February 15, 2015
2 Kings 2:1-12
A question for us to ponder today:
If you were to write your memoirs today,
what moments would you include?
I was at a pastors’ meeting earlier this week
and one of my colleagues mentioned a parishioner of hers who has a new business –
the business is helping others write their memoirs.
What was also interesting to me is that she’s found that
the two groups of people who are most interested in writing their memoirs?
Pilots and pastors!
I’ve been pondering that ever since.
What inspires someone to write their memoirs?
My guess is that people who write memoirs
have had a number of transfiguring moments…transforming moments…
moments have been life-changing enough
that they want to share them with others.
Peter, James and John would have had plenty of material!
Who knows exactly what happened on that mountain?
I won’t try to explain a first- century miracle.
God’s spirit transformed Jesus.
I can’t explain it and don’t know exactly what happened,
yet I know that God’s spirit also transforms people today –
that I’ve seen.
Sometimes they write a memoir about it.
Sometimes we never hear about it.
In all likelihood, if it hadn’t been for her tragic kidnapping and death,
none of us would have ever heard
about a 26 year old from Arizona named Kayla Mueller.
God’s spirit transformed her …
and I really wish I could read her memoir to learn more of how it happened.
By the time she was kidnapped in Syria,
according to the Huffington Post,
“she (Mueller) had already spent five months
working with a humanitarian group in India
and had worked in Israel at a development center for African refugees.
In 2007, she was honored with the Presidential Volunteer Award
for her efforts with Youth Count, AmeriCorps, America’s Promise, Open Inn and Big Brothers Big Sisters, among other groups.”[i]
By the time she’d arrived in Syria to work with war refugees,
she had already been transfigured/transformed.
God’s spirit had been at work in her.
While in captivity she sent her father a letter saying,
“ Some people find God in church.
Some people find God in nature.
Some people find God in love;
I find God in suffering.
I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”
I’m guessing that’s not what most of us were saying when we were 26 years old
(I know it wasn’t what I was saying.)
Most of us do not have such clarity.
Most of us aren’t prepared to say what our life’s work will be in our 20’s.
(Which is why perhaps, most memoirs aren’t written in by people in their 20’s or 30’s.)
If I could speak with Kayla I’d want to know,
how did she know?
Did she have a transfiguring moment?
Was there an early morning hike up a mountain one day?
Did she have an experience of something spectacular,
a miracle which changed her life?
Was she like Elisha?
Did she find a person who inspired her, and learn to follow them?
Was there someone else who opened her to God’s spirit,
who allowed her to see things in a new way?
Another person who died this week
had some of those Elijah-like qualities.
He seemed to have a calling not only to coach basketball,
but to create transformational/transfiguring moments both for his players
and the sport as a whole.
When Dean Smith was coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels,
97% of his players graduated.
They had no NCAA violations.
Coach Smith kept contact with his players after they graduated –
and not just the ones who made it into the NBA.
Coach Smith did live long enough to write his memoirs,
and in the book A Coach’s Life,
one whole chapter is devoted to his faith
and how it motivated him to become involved not just in basketball,
but in social issues.
Coach Smith recruited Charlie Scott,
one of the first black players in the south.
He spoke out against nuclear weapons,
and publicly opposed the death penalty.
In his book, Smith writes about how too often,
faith is portrayed negatively and says,
“Such Christianity has given Jesus a bad name … I may be wrong, but I think the primary focus of the Christian faith is love.” [ii]
With Kayla Mueller we witnessed a transformed life in action.
With Dean Smith we saw someone who helped create transforming moments for others.
What are we to do with the others who died this week…
what about the three young people who were killed in Chapel Hill?
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21,
and Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 were killed this week.
Perhaps it was over a parking space.
Perhaps it was a result of religious hatred.
Yusor came to a StoryCorps booth in Durham, North Carolina last year
where she talked with a former elementary school teacher
about life as a Muslim in the United States.
At one point Yusor says, “…the beautiful thing here (in America)
is that it doesn’t matter where you come from;
there’s so many different people from so many different places,
of different backgrounds and religions but here we’re all one.[iii]
Yusor had such hope.
She had a vision of a world which has been transfigured.
Who knows what really happened on that mountain long ago…?
God’s spirit transformed Jesus.
God’s spirit is still transforming people today.
This week we saw that there are transformed people:
One said, “I find God in suffering.”
There are transforming people:
One said, “ I may be wrong, but I think the primary focus of the Christian faith is love.”
And there are people who point to the transformation yet to come:
One said, “ Here we’re all one.”
What will be in your memoir?