Down in the Valley

A reading for Friday, April 4, 2014: Mark 9:2-13.

Most of us have had a "mountaintop experience" of faith at some point. There has been a time when we experienced the power and the presence of God in a profound way and have come away from that moment changed. Maybe it was a worship service, a week at camp, a conference or meeting, a mission trip, or perhaps it was just a moment in your life when you felt that God was real and with you in some significant way. That's what happens to the disciples in our lesson today.

The challenge of such an experience is coming back down the mountain and living in the valley again. How will we live in the ordinary again now that we have been with God in a profound and life changing way?

In Judaic culture there has always been the idea of waiting for Elijah to return. At the Passover seder meal, a cup and a place setting for Elijah is always set in preparation for his return. Elijah's name is uttered every week at the completion of Sabbath. It is believed that Elijah is present with rabbis offering them wisdom in solving difficult theological issues. Lastly, at the circumcision ceremony a chair is set for Elijah believing that the ancient prophet is present as a witness to the covenant established with God through the practice.

For Christians, Elijah represents the last step on the way to fulfilling the coming of the Messiah. Jesus tells us that John the Baptist was the return of Elijah. In fact, the reason many rejected Jesus as the Messiah was their unbelief in John in that role. Elijah points to Jesus' return as a fundamental sign of salvation, but can also represent much more to us.

Elijah is also a sign of the presence of God in the everyday and the ordinary of life. God is present with us in the valley too. When we gather for a meal, God is present. Each time we rest for sabbath, God is there to renew our lives. God is present in our teaching and our learning about faith. Finally, God is present in each of those special moments of faith reminding us of the covenant we share. The name Elijah means, "My God is Yahweh," and what he represents to us is the everyday, "ordinary" presence of God in our lives.

Mountaintop experiences are crucial to our lives of faith, but just as important is knowing and experiencing God in the everyday. How do we live in the valley? With God through the blessings of our covenant of faith. Thanks be to God.


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