Last Epiphany B – Enough to decide now

2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

Sometimes we find ourselves saying: “Given what we know now, why we didn’t see it earlier?” Many things in the past now look like clues which we missed.  In fact, we couldn’t possibly have understood them for what they were. We didn’t know then what we know now.

The Transfiguration story is not an account of an historical event. It is an icon for the experience of looking back at events in our life which we later understand better.  Looking back, the disciples better understood Jesus as a prophet (Elijah), and as an interpreter of the Law (Moses.) After the resurrection, they came to understand something about Jesus which defied description (gleaming white clothes.)

Hindsight is great, but we live in the present moment and need to make decisions now.

Mark’s gospel is all about making decisions.[1]  Here’s the basic plot. . .

Jesus arrives in Galilee announcing “The time is up: the empire of God has arrived! Turn around and put your trust in the good news.” [2]  The arrival of God’s empire creates community (disciples, crowds) and brings great blessings (healings, feedings, forgiveness). But it also kicks up opposition (demons and other opponents). The powers-that-be are threatened by God’s empire, so conflict ensues. Those who are caught up in this conflict will be tested and may suffer.  Not all remain faithful when tested, but “restoration is possible.”[3]

Mark’s gospel invites us to choose sides: to decide what to trust and what to reject.  We may not get it right early on. Or, we may get it right and then doubt ourselves. In really tough times, it may seem that we’ve got it completely wrong. But all is not lost, because restoration is possible.

The disciples did not really understand who Jesus was until long after his healing and feeding ministry in Galilee and his fateful journey to Jerusalem.

Truthfully, I suspect we still don’t really understand who Jesus was. And we won’t fully understand until we come to grips with who we really are.

Like the disciples, although we don’t know fully and perfectly yet, we have a lot of insight, and many clues, and we have seen enough to make a good decision about what to trust and what to reject. If we don’t get it exactly right, restoration is possible.

[1] It can be difficult to see that theme just from the Sunday lectionary. The bits we hear on Sunday in Year B are often read out of sequence and some stories are omitted.  It is good to read the gospel in its entirety once in a while.

[2] Mark 1:15. Translation by Joanna Dewey, Harvey H. Guthrie Jr. Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies, Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA. See The Gospel of Mark as an Oral/Aural Narrative: Implications for Preaching, Currents in Theology and Mission, 44:4 (October 2017) at 7.

[3]  Dewey, Joanna, The Gospel of Mark as an Oral/Aural Narrative: Implications for Preaching, above, at 9.

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