Light upon Light
2 Kings 2.1-12
2 Corinthians 4.3-6
I don’t often speak very personally, but I’m going to do it for the second week in a row. Don’t get too used to it though!
I want to tell you about my dad. Dad was born in 1931. His father was a Yorkshire tenant farmer, his mother was born in the west of Scotland. Dad’s father died of pneumonia; dad was three years old, and there was none of the antibiotic treatment we take for granted.
When it came time for dad to finish primary school, he was one of two students selected to go on to secondary education. It just wasn’t guaranteed in those days. But his mum prevented him from doing it, because she needed him to earn money for the family. He was the man. Times were tough; it was during the Second World War.
Dad was brought up a Methodist. He said to his minister that he’d like to be a methodist minister when he grew up. The minister told him to forget it; he hadn’t had enough education.
The unfairness of his situation caused dad to draft away from the church. Did he ever lose his faith? I don’t know—he never spoke about it. (But you wouldn’t expect him to, he was a Yorkshireman.)
Dad had mixed feelings about my practice of faith. He was wary of my getting over-involved in church things, but he was proud that I was choosing a moral way of life. And he was proud of my knowledge of the Bible.
Twenty one years ago last month, dad died of lung cancer. He was 59, and he’d been a lifelong smoker with a pretty heavy habit.
We spent what time we could talking together in those last few weeks. Time was limited; I was in Central Queensland, in Biloela, and I couldn’t get to Brisbane as much as I wanted.
To my surprise and to my puzzled delight, dad recovered his faith in his last weeks. He asked me to buy him a Bible, and a particular book of prayers. He read them and prayed them.
What I saw in my dad in that brief time astounded me then, and astounds me still. His body was wasting away, but he came to life. His eyes shone in a way they never had before. He was at peace with God again.
He was transfigured before my eyes. It wasn’t the vision that the disciples shared; his clothes didn’t shine ‘extra brite’, and neither did his face. But his eyes unmistakably shone.
When Jesus was transfigured, it was at a time that he had started telling the disciples that he would be put to death. They didn’t want to hear it. They wanted this wonderful man to go on to great things. And they wanted to go on to great things with him!
They saw a glimpse of his greatness that day. He was greater than their heroes Moses and Elijah. Elijah was a great prophet of Israel, and his time was drawing to an end. His successor Elishah had asked for a ‘double portion’ of Elijah’s spirit; he wanted to do even more than Elijah! Elishah may have received that double portion, but Jesus had even more than that. God’s Holy Spirit had come upon him in her fullness when he was baptised. Then God had spoken to him:
You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
On the mountain, the voice said so everyone could hear:
This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!
If Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, what do we receive from Jesus? We can’t receive a double portion of his Spirit, because his Spirit is the infinite Holy Spirit. But we can share his Holy Spirit. We can receive grace upon grace, hope upon hope, love upon love, peace upon peace, joy upon joy, light upon light.
And we receive all this in the midst of troubles and sorrows. We’re not spared them. I recall a Lenten home group in Biloela. People were sharing together about the troubles they had known, and the difficulties they had faced. It amazed me that as they did so, they were smiling and laughing and finding real support in one another. I said ‘If someone were to look at this group through the window, they’d think we were talking about happy things.’ God’s Spirit was transforming their spirits. As Paul says,
it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
God’s light, the light of the Spirit of Jesus, shines in our hearts. It shone in Jesus, it shone in my dad, it can shine in us. Whatever our circumstances, because we have the light of Jesus Christ within our eyes can shine, our faces can shine, our lives can shine, all to the glory of God. Amen.