Behind the Veil, Last Sunday after Epiphany (B) – February 11, 2018

Epiphany Sermon Episcopal

[RCL] 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Come, Holy Spirit, let us go up to the mountain. Open our ears to hear God’s voice in the clouds. Open our eyes to see God’s glory shine through the veil. Open our hearts to trust that God is always with us on the journey, so that when we come down from the mountain, we will not be afraid. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany, Transfiguration Sunday. The readings from Second Kings and the Gospel of Mark are just dazzling, two of the most beautiful stories in scripture: Elijah’s ascent to heaven and Jesus’ transfiguration. These are mystical, magical stories where heaven and earth meet in an extraordinary human being. These are stories of miracles and the eternal; at the same time, these stories are profoundly human, speaking of love, loss, grief, and transformation.

The Transfiguration describes a theophany, an experience of God’s ever-near eternal presence. Mark tells the story with a clear simplicity. Jesus goes to a mountain to pray, accompanied by his dear friends, the disciples Peter, James, and John. And there they see him transfigured, dazzling white, shining with the glory of God, and talking with the great prophets Moses and Elijah. The scene is reminiscent of Moses’ transfiguration in Exodus 34, when he came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the covenant, his face shining so brightly from his encounter with God that his people were afraid and he had to cover it with a veil. In each story, the mountain is a thin place, a bridge between heaven and earth.

The Transfiguration describes a mystical moment on the mountain, a visible manifestation of the union of human and divine in Jesus. Like Moses’ people, Jesus’ friends are terrified by what they have seen. Terrified—and in awe of that glimpse of God’s eternal glory, and Jesus’ unity with that Glory, and indeed the unity of all humankind forever and ever, world without end, in God and Jesus.

In the climax of the scene, Jesus is called by God, who confirms his identity as the Son of God. “This is my Son the Beloved; listen to him!” This experience is a turning point for Jesus as well as his disciples. Jesus, reminded of his unity with God, turns toward the inevitable end of his human story. The Transfiguration is a bridge between Jesus’ public ministry as a traveling teacher and healer in Galilee, and the road to his passion, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem. Transfiguration Sunday is a bridge from Epiphany, when we celebrate the miracles and works of Jesus’ life, to Lent, when we focus on Jesus’ journey to the cross.

The Transfiguration is a miracle, a revelation of Christ’s glory, a glimpse behind the veil between heaven and earth, a hint of the end-time. Miracles need to be experienced. Perhaps this is a clue to Jesus’ instruction to his friends to tell no one what they had seen. Miracles, like an experience of God, cannot be adequately described or explained.

The story of Elijah’s ascent to heaven is another such meeting of heaven and earth, an experience of God that is dazzling and miraculous. We know from the opening line of the passage that God is about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah knows where he is going; the company of prophets know where he is going; his student and protégé Elisha knows where he is going. In an echo of Jesus’ instruction to tell no one, Elisha insists: keep silent. He knows, but he is not ready. It is touching and profoundly human that Elisha will not leave his master. He stays with him as long as he can, accompanying him on the journey to eternal union with God. Elisha tries to hold on to all that his friend is to him: human mentor, divinely-inspired prophet and healer, holy man who is intimately connected with God. “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit,” he begs in his distress.

Embedded within these stories of transfiguration—these revelations of God’s glory—are stories of human grief. Elisha accompanies his beloved mentor as far as he can, until he can no longer see him, then tears his clothes in lamentation. Peter, James, and John too are reluctant to let go of the marvelous, concrete, human manifestation of God’s eternal light. They suggest that they might make dwellings for the prophets, keep them here with them. They do not want their beloved to leave them behind.

Today we’ve heard two stories of thresholds, moments of crossing over, journeying toward the threshold of life and death, the temporal and eternal, with a loved teacher. How like a scene from hospice care! Family and friends are gathered to hold vigil at the threshold of life and death, to accompany their loved one as far along the journey as they can. There may be a glimpse of the shining light toward which the traveler has already turned his or her face. “Please stay, I’ll build you a house,” you might plead. Or, simply, since you must go, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”

Both stories are encounters with the divine, encounters at the threshold. They are reminders that God walks with us on our journey to unity with the infinite, mystical, unknowable, and untellable. In the intimacy and heightened intensity of a bedside death vigil, as at the transfiguration or the ascent to heaven, may we be open to the moments when we can catch a glimpse, a fleeting experience, of God’s eternal glory. Feeling God’s presence in the transfigured faces at a hospice bedside, or as sunlight pours through the stained glass of a chapel window, transfiguring the face of Christ, the miracle and blessing of grief is the spiritual deepening that can result. May we live in hope and die in the certainty of unity with God and all the saints. In the stories of Jesus’ transfiguration and Elijah’s ascent to heaven, the dead are not lost nor the living left behind. Grief and suffering are transformed by the mystical knowledge that we shall be together in God’s love again, as we always have been and always shall be.

The closing words are from the collect of the day. Let us pray: O God, grant that we, beholding by faith the light of Christ’s countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Susan Butterworth, M.A., M.Div, is a writer, teacher, singer, and lay minister. She leads Song & Stillness: Taizé @ MIT, a weekly ecumenical service of contemplative Taizé prayer at the interfaith chapel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She sings with Threshold Singers, a group that sings at hospice bedside. She teaches writing and literature to college undergraduates, and writes essays and literary reference articles.

Download the sermon for the Last Sunday after Epiphany (B).

Our global Family, Last Sunday After Epiphany (B) – 2015

February 15, 2015

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Today, the Last Sunday After the Epiphany, the Episcopal Church celebrates World Mission Sunday. Today is a day when we are called to celebrate that we are a missionary church. Today is a day when where are all called, through our baptismal vows, to seek and serve Christ in all people and respect the dignity of every human being, to continue in the apostle teachings and to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

Today is a day when we remember that through our baptism we are reborn into the family of Christ as children of God.

In our gospel reading today, we are reminded of the divinity of Christ as the Son of God, and therefore, we are reminded of our relationship with God, as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. One reason why World Mission Sunday is important is that we are reminded that as children of God, we are part of a global family and mutually responsible for one another.

In 1963, 16,000 Anglicans from around the world gathered together for an Anglican Congress to discuss issues of mutual ministry, and to live into the belief that the Anglican Communion is one family, mutual interdependent on one another.

This congress struggled with issues of interdependence in an economically unequal world. The congress talked about moving away from the idea of giving and receiving, and instead focusing on equality, interdependence and mutual responsibility. The congress talked about needing to examine rigorously the senses in which we use the word “mission” in describing something we do for somebody else.

Perhaps one of the most revealing comments in the final document is: “Mission is not the kindness of the lucky to the unlucky; it is mutual, united obedience to the one God whose mission it is. The form of the Church must reflect that.”

If we truly believe that we are children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, then we have a most profound responsibility, not only to our family of birth but also to our brothers and sisters around the world.

We see glimpses of this connectedness, often in times of tragedy. On April 15, 2014, when Boko Haram kidnapped over 270 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, there was an outcry across the world, and we saw many people become a part of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, including First Lady Michelle Obama. The cry was, “Bring back our girls,” not “those” girls or “their” girls, but “our” girls.

More recently, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the global community again rallied together, announcing “Je suis Charlie” – “I am Charlie” – to show solidarity with the murdered staff of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

There are times in our collective consciousness when we know that we are all intimately connected, part of the same global community and children of God. Within the church, many people experience this during major feasts and seasons of the year, when we can feel the prayers of millions of people during Lent, or Easter or Christmas. The wonderful thing about being an Episcopalian and a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion is that we also know that we are connected by the Book of Common Prayer, in which, although it has been culturally adapted and written in many languages, our foundational prayers are the same and are said by over 80 million people around the world every Sunday.

How would it look if this sense of oneness, this sense of being part of a global family was something we felt on a more regular and intimate basis?

The Episcopal Church is a missionary church; our corporate name declares that, in that we are the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Our Baptismal Covenant declares that in what we say we believe, and how we say we will act.

The Episcopal Church continues to send out missionaries around the world, both young and young at heart. With the Young Adult Service Corps there is an opportunity for those between the ages of 21 and 30 years old to journey to another part of the Body of Christ and to see the Holy Spirit moving around the world. The Episcopal Church also offers opportunities for older adults to serve throughout the Anglican Communion.

While our parishes, dioceses and denomination send out missionaries around the world, we are all called to participate in this ministry. We are all called to pray alongside, to mutually support, to advocate for, to be with, to share stories with, to listen to, and to worship together with our sisters and brothers around the world.

As we were reminded in that 1963 congress, we do not “do mission to or for others.” Mission is not an activity in which someone is “sent” and “received,” mission is not the kindness of the lucky to the unlucky, of giving a little out of our excess. Mission is about being in a fully mutual and interdependent relationship, in which we recognize that we are blood of the same blood, flesh of the same flesh.

Where one person hurts, we all hurt. When one person is not able to live fully into their humanity because of a lack of human rights, then we are all in pain.

While we see glimpses of this connection at times of great joy and time of great sadness, our challenge is to see this connection every moment of every day. The challenge is to feel this connection to our sisters and brothers when we are engaged in our daily life, whether this is buying fair-trade coffee or lobbying for equal opportunities and better living conditions for those who work in factories around the world making the clothes we wear.

World Mission Sunday reminds us that we are all intimately connected to one another. The girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria are our sisters and daughters. The families who live in hunger in Sudan are part of our family. The children who are not able to go to school in West Africa because of Ebola are our children, just as much our flesh and blood as our families at home.

Our challenge, as it is every day of every week, is how do we live into this “Christian reality” of life? How do we live out our baptismal vows faithfully? How can we learn to be a global community as God has called us to live into?

On a practical level we can certainly become more informed:

  • We can listen to the world news and become educated about our brothers and sisters who are suffering.
  • We can learn about the work of the Episcopal Church’s missionaries through its website.
  • We can advocate for the poor and connect with the Episcopal Public Policy Network.
  • We can give through Episcopal Relief & Development.
  • We can pray for our brothers and sisters.
  • We can visit, share our stories and listen to the stories of others.

Lifting up placards and declaring our solidarity with one another at time of crises acknowledges our unity together and is important for us to do. We are also invited by God to lift up our hearts, our minds and our very being to connect with our global family.

Today is World Mission Sunday; we are invited to live into our baptismal vows and to engage concretely in mutual and interdependent relationships with our brothers and sisters around the world.

 

— The Rev. David Copley is the Episcopal Church’s officer for Mission Personnel. He was a missionary in Liberia and Bolivia and priest in the Diocese of Southern Virginia before accepting his current position.

As they were coming down the mountain, Last Sunday After the Epiphany / World Mission Sunday (B) – 2012

February 19, 2012

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Recall the last verse from our reading today in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark: “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

The mission of the church is both foreign and domestic. In the most obvious understanding of the phrase “foreign and domestic,” it means there are individuals within our own nation, even our own neighborhoods, who have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ; and there are individuals who live in places outside of those domestic boundaries to whom the mission of the church is extended. Thus the mission of the church is to the whole wide world.

It can also be seen in today’s gospel reading, the telling of the events on the mountain that we know as “the Transfiguration of Christ,” that from a different perspective, the foreign and domestic mission exists not only wherever the gospel has not yet been accepted, but within ourselves, we who are the church. We often are in need of preaching to ourselves.

But from either perspective, the calling, the display of brilliance, the overshadowing cloud, the voice of God, and even the command to wait to tell, all has to do with the power of God released for the sake of the mission to be successful. The power of God.

The beginning and the end of the mission of the church is meant to be conducted in the power of God.

That conclusion is found in today’s gospel reading, and pointed to in another verse from the ninth chapter of Mark that is not included in today’s reading. The first verse of Chapter 9: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Indeed the Kingdom of God has come with power. From the work of God in creation, through the prophets as we heard in the story of Elijah and Elisha, to the conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the miracles of Jesus retold in this season after the Epiphany, and now to this moment on the mountain.

This power of God is intended to be revealed to the world, both foreign and domestic, through Jesus in the preaching and proclamation of the church, the Body of Christ.

You see, as both Matthew and Mark record, it is not simply that Jesus “was transfigured,” but that “he was transfigured before them,” the three disciples. It is not simply a display of power; it is for the benefit of the witnesses, to remind them, and us, of the eternal name Emmanuel, “God-with-us.” If God is with us, then so is His power; and that is exactly as He intends.

Sometimes, though, is it not difficult to see the power in the church? We all have stories about how the church has faltered in its mission to the world, rather than portrayed the life-changing, transfiguring, transforming power of God. Blunders are not limited to Peter.

Take for example, the bloopers in church bulletins, which are often very funny, although sometimes they hit a little too close to home. A bulletin from a Methodist congregation read: “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.”

Another church bulletin, prompting the Prayers of the People, read: “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.”

Certainly, there will always be failures within the church, but if the beginning and end of the mission of the church, the Body of Christ, is meant to be conducted in the security of the power of God, then where in the gospel do we find our guidance for doing it properly?

In regard to that Mission, one major failure of the church has always been paying so much attention to ourselves that we neglect the mission of proclamation. It might be because we have decided we have to be polished as Christians before presenting ourselves to the world. But who will ever achieve perfection to prove their worth? Certainly not Peter, James, and John. Yet God worked through them mightily despite their imperfections.

On the other hand, we may be paying more attention to ourselves because – just like the rest of the world around us – we continue to be in great need of the healing Love of God. Placing ourselves into the gospel story, we desperately want to be the recipients of God’s call as His “sons and daughters” whom he loves. And yet there is only One about whom God is speaking at that moment. And through that Son, Jesus, is the love of God revealed to all of us. We can’t set aside Jesus.

We need to know what Mission is. Our guidance here in the Gospel of Mark will be found in Jesus’ instruction to the disciples. As they come down the mountain Jesus tells them they are not ready to tell about “what they had seen.” Looking for direction for mission, in that phrase, our eyes are turned back to what happened

What did they see? They saw the power of God revealed in and through Jesus Christ.

And what did they hear? They heard the voice of God saying about the Son of God, “Listen to him.”

Here, then, is the most basic definition of the mission of the church: pointing to Jesus and telling others that the Almighty God has proclaimed who he is, and to do what he says.

This is what a missionary is called to do, just as the three in our readings today were called to be apostles and called to be witnesses on the mountaintop. We pray for missionaries and for their sometimes perilous work in foreign or domestic lands, who also have also seen Jesus and have heard from God the Father. We pray that we all may understand our baptismal duty to point to Jesus and proclaim him as the only begotten Son of God, the Lord and Savior.

So now we come to the question again: If the beginning and end of the mission of the church is meant to be conducted through the power of God, then where in the gospel do we find our guidance?

Do you hear release for mission in the gospel reading? In fact, as we look again at verse 9, we hear restriction, not release: “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

The key word is “until.”

So we turn our search to those few chapters where we hear of the discussions, and learn of the appearances of the risen Jesus. And in our search we find in the first chapter of Acts that Jesus tells the disciples, once again, to wait. Wait for the promised Holy Spirit.

Jesus is very precise, too, in that first chapter of Acts, in the purpose of waiting, and the purpose of the coming Holy Spirit: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”

Right mission depends on power, and that power comes from the Holy Spirit.

At the Transfiguration they saw it. And they lived with it, in Jesus. And that power would be proclaimed, and lived. The mission of the church, from beginning to end, when done the way God wants it done, is accomplished through the power of God.

Lord God, empower our missionaries in the Holy Spirit as they go, and as they point to and proclaim Jesus. May each of us be open to the invitation to go ourselves. We pray that all of us may be empowered and living in the Holy Spirit that we will all live the mission no matter where we are, to the Glory of God and the building up of Your Kingdom. Amen.

 

— The Rev. Robert G. Eaton has been the rector of The Episcopal Church of St. John, Tulare, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, since 1989. 

 

We are called to listen, Last Sunday After the Epiphany / World Mission Sunday (B) – 2009

February 22, 2009

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

The transfiguration of Jesus is perhaps the definitive mountaintop experience. Here on the top of a mountain, Peter, James, and John are left with no doubts as to Jesus’ credentials. In this account from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is filled with the radiance of the presence of God with his “clothes becoming dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.”

Then we read of the presence of Elijah and Moses, further confirmation that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. And finally there is the voice of God booming through the clouds declaring, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”

Who could argue with the voice of God coming through a cloud?

In response to Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter wanted to preserve this Kodak moment for eternity; he wanted to capture this event by building three houses: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Just as Mary Magdalene wanted to hold onto Jesus after his resurrection and never let him go, Peter wanted to keep hold of this moment and preserve it forever.

But this is not how God wanted the disciples to respond, God asked the disciples to “listen” to Jesus, not to preserve him like an archive in a museum.

Peter, James, and John were not just invited into the mystery of the person of Jesus; they were also called to listen. The voice of God from the clouds declared, “This is my Son, the beloved, with him I am well pleased, LISTEN TO HIM!”

At this point, it is important to note that at the end of the previous chapter in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus called to the crowd and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Immediately following this invitation by Jesus to become active participants in his ministry, we have the account of the transfiguration, with God telling the disciples to “listen to him!”

These are the same words that we heard at Jesus’ baptism with the addition of the phrase, “listen to him.” The phrase “listen to him” in this case carries the Old Testament connotation of “obey” as well as to pay attention and to listen. Through our own Baptismal Covenant we not only accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we also say that we will “listen to him.” We say that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons and strive for justice and peace amongst all people.

We are all called to seek out the transfigured Christ in the world, and as we do so, we are called not just to wonder and delight in that presence, but we are also called to “listen” and to respond with a servant’s heart and in humility. We are called to listen when our brothers and sisters are suffering, when they are in need, when they are disenfranchised and subject to injustices.

We are called to listen not only as individuals but also as a community, as part of the body of Christ. As a community, we raise up individuals on our behalf to be in relationship with and to listen alongside our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world. We lift up these people we call missionaries as our ambassadors, our representatives to be in an active relationship with those who experience the transfigured Christ through different lenses.

As we celebrate World Mission Sunday today, we especially remember the missionaries of the Episcopal Church; those individuals who are called by God and our communities to leave their homes and to encounter God in other parts of the world, to be in relationship with and to listen to people from a culture and a land that is different from their own.

For many years we have named these people “missionaries,” but perhaps they can be more accurately described as pilgrims, as people who travel outside of their own communities to encounter, to listen to, and to relate to the transfigured God present within our sisters and brothers throughout the world.

You can read about them on the many blogs and Web sites through which they record their journeys, their joys and sorrows, their successes, and their challenges. The Episcopal Church has over 70 missionaries working in 35 countries around the world. Our missionaries are young adults serving as part of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) program, they are young families serving together, and they are older adults who desire to share their faith and their skills and to listen to our partners around the world.

You are invited to support the ministry and work of our missionaries, to learn more about what they are doing on our behalf, and to learn about the culture and faith of the people they are traveling alongside. You can support these missionaries through your prayers, through corresponding with them, and through your financial support of these representatives of the Episcopal Church as they relate with other parts of the Body of Christ in the world.

The transfiguration reminds us that Jesus is the Son of God, but more importantly, the transfiguration reminds us to listen to Jesus. We listen as we seek out and relate to the transfigured Christ in the world, both as individuals and as a community through our relationships with other parts of the Body of Christ.

 

— The Rev. David Copley is a seasoned missionary with experience in Africa and Latin America. He joined the Episcopal Church Center staff as Mission Personnel director in 2006. He is responsible for the recruitment and support of more than 70 persons serving as missionaries and Young Adult Service Corps members in approximately 30 countries worldwide.

Now is the time for us follow their lead, Last Sunday After the Epiphany / World Mission Sunday (B) – 2006

February 26, 2006

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

This last Sunday of Epiphany completes a cycle of readings in which we experience God’s engagement in the world in many forms. From the arrival of the magi to the call of Samuel, from the call of the disciples to the teachings in the synagogue, from the healing of the widow’s son to the raising of Peter’s mother-in-law, God is manifest in the here and now, calling God’s people to ever new participation in the world and with one another. Reading scripture texts in church on Sunday, it may seem as if God’s presence were self-evident, the answer to the call a simple yes. Yet reading closely, even with those faithful witnesses of long ago, we become aware of their struggle, of their indecision or miscalculation, of the transition time it takes to say yes to the call to move into God’s future – even when we expect we know the outcome.

Parents who have ever attended birthing classes know this only too well. They learn the stages of the birthing process. First, the birthing coach learns to assist the mother in dealing with what may be hours of labor, breathing in and blowing out in rhythm to ease the pain. There is the end stage of pushing when the new life emerges from the womb, often with a great sense of power and wonder. In between there is a middle stage in this process called Transition. And you can’t get from labor to birth without it. There are certainly medical and technical ways to describe this stage, but basically it is exactly what it says – transition – that brief time when the baby is still firmly within the womb, yet unmistakably ready to come out. Women who describe this stage – for which there is little coaching to be done – say this is the most difficult time of birth. Midwives often report jokingly that “transition” is the moment when women decide they really didn’t want to have a baby after all and would prefer to return to the way things were. There is the strong physical and mental desire to keep the baby safely in the place where it has been for nine months, yet the equally irresistible urge to push the baby out. Transition in the birth process is that scary time when two equally powerful forces meet: the desire to keep things as they are and the pull toward new birth that changes everything.

We don’t usually think of today’s scripture texts as part of a birth process. But that is indeed what they are: transitional moments for a faith journey calling God’s people into new being.

In the Old Testament story of Elijah and Elisha we hear the anguish of the prophets as the mantle of leadership is passed. We see the faithfulness of Elisha who would like to believe that his master is not leaving. Knowing that the journey from Bethel to the Jordan will eventually end in Elijah’s death, Elisha refuses to part from him – despite the warnings of the prophets. Elijah tries to leave his disciple behind, but Elisha insists on traveling faithfully from Bethel to Gilgal to Jericho and the Jordan River. He does not agree to take on leadership until Elijah promises the possibility of a double share of the spirit of God. And only when Elisha watches Elijah taken into the heaven does he picks up the mantle left by Elijah, assured that the spirit of God is his own as well. During that long journey both Elijah and Elisha were “in transition.” Even with God in charge and the sure knowledge of what was to come before them, the journey was neither easy nor self-evident. The desire for the old to remain, the hesitation of taking on the new role was not without question or angst. Yet the presence of God in the parting of the waters as Elisha watched Elijah’s departure gave the assurance of God’s blessing. It was time for the new to be born, for Elisha to take on prophetic leadership – even in fear and trembling.

The text from Mark’s gospel offers us yet another story of reluctant transition. Peter, James, and John on the mountain with Jesus experience a vision of Moses and Elijah. Immediately they want to hold onto this vision of Jesus and the prophets by building booths, a dwelling a place to remain on the mountain. Perhaps they yearned to keep hold of a way of life they knew well, ensuring the presence of Moses and Elijah along with Jesus. Perhaps they wanted to cling to a familiar way of being faithful. When suddenly the vision changes and Jesus is transfigured alone on the mountain, it is clear that some new thing is breaking into the horizon. The disciples are called to listen and see Jesus not only in the line of the prophets but also as the beloved son of God acting in the world in a new way.

In both these texts, the powerful voices of old are not denied or negated but passed on to new leaders, new work, and most especially to new ways of being in relationship with God. Elisha, even with a double dose of Elijah’s spirit, grieves the absence of his mentor and rends his garments. The disciples on the mountain with Jesus are terrified. Yet in both cases, they move on to say yes to God’s call to leadership among the people of God.

Today, we too are called to say yes to God’s call of leadership. Our church today may well be in a moment of transition. We might just as soon keep things as they are or have been, yet we know just as well that we are called to new places of faithfulness and to examine God’s call anew.

Designated as World Mission Sunday, today we are challenged to explore, engage, and discern God’s mission in our own churches and communities with regard to the reconciling mission of God in the world.

This year, you are invited to examine the role of leadership that Anglican women are playing in a world that increasingly needs all voices at the table in seeking to claim God’s promise of abundant life for all. Is it possible that God is calling women in our time to play a particular role of leadership using their particular skills? We live in a time of grave danger and war in our world and of controversy within the church. Is it possible that women, whether by nature or nurture, have the skills necessary to recall the family of God to the table of conversation and reconciliation? Is it possible that women whose work has often been to keep families at the table, have the gifts needed to engage those who disagree in a new dialogue that seeks a common faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ? Is it possible that women and men together might take the renewed mantle of God’s prophetic witness to move forward in the healing of a broken world?

The World Mission Sunday poster highlights Anglican women whose work as delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is responsive, relevant, and radical in their commitment to put their Gospel faith into action. Now is the time for us follow their lead; to move from transition’s desire to keep things the same and answer the irresistible call to say yes to what is coming to birth. What might it mean for each of us to respond not just to our own needs or those of our family, community or church, but to those around the world? What does it mean for our church to deepen its relevance to the needs of that whole world? And indeed, how might we bring the radical witness of the prophets and Jesus with us as we move into a church whose members build on the foundation of a strong past and move with passion into the future?

Anglican women from around the world invite all of us to join in this work, assured that God’s coming among us will continue to be made manifest in this season and well beyond. May we be given a double share of God’s spirit and the courage to take on the mantle as it is passed. AMEN

— The Rev. Margaret Rose is the executive for Women’s Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center. She lives with her family in New York City.