Reflective pondering

Here is this week’s reflection from our Superintendent Minister, Rev Janet Park. Thank you, Janet.

2 Kings 2:1-12

‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ (2 Kings 2:2)

These words are repeated three times during the Old Testament passage today: each time by Elisha reassuring Elijah of his company during the final phase of his life on this earth. A couple of weeks ago, Rev Bev spoke about the care God demonstrated to Elijah, as he faced his own personal ‘burn-out’ situation, witnessing the power of God bringing a lengthy drought to an end.

Now we hear stubborn determination from Elisha, expressing his care, in response to repeated requests to stay behind and allow the elderly prophet to go on ahead and be received into the hands of God. As a result of this conversation, Elijah continued to journey onward, with Elisha at his side, visiting Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the Jordan River for one last time – it seems they are reviewing the past together, through these important places in Hebrew history. Remembering together how God had guided His people through the Exodus to the promised land:

Gilgal – the place of new beginnings, where the people had first camped after crossing the Jordan river.

Bethel – the place where Abraham and Jacob had worshipped, yet currently a place desecrated with a golden calf becoming its’ idol for worship. Elijah was able to look beyond, and recall a time when it was a place of blessing and revival.

Jericho – the place where Joshua experienced his first victory in the promised land, reinforcing the understanding of receiving and responding obediently to God’s direction, the glory is given to God, becoming a victory of faith.

I wonder, where are the places you recall? Where is it that you have travelled from? Which places hold special significance for you? Places of homes and holidays, study and jobs, encounters of love and loss, of life and faith. Places of new beginnings, of faithful worship in years gone by, of blessing, birth and revival, of victories of faith where all the glory is given to God. During the past year we have had much time to recall and reflect, appreciate and give thanks: holding special moments close, as a comfort blanket, in the strange and anxious times we have been living through.

Together, these moments anchor us in history, both personal and corporate: learning lessons of faith and love that enable us to continue our journey together. And it becomes possible for these tangible memories to actually strengthen our faith to take the next step.

WH Auden wrote: ‘Man is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind.’ As we look back and review the past, we are actually preparing for the future – for transformation as we journey into Lent during the week ahead. Although Elijah ascended and disappeared from view, he was seen again, many years later, on the mountain-top with Jesus and Moses: during the transfiguration. You know the account, the encounter – dazzling white on a mountain-top, where (as Trevor Dennis describes it wonderfully) Jesus’ companions ‘walked straight into God and recognised him for the first time. He made the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.’

Are we ready for our transforming journey in 2021? What will you do, reflect, pray in these coming days- are you ready to take the risk that faith presents?

‘The Art of Lent’ by Sister Wendy Beckett, offers a painting a day from Ash Wednesday to Easter. This picture, ‘The Great Wave’ by Hokusai, begins the series on Wednesday. The image is created by a woodblock print, completed around 1830 by the Japanese artist Hokusai. The first time I looked, all I saw was waves on the sea, shades of blue and cream spray, captured in a snap shot of energy. Yet as I looked, the boats and people came into focus- with this enormous wave threatening the boats off the coast, overlooked by Mount Fuji.

You can find the picture here.

Sister Wendy writes: ‘We cannot control our life. The great wave is in waiting for any boat. It is unpredictable, as uncontrollable now as it was at the dawn of time. Will  the slender boats survive or will they be overwhelmed? The risk is a human constant: it has to be accepted and laid aside. What we can do, we do. Beyond that, we endure, our endurance framed by a sense of what matters and what does not.’

Hear the words of Elisha, remember the care God demonstrated to Elijah, watch the transfiguration in your mind’s eye, stand alongside Peter, James and John: be present with God as we travel towards Easter together.

‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ (2 Kings 2:2)

A Personal Prayer

God of the mountain-top and of the valley,
when the mountain is steep and I am tired,
bless me with your strength.
When the mountain is misty and I am afraid,
bless me with your peace.
When the mountain is covered in the snow of uncertainty,
bless me with your courage.
When the mountain is beautiful,
bless me with gratitude
and a sense of wonder that you are with me always.
Amen.

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