elisha and said, “Did you know that GOD is going to take your master away from you today?” “Yes,” he said, “I know it. But keep it quiet.” 6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. GOD has sent me on an errand to the Jordan.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” And so the two of them went their way together.

7 Meanwhile, fifty men from the guild of prophets gathered some distance away while the two of them stood at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up, and hit the water with it. The river divided and the two men walked through on dry land.

9 When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you.” 10 “That’s a hard one!” said Elijah. “But if you’re watching when I’m taken from you, you’ll get what you’ve asked for. But only if you’re watching.”

11 And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. 12 Elisha saw it all and shouted, “My father, my father! You—the chariot and cavalry of Israel!” When he could no longer see anything, he grabbed his robe and ripped it to pieces.

Monte: So, Elijah was taken up to heaven. Elijah’s works were so legendary that he became a symbol of all the prophets to the Jews. And when they would speak of the Hebrew Bible, they might refer to Moses and Elijah, using Moses to mean the first five books of the Bible – the law – and Elijah, to represent all the prophets.

* * *

Now, fast forward 800 years, and zoom in on Jesus: Pew Bible, Mark 9:2.

[cue Jesus map] A big change starts here in the story of Jesus and his disciples. First, they start going to different places. In what region did Jesus spend most of his life? Galilee is blue on this map.

[cue Jesus map p2] Now look: 7:24-Tyre, 31-Sidon, 8:10-Dalmanutha, 22-Bethsaida, 27-Caesarea Philippi.

What do you notice? Always outside of Galilee – in fact, outside of Jewish regions altogether. Then in C. 9 comes the passage we’ll read. After that, in 9:30, they’ll pass back through Galilee one last time, but almost in secret. The reason for all this secrecy – and probably why they had gotten out of Galilee – is recorded in 9:30. See it? He’s focusing on his disciples now – avoiding the crowds to get alone with them.

[cue Jesus map p3]

By 33 they’re in Capernaum. Then, C10, in Judea, and, looking ahead, by 10:32 their destination becomes clear. They’re headed to Jerusalem.

And here’s the topic for this time alone: 8:31, 9:9, 9:30, 10:32a,33-34. Like Elijah, Jesus is headed for the end, and the time when he’ll be taken from his followers. Like Elijah, he’s beginning the last lessons. Here’s our story:

Mark 9:2-9 (NIV)

The Transfiguration

2After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Imagine what Jesus needs to teach. Peter, James, and John have grown up Jewish. All the Bible they know is the Hebrew Scriptures. Moses and Elijah are rightly revered as God’s great spokesmen. But where does Jesus fit? They’ve sensed everything’s changing. Sometimes, he doesn’t keep all the laws. How does he fit with what’s come before? In fact, don’t we still have this question: How does the OT fit with the NT?

So how will he show them what matters most? Watch the Master teach:

1. He takes the three most influential disciples, and gets away from the crowd.

2. He sets them down to watch, then he begins to be changed – whitened – from the inside out. And hasn’t he been inviting them to be changed – purified – from the inside out? Jesus demonstrates everything we need to know, doesn’t he?

3. Then, he talks deeply with Moses and Elijah (and Moses and Elijah mean what to them? How long before this was Elijah? Seven hundred years.) And though the Pharisees have argued with Jesus, apparently Moses and Elijah don’t. And hasn’t he been telling his disciples that he is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible?

4. Now Peter interrupts with a plan to commemorate the moment (to make it outside-in), as if rejoicing that their guy, Jesus, was blueblood enough to hobnob with Moses and Elijah. Jesus needs to take it one step further.

5. Watch the metaphor of God unfold:

Moses and Elijah – symbols of what? the Hebrew Bible, which we call the OT – withdraw.

The Father’s voice identifies Jesus not as his prophet like M&E – but as his son

God instructs them to listen now to Jesus!

And they see is “Jesus, only Jesus.”

See the enormity of it? Moses and Elijah have withdrawn, and God directs them – and us – to Jesus. It must have been shocking to the disciples: Jesus is not equal to the prophets they’ve revered all their lives – he’s above them. And Moses and Elijah – they speak through their writings – but Jesus is with them, talking to them. And we believe likewise, he is with us, talking to us!

Let’s see if our last Scripture bears it out.

* * *

II Corinthians 4:3-6 (The Message)

3 If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention.

Remember Elisha? Elijah told him he could go home, he said, “Not on your life.” Elijah told him he could have all he wanted if he kept watching. Elisha was an example of someone paying serious attention!

Here’s the opposite:

4 All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. 6 It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

Here’s what I especially want you to remember:

[cue 2 Cor 4:4] … Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

If I want to know what God is like, the best way to find out is to look at Jesus – he’s “the best picture of God we’ll ever get.” I’ll learn much from the Ten Commandments or the Epistles. But Jesus is on another plane altogether, for he is what God looks like, how God as a human acts, and what I am to aim for.

I’m reminded of Paul’s comment in Romans 12: Fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. How am I changed?

And Hebrews, in c.12: Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor …

In the NRSV, the Father said of Jesus: “This is my Son, marked by my love … “ What if you and I had lives of which people said, “They are marked by God’s love.”

When Elisha asked Elijah for more of what Elijah had, Elijah said, “That’s a hard one!” Maybe to you, the idea of becoming a person specially marked by God’s love is “a hard one.”

But here’s good news: My task- your task – is only to keep watching Jesus.

How can God be so good?

In Christ Alone


Every Move I Make

Sharon: Commission & Benediction
Go now, and speak of what you have seen of God’s glory.
Do not cling to the holy moments
when heaven overshadows you,
but as the Lord lives, listen to Christ and follow him
from the places of revelation
to the places of mission.
And may God shine the light of glory into your hearts.
May Christ be with you and never leave you.
And may the Spirit renew the image of God within you.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
……..In the name of Christ. Amen.
©2003 Nathan Nettleton


Written by Monte

February 27, 2006 at 9:00 pm

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