Our readings from Malachi and Mark today both make mention again of the prophet Elijah:
- Malachi, in preparing the people for the Day of Judgement in which all evil will be destroyed while the faithful enjoy the warm sunshine of God’s deliverance, refers to a powerful prophet (Elijah) who will come to call future generations to love and respect one another in accordance with the laws and decrees given to the nation of Israel by Moses so many years ago;
- while Jesus, in coming down the mountain from a miraculous moment of affirmation and transfiguration, explains to his bewildered disciples that John the Baptist had already done Elijah’s job of heralding the Messiah … and suffered for it –
“But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him,” (Mark 9:13).
… on the one hand, a powerful prophet who defied kings and foreign gods, who walked closely with God, and who was taken up into heaven …
… on the other hand, a man always on the run, reliant on God’s divine provision for water and for food in a prolonged time of scarcity and struggle; discouraged, exhausted, wanting to die ….
John the Baptist: the messenger who would prepare the way for the Lord in the spirit and the strength of Elijah (Luke 1:17), promised to be a blessing to his parents and a source of joy to many; arrested, imprisoned, beheaded for speaking truth and holding on to what was right (Matthew 14:10) ….
There are definite benefits to having our names recorded on Malachi’s scroll of remembrance as one of God’s faithful followers:
eternal life with God,
victory over sin and death,
God’s protection and provision,
the Holy Spirit as our constant companion,
true and lasting transformation – from the inside out,
a sense of purpose and significance etc.
But the choice of a Christian life and a lasting legacy is not without cost!
Just ask the bearers of the good news like Elijah and John, or the martyrs of the early church; or reflect for a moment on the piercing question that Jesus asks,
“Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?” Mark 9:12
To share in the exaltation of Christ is to share in his suffering;
to share in his resurrection is to willingly enter into the place of death and emerge as a new creation;
to share in his message of all-embracing love is to open ourselves up to the probability of mockery, rejection, and persecution.
Today’s response is based on a poem by Herbert Brokering and Scott Noon about a people who were longing to be new and in tune with their souls so, at least once a year, they would lie down on the ground, curled up and small, and picture themselves returning to the centre of all that is God’s.
As we enter the song of the Spirit, we are challenged to do so knowing that the life we will lead will not always be an easy one; that we are, in fact, opening ourselves up to the possibility of brokenness and pain, as Christ did for our sake.
Today, I invite you to curl up on the floor in a little ball, to lie quite still, and then – as you offer to God your worries, your objections, your doubts, your questions, your surrender, your prayers for protection and guidance – to allow God to “unfurl” you into the promise and power of rebirth, of new life.