‘The Divine in the Ordinary’
2 Kings 2:1-14
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Once upon a time, there was a man who was trapped inside of his house when a flood came to engulf his town. This man was a devout Christian, so he prayed to God, asking God to rescue him. Not long after he prayed, his neighbour came with a dinghy, asking the man to jump into it and go to a safe place. The man refused the offer. He told his neighbour that he was waiting for God to come and rescue him.
The water rose quickly and filled up the ground floor of his house, so he had to move to the first floor. He prayed again and not long after, a rescue worker came with a boat and offered to take the man to a safe place. The man refused the offer once again, saying that he was waiting for God to come and rescue him.
Finally, the house was almost completely submerged under the water, and the man had to stand on the roof. He prayed again, urging God to rescue him immediately.
Not long after, a helicopter came and offered the man to be lifted up to safety. He refused.
Not long after, he was drowned and died.
In heaven (yes, that’s where he went), he goes to the chamber where God is. Furiously, he demands that God gives full explanation as to why God didn’t come to his rescue even though he was a devout Christian and he had prayed three times for help. A bit perplexed, God says to the man, “But I did send three people to rescue you: your neighbour, the rescue worker, and the helicopter crew. What else do you expect me to do?”
Friends, of course, this story is not a true story, but it reminds us of our own tendency to ignore the signs that God has given in our life. Are we not also often too occupied with so many things that we fail to be aware and appreciate things that reveal God’s beauty and majesty and presence in our midst?
Well, we are not alone. Jesus’ disciples, namely Peter, James, and John, had a similar problem.
Today’s story from Mark’s Gospel was supposed to be the disciples’ “Aha!” moment; their “Eureka!” moment. So far, they knew that there was something special about this man Jesus, but they just couldn’t really put their finger on his true identity. Well, on top of that mountain, they were given the rare opportunity to truly understand who Jesus truly was. The secret identity was finally revealed. Jesus’ identity was laid bare.
Jesus’ cloth became dazzling white. No one on earth would be able to bleach such cloth, so this must have be a divine appearance. And if they still didn’t understand the significance of Jesus’ transfigured cloth, the appearance of the two greatest prophets in Israel should.
But surprisingly, Peter, James, and John still didn’t understand what was going on. And Peter made, perhaps, one of the dumbest remarks he was prone to make: he wanted to make tents for the three of them. Well, he was terrified and didn’t really know what to say.
That was why the third layer of the revelation was revealed. A voice came from within the cloud and said, “This is my Son the Beloved; listen to him! (Mark 9:6 - NRSV).” Indeed, this was the reenactment of what happened in Mt. Sinai when God appeared to the people of Israel from within the cloud that covered the mountain (Exodus 19). Jews like Peter, James, and John should be familiar with this event in Sinai.
But did they finally get it? I doubt it. In the final verse, we are told that they were still questioning about the meaning of Jesus rising from the dead. In other words, they still didn’t have a clue on what just had happened. They sat on the first rows and saw everything up close, but they still failed to understand.
I don’t blame them. Our mind is often distracted by so many other things in life that we often fail to pay enough attention to what’s going on around us.
Last week, someone tried to give me direction to get to a certain place. As the starting point, she pointed me to the power station in the intersection of two roads that I know very well. The problem is that I have passed that intersection thousands of times in the past four years, but I never realised that there was a power station there! I guess my mind was often so focused on the road, or wandered to many other things, that I failed to pay enough attention to my surrounding.
Life can become a bit like that. Our mind is often occupied with things that demand our attention that we fail to appreciate things in our life that reflect the beauty and majesty of God.
But one thing that we can learn from our story in Mark is that God wants to reveal God-self to us, just like God revealed who Jesus was to Peter, James, and John. God is not silent or dead, like many modern philosophers would want us to believe. God still gives us signs to show to us that the world belongs to God and God still cares about us.
No, God is not hiding. On the contrary, as Paul asserted in part of his letter to the Corinthians that we read today, God said, “Let light shine out of darkness (2 Cor. 4: 6 - NRSV).” Indeed, Paul believed that his mission was to proclaim Christ to those who didn’t know him. Yet, he said that people often failed to see the glory of Christ because their minds were often blinded by the ‘god’ of the world.
So the problem is not that God is hiding from us; the problem is that we are often distracted by many things that we fail to see God in our life.
Indeed, friends, to become aware of God’s presence in our life is not always an easy task. Even Elisha had to work hard to dismiss all the comments that tried to dissuade him from reaching his spiritual goal. But we can learn from his persistence, and the reward that he received because of his persistence.
In our story from the second book of the Kings today, the news about Elijah’s imminent departure was known not only by his servant, Elisha, but also by the community of prophets. But Elijah had not passed over his ‘mantle’ onto Elisha yet. In other words, Elijah had not named Elisha as his successor.
So when the other prophets told Elisha, again and again, that he was about to be left behind by Elijah, Elisha was quite annoyed. It may even have been the case they intended to tease Elisha who was about to be left by Elijah without receiving his spiritual authority.
What was even more surprising was that even Elijah himself seemed trying to dissuade Elisha from following him. Elijah moved from Gilgal to Bethel, and then from Bethel to Jericho, only to go back to Jordan, which was only a few metres away from Gilgal. In other words, Elijah was going in a circle. Perhaps, he was only trying to see whether or not Elisha would be persistent enough to follow him. Perhaps, he was only trying to test Elisha’s determination to be his spiritual successor.
Elisha passed the test. He pursued his spiritual goal with determination, and he was rewarded at the end of the journey.
If you’re like me, you probably know nothing much about the American Football. One thing that I know, though, that every year, they have this ‘mega’ grand final they call the Super Bowl. The attraction of the Super Bowl is not only the game itself, but also the entertainment during the time breaks. One of the entertainments was the various advertisements that they show.
One advertisement caught many people’s attention this year. It was an advertisement for Duracell that told the story of Derrick Coleman, a forward player who played for the Seattle Sea Hawk in this year’s Super Bowl. Derrick was like all the other talented players who had the privilege to play in the Super Bowl. But he has one disadvantage: he is legally deaf.
The advertisement tells the struggles that Derrick had to go through to be one of the top players who played in the Super Bowl. Since he was a kid, people said that nothing could be done to help him and that he was a lost cause. Others kids were afraid to play football with him and he was teased at school. He was picked on and picked last. Coaches didn’t know how to talk to him and give up on him. They told him that he should quit. Once, his name wasn’t called to the National Football League and people told him that it was all over.
But Derrick said that he had been deaf since he was three, so he didn’t listen to his critics. He defied all their negative expectations and reached the Super Bowl. There, when his fans loudly cheering him on, he said he could hear all of them.
Perhaps, like Derrick and Elisha, we need to stop listening to many things in life so that we can listen to the still small voice of God. Perhaps, we need to clean up our hearts and minds every day so that we can have a space for God there. Perhaps, we need to stop busying ourselves with things that are not necessary for our or others’ well-being, so that we can be aware and enjoy the beauty and majesty of God’s presence in our life.
Friends, God wants to be known. God wants us to come close. But often, we are the ones who move away from God; we are the ones who ignore God’s beauty and majesty reflected in many parts of our life. But just like the letter to James (4:3) would like to remind us: if we draw close to God, God will draw close to us.
 Davidson, Steed, Commentary on 2 Kings 2:1-12, on http://www.workingpreacher.org (February 19 2012)