February 12, 2018
“A Double Portion of Spirit” ~ sermon for February 11, 2018
Our New Testament reading this morning brings the season of Epiphany to a close.
Jesus has retreated to the high mountains with Peter, James and John.
While there they have the quintessential mountaintop experience.
Hear now the familiar account of Jesus’ transfiguration from Mark’s gospel 9:2-8.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
Transforming God, in whose love we become new people able to see others in a new light, help us to view Christ beyond the blinders of our culture as one whose way is relevant and exciting in our time and place.
Make us servants who participate in the transformation you envision for our world.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
I love the two readings today – Elisha humbly asking for a double share of his mentor’s spirit and Peter, James and John reacting to Jesus’ transfiguration by suggesting that they build some tents and take up residence on the mountaintop.
Each of these four disciples has encountered God face-to-face and they are not sure what to make of it.
I’m quite certain that they were transformed by the events they witnessed and that their lives were never the same.
I believe it is this type of transformation that we seek when we gather as a faith community.
I believe that each one of us comes into this space hoping to have a divine encounter.
We are seeking God.
We are seeking answers.
We want to be freed from the bonds that tether us to worry, anxiety and fear.
I recently read a book by David Cooperrider that outlined six freedoms that coincide with personal transformation in an organizational setting.
The author contends that these six freedoms unleash human potential and contribute to building positive relationships.
The six freedoms are:
- Freedom to be known in relationship: often our genuine self is hidden in roles or expectations that we allow others to set for us. This freedom offers people the chance to truly know one another, both as unique individuals and a part of the web of human relationships.
- Freedom to be heard: Being heard requires someone to listen with sincere curiosity, empathy and compassion. It requires an openness to know and understand another person’s story.
- Freedom to dream in community: ah to dream! How often do we really take the time to dream and to share those dreams with others? We are reluctant to articulate our own visions and miss the opportunity to envision a world different than the one we occupy.
- Freedom to choose to contribute both time and money. When people make a free choice to participate in a project or to contribute money to a cause, their investment in the success of that project increases. We enjoy backing a winner, whether it is an idea, a candidate for leadership or a service project. It is important for a thriving organization to grant the freedom to choose to contribute to its members.
- Freedom to act with support: Cooperrider says: “To act with support is the quintessential act of positive interdependence. When people know that large numbers of people care about their work and are anxious to cooperate, they feel safe to experiment, innovate, and learn. In other words, whole-system support stimulates people to take on challenges and draws people into acts of cooperation that bring forth their best.”
The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ has been touting interdependence ever since Reverend Kent Siladi assumed the role of Conference Minister.
The point is that we don’t operate alone – what we do in Salisbury affects the church universal.
We are all in this together.
- Freedom to be positive: Of course, this is my favorite! “
In organizations today it is simply not the norm to have fun, be happy or be positive…people get swept away in collective currents of negativity.” Oh my goodness – do you think that entire cultures could be swept away in ‘collective currents of negativity?’
Let’s give each other the freedom to be positive.
Let’s focus on what is good in our lives and our church.
Another book I read this week was Flourish by Martin Seligman.
Professor Seligman has dedicated over forty years to researching the science of human well-being.
Beyond simple happiness, he suggests that ‘well-being’ is made up of
- Positive emotion – your approach to life, how happy are you?
- Engagement – interest and excitement about new things
- Relationships – good, loving relationships enhance your life
- Meaning – feeling that what you do in life has value and is worthwhile
- Achievement – recognition for your efforts, attaining goals
Dr. Seligman identifies twenty-four strengths and virtues that support these five components, such as kindness, social intelligence, humor, courage and integrity.
He argues “You go into flow when your highest strengths are deployed to meet the highest challenges that come your way.”
Flow is that state of mind when you feel that you are genuinely being yourself and you are able to ‘just go with the flow.’
I think Peter, John and James were perhaps in their ‘flow’ when they suggested building the tents.
They knew they had to do something to sustain this amazing experience and that’s the best they could think of.
What all of this research shows is that we can make the most of our lives, with just a little effort.
We have a stake in our own happiness and well-being.
Elisha knew that he needed a portion of Elijah’s spirit to carry on in the world without his teacher.
He knew that for him to flourish, to reach his ‘flow’ he was going to need some help and he was willing to ask for it.
One of the great benefits of knowing your strengths is that you can bring them to bear on any situation.
When you are operating from your own sense of personal well-being you know the things that are bad for you, or those that do not contribute to your well-being and you can more easily avoid them.
So what is our message on this Valentines Day, post-epiphany Sunday?
I think it boils down to our perennial cry, “Love.”
Your happiness and well-being depend on your genuine ability to love God, yourself and one another with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind.
We have to work at relationships, whether they are with God, our family or our neighbors or even ourselves.
We must listen deeply and we must be ever alert for the presence of the divine in our midst.
When we come face to face with God our response must be wonder and awe.
We can pray for the spirit of Elijah or the passion of Peter, but above all else we must remember the words that came from heaven: “this is my son, the beloved, listen to him.”
G.K. Chesterton is credited with saying “Christianity isn’t a failure; it just hasn’t been tried yet.’
Extending ourselves to meet the needs of another person can be an act of generosity, an expression of gratitude, appreciation, or affection, and when done in the right spirit can benefit the one serving as much as the one being served.
Serving, loving, then, becomes a thing, not that we have to do, but that we are blessed to do.
Living with Christ-like compassion for our neighbors enhances our own lives.
This week, I invite you to prayerfully discern your own personal strengths.
Spend some time thinking and praying about how you use those strengths.
Allow yourself to dream – imagine that you are on the mountaintop in the presence of Elijah and he asks you what he might do for you?
You’ll want to have an answer.
Let us pray.
Gracious and holy God of the mountaintops and God of the valleys, be with us this day as we labor to understand ourselves and one another.
Grant us the grace we pray to bring peace through understanding.
Open our hearts and our minds that we might learn to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Nourish our souls with your love that we might spread that love throughout the world.
Hear our prayers this morning for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For those who have never experienced your presence we pray that the Holy Spirit might find them and bring them into the light.
O God, we pray for our world, torn by adversity, hatred and greed.
We pray that your healing presence might calm the universe and bring us to a time of peace.
Hear now our silent prayers as we turn our hearts to you…Amen.