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who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
1 Kings 19.9-18
When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’
Immediately after feeding the crowd with the five loaves and two fish, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake.
But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Post Communion Prayer
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reflection for Trinity 9
“Truly you are the Son of God” – after what they had experienced over the previous twenty four hours, is it any wonder that the disciples made this declaration. Jesus had sought a quiet retreat after hearing of the death of John the Baptist, crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat, but had been pursued by crowds. In the Gospel for last week we heard of the miraculous provision for “about five thousand men, besides women and children” whose eagerness to hear Christ’s words and experience his healing ministry had led them to come away to the remote spot where he had hoped to have some ‘peace and quiet’. There had been no time for the disciples to review that experience with their Master for, after the crowd had dispersed – and they had done some tidying-up, “the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” – “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side.”
Now Jesus had the time of quiet he had wanted – a night time to re-assess his ministry in the context of the execution of his kinsman John, the Forerunner who had prepared the ground for him, courageously proclaiming his message of repentance and baptism, but never seeking the limelight that was reserved for one greater who was to come after him. In our OT reading we heard that the prophet Elijah had withdrawn alone to “Horeb the mountain of God” (for which we should read Mount Sinai) – but he was in a funk, he had fled from the Northern Kingdom, Israel, following his victory over the pagan prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He was in fear for his life at the hands of King Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel, who had introduced and encouraged the worship of Baal. Here, where Moses had received the Ten Commandments, Elijah was enabled to reappraise his calling and empowered to resume his prophetic vocation: “The Lord said to him ‘Go back the way you came…..” and, for the prophet who believed he was the only adherent of God in Israel: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”
When Jesus came down the mountain he had, of course, already sent the disciples away.Had they wondered how he might return? Whether he might follow in the footsteps of the crowd, and make his way around the lakeshore, or whether he might take another boat, if one was to be found in the solitary place? What they had certainly not expected was that they would see him “walking on the lake”. No wonder their eyes were open to see him for who he really was.
A few chapters later in the Gospel, when they were near Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”, to which they replied “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah…”, but he puts them on the spot: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” There is no escaping the need to respond, and Simon Peter, speaking on behalf of them all answers: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Six days after that conversation Jesus took Peter, James and John up another mountain – possibly Mount Hermon on the northern boundary of Palestine, nowadays an area of dispute between Israel and Syria – and “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light…..then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus”. The three disciples were enveloped in a bright cloud, and from the cloud they heard a voice: “This is my Son, whom I love: with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
Last Thursday, 6th August, is kept by the Church as the Feast of the Transfiguration, the celebration of the great truth that was revealed to the three disciples on the mountain. That revelation was the result of an accumulation of events, of which the disciples had been witnesses, and which would continue through Christ’s earthly ministry, and ultimately through death and resurrection, so that even ‘Doubting’ Thomas would declare, a week after he had missed the first appearance of his risen Master to his brethren, “My Lord and my God” so emphatically that you can almost see him prostrating himself before the risen Christ.
Mountains have been a repeated scenario in this discourse:
– following the departure of the crowd, and his dismissal of the disciples, Jesus went up the mountain to pray;
– Elijah had fled from the wrath of Jezebel, and on Mount Horeb (Sinai) he encountered God and was empowered to return to his prophetic ministry to the Northern Kingdom of Israel;
– on Mount Hermon the three disciples experienced Christ’s Transfiguration, witnessed his encounter with Moses and Elijah and heard the words of God;
– on a mountain in Galilee the disciples encounter their risen Lord and receive the ‘Great Commission’ (“go and make disciples of all nations….”) and Christ’s promise (“Lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”)
Mountains, given clear weather, allow us literally to place ourselves in the landscape, to orientate ourselves – as long as they are not enveloped in low cloud – but such a location is also conducive to spiritual re-appraisal and refreshment to equip us for what is to come.
There is a hymn for the Transfiguration which echoes the words of Peter on the mountain as he sees the representative figures of the Old Testament in conversation with Christ:
‘Tis good, lord, to be here, thy glory fills the night;
thy face and garments, like the sun, shine with unborrowed light.
‘Tis good, Lord, to be here, thy beauty to behold,
where Moses and Elijah stand, thy messengers of old.
But we may not stay, this revelation is to empower our life in the service of Christ:
‘Tis good, Lord, to be here, yet we may not remain;
but since thou bidst us leave the mount, come with us to the plain.
In the words of the Collect for the Transfiguration we pray:
Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross:
give us faith to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, AMEN
Revd David Francis
Rural Dean of Cadbury