II Kings 2:1-12, Mark 9:2-9
In these two scripture lessons we have two visions of God’s glory. We have the story of Elijah being taken up into heaven in a whirlwind of fire. And we have Jesus on the mountaintop with his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John. There he is transfigured – transformed. His appearance became dazzling, and there appeared with him, that same Elijah and Moses.
These are two Visions of Glory. They are two supernatural experiences of God. And they were necessary for the faith of those who experienced them. First Elisha, then Peter, James, and John were being prepared for the ministry ahead of them. They were being commissioned, if you will. And in both cases these men were in need of a spiritual infusion. They were about to start out on a new ministry, a new undertaking that would not be easy. Both needed visions of God’s glory to give them strength “spur them on” to fulfill their spiritual callings. That’s often what God did when he called people in the Bible.
In the story from Kings, Elisha needed that vision. He was about to become the successor to the great prophet Elijah. And he was worried whether he would be up to the task. So he asks Elijah specifically for “a double measure of your spirit.” That’s what this scene was about. Elijah said, “If you see me as I am taken up from you, you shall receive what you asked.” Then when Elisha saw the prophet going up into heaven in the whirlwind of fire, he knew he would “inherit” Elijah’s spirit and strength he needed. But it was also the vision alone that would inspire him.
In our story for today the disciples didn’t even know what they were up against. There were some difficult times ahead of them. And so they were given their own “vision.” They weren’t even sure what it meant at the time. Peter tried to make it a typical “religious experience.” “Hey Lord, let’s build a shrine!” “No, make that three shrines.” But Jesus didn’t acknowledge him. He didn’t even seem to notice what Peter had said! Because this wasn’t about the “religious significance” It was about the vision. It was about the inspiration. Remember, Jesus was very intentional about this. He took the three up to the mountain top. This didn’t just happen when they just happened to be up there.
It is my belief that God still does the same thing with us. We must seek the knowledge of God, yes. But we must also seek the visions. We must look to the glory. That’s where we often miss the boat.
We’ve talked a lot lately about calling. You’ve heard me say that God calls each of us. And as we think about that, we need to know that God also inspires us in that calling. Yet sometimes are we try to answer the call of God without seeking the glory. And it doesn’t seem to work. We find we don’t feel very “inspired.” Think about it. No great coach would send the team out into an important game without a “pep talk.” Well, that’s what these two visions are! And that’s what God does with us!
I want you to think about your own life today. And I’d like to ask, What is your version of this story? What is your experience of God? Can you point to some time in your life where you were inspired – where perhaps you began your life of faith? What kind of experience was it? Was it supernatural? Was it a time when you felt God’s spirit touching you? Was it an experience in which you received a sense of confidence, or a “knowing” that you couldn’t explain? We all need that glory, that experience of God in our spiritual lives. And I believe we need to look for it. I believe we need to put ourselves in position to see it. The disciples had to climb the mountain. We need to be in worship, to get ourselves to spiritual events. We too need to seek the glory. For without those visions, we may find we are living a faith in which we may “know” a lot, but it seems empty somehow.
We need to look for visions of God’s glory. In the prophecy of Joel, we are told “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Yes, even on your menservants and maidservants I will pour out my spirit.”
That’s what God does. And we need to seek his glory. And I can’t tell you how that happens, because God touches each of us in a different way. But I can tell you one important part of that experience of God. It has to do with our hearts. That’s where inspiration comes. That’s where the visions of glory touch us. We need to look to the heart in our spiritual lives. It is the heart knowing, it is the heart understanding, it is the heart being uplifted that makes all the difference.
You won’t hear too much about a person who had their intellect so filled with knowledge that they went out to be God’s servant. You will hear more often about the person whose heart was so touched that he went out and did great things! All of us need that! When God calls, do we need convincing, or do we need inspiration?
Think about how this works when we share our faith with someone else. Sometimes we think if we just use the right formula, we can convince people of the value of faith. And we’re not alone. Charles Wesley was convinced that the sharing of the faith needed to be expressed in a certain “method.” And the “Methodists” were born. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ put the principles of faith in his booklet “The Four Spiritual Laws.” But those kinds of thing always seemed a bit “canned” to me. There seemed to be something missing. The realization of what that was has been growing throughout my life. I’ve found that what’s missing from those approaches is the experience of God! That’s what people need!
We are the same! Sometimes all the learning is not enough! We need the experience! We need the inspiration. It’s not our minds that God wants to touch. It’s our hearts! God wants to inspire us in our innermost beings. That’s what he wants!
Think again about your own lives. If I were to ask you to tell me about the “high points” of your spiritual lives, what would you tell me about? Do you think you’d tell me about a course you took, or a time when you really heard the faith “explained well?” Or would you tell me about some wonderful experience in which you felt the presence of God in a powerful way!
Don’t get me wrong! Learning is wonderful! Christian Education is so very important. But it’s important that we put flesh on the stories. It’s important that they come alive! It’s important that they touch our hearts. That’s what Jesus did in his stories!
So, let what we do here not just be a matter of having your “head convinced.” Here let your “heart be touched” by God. That’s what he wants. He doesn’t want people who know all the right things as much as he wants people who know him intimately! Let that be the theme of your life and the aim of your faith. Look to see the visions of God’s glory!
Touch us, Lord. Help us to know your presence here in this place. Help us to feel your spirit in our midst. Empower us through this experience to be the people you call us to be. For this we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.