Posted on Mon, Apr 9, 2012
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for February 19, 2012
Let Your Mantle Fall on Me
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
February 19, 2012
Think back with me to someone, probably a little older than you, someone that you grew up knowing and admiring. Perhaps that person for you was a family member, a member of your church, a pastor or a teacher. I remember as a little boy learning to play the piano and sing, I didn’t just love Barry Manilow; I wanted to BE Barry Manilow. You know how much I loved and admired my Granddaddy and in some ways I wanted to be so much like him. Who do you admire? Whose life would you love to emulate? Who is that person that, when you look at her or him you think, “I so wish I could be like that?” Or in spiritual terms, whose mantle would you like to fall on you? Pray with me:
God we thank you for Godly role models, for people who enlighten us, not just with their words but also with their lives. Teach us to be like them while you teach us to be like you. Let your mantle fall on us, we pray. AMEN.
You have heard it once this morning and let me just reiterate it for us, “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” What does it mean to be transfigured? What is this all about?
I agree with my friend and colleague Rev. Tania Guzman when she says that this is one of the most bizarre readings in all the gospels. It leaves many questions unanswered. Still there is a message in it for us. Besides representing the law and the prophets, it was believed that Moses and Elijah were key figures in eschatology, or in thinking about the end of time as the people knew it. According to the Hebrew scripture, Elijah went to heaven alive and Moses’ grave was never found. Some would go as far as to say that God buried him. So it was believed that God would send these two figures to announce the end of time. Jesus was announcing the coming of “The Kingdom of God”. So for the gospel writer, what better endorsement could he hope for than for Jesus than the endorsement of these key figures, Moses and Elijah?
The writer also appears to be using some of the elements from the Moses’ stories: the clouds symbolizing the presence of God, the mention of the six days could be for the six days that the cloud was at mount Sinai, the shining figure of Jesus like the shining figure of Moses. So it seems that elements from the Moses stories are brought into this story, more than likely to give more validity to the story.
We have represented in the story the Moses and the law, Elijah and the prophets and the ministry of Liberation in Jesus. When the disciples looked around, the representatives of the law and the prophets were gone and only Jesus and his role model of the work of liberation remained. I think that has a lot to say to us this morning as those committed to the gospel of liberation. You see we are not just some new fangled social gospel church, we are not just a bunch of liberal, left wing Christians. We are children of God living into God’s calling to liberate the captive by following the example of Jesus. It sounds outrageous to me and it is still true, that our deepest desire is for the mantle of Jesus that represents his ministry and his life to fall directly on us today and every day. There’s a gospel song that says, “Jesus is my music, Jesus is my song, I want to sing his praises all day long.” I want to suggest to you that this is a pretty song and it’s just a beginning. I want to sing praises to Jesus and I want to do more than that. I want to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus. I want to do ministry the way Jesus did it. I want to love people the way Jesus loves people. AND even more than that, I want my life, as much of it as is possible, to be like Jesus. Are you with me this morning? Our deepest desire as children of God is to be that desire to live like Jesus, and to have Jesus’ mantle for daily living fall on us. That is what it means to be a follower of Jesus, that is what it means to be a disciple, that, my sisters and brothers is what it means to be a Christian, a child of God, a member of the Kin-dom family of God.
I love the story of Elijah and Elisha. Elisha was the protégé of the old prophet Elijah. Elisha had studied with him and lived with him and sometimes fought with him. Elisha was in line to be the next prophet of God. He was well-prepared although he was not convinced of that fact. At the end of Elijah’s life on earth we see a picture of him being taken up into heaven by God. Elisha, the young prophet, is scared. He does not know what to do our how he will survive, and he calls out, “Father, Father.” That call to us might sound more like “Daddy, Daddy,” help me, protect me, get me out of here. He is so distraught he tears his own clothes into pieces and then he sees the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him. He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the River Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, 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. Elisha was scared, he did not know what to do and he took the mantle of Elijah and became the prophetic voice of God, even as Elijah passed over.
Let your mantle fall on me. Let your mantle fall on me. A double portion of your Spirit, God, Let your mantle fall on me. Let your mantle of peace and justice fall on me, God. Let you mantle of loving kindness fall on me God. Let your mantle of service fall on me, Lord. A double portion of your Spirit God, let it fall and fall and fall and fall on me, God. Let your mantle fall on me I pray this day, in the many names of Jesus. AMEN.