Unexpected Company (14 Feb 2021)

14 Feb 2021 by Rev Paul Bartlett (service), (Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash) in: Worship Services: 2021


In the beginning, God created life in all its abundance.

In their Dreaming, Aboriginal people sought to understand God’s handiwork.

We acknowledge this land of the Dharawal people on which we gather

and we honour their elders past, present and emerging.



Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. You Lord walk with me.

Life is stronger than death, love is stronger than hatred.

Praise be to Christ Jesus the light of the world. Amen



Come and find God at the top of the mountain, in moments of glory and wonder, in places of mystery and revelation. Come and find God in our daily living, in times of ordinariness and around our kitchen tables. God is made known to us, revealed to us, on mountain tops and on the plain where God’s people live. There we will also find God. Let us open our eyes to God’s presence.

In your presence Creator God, we find life.

In your presence Jesus, we centre ourselves for worship.
In your presence Holy Spirit, we centre ourselves for service. Amen


HYMN TIS 188 ‘Where wide sky rolls down’



Where wide sky rolls down and touches red sand,
where sun turns to gold the grass of the land,
let spinifex, mulga and waterhole tell
their joy in the One who made everything well.


Where rain-forest calm meets reef, tide and storm,
where green things grow lush and oceans are warm,
let every sea-creature and tropical bird
exult in the light of the life-giving Word.


Where red gum and creek cross hillside and plain,
where cool tree-ferns rise to welcome the rain,
let bushland, farm, mountain-top, all of their days
delight in the Spirit who formed them for praise.


Now, people of faith, come gather around
with songs to be shared, for blessings abound!
Australians, whatever your culture or race, 
come, lift up your hearts to the Giver of grace. 




2 Kings 2:1 - 12 (NRSV)                    

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.” Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!


Mark 9:2 - 9 (NRSV)                          

Six days later, (after Jesus told the disciples about what lies in store for him and for those who follow him) Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!


O God, We open our eyes and we see Jesus, the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light
the light of the world, your light. May your light shine upon us.


We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah, your word restoring us, showing us the way
telling a story, your story, his story, our story. May your word speak to us.


We open our eyes and we see mist, the cloud of your presence
which assures us of all we do not know and that we do not need to fear that. Teach us to trust.


We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions, his best plans, our best plans
our missing the point, our missing the way. Forgive our foolishness and sin.


We open our eyes and we see Jesus, not casting us off
but leading us down, leading us out - to ministry, to people. Your love endures forever.


We open our ears and we hear your voice,

‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’
In Him we bring our confession. In Him we give our thanks. Amen              William Loader © 2001




“Unexpected Company”


For many years today’s famous 2Kings passage which ends with the prophet Elijah being taken up in a chariot of fire has been linked to Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent. Why is that?


In part, because Elijah is THE prophet above all other prophets from which to receive, in the context of our day, THE ‘Facebook like’ given what the disciples see as his mountain top chat with Jesus.

How did Peter, James and John know it was Elijah? We are not told. Such questions are not the writer’s purpose and focus. All that matters is that Elijah is there with Jesus.

What exalted and unexpected company. Surely Jesus of Nazareth is a very important person.

Whose company do you keep?


The other reason is that in the Old Testament, only two of its great leaders either don’t die or there is no record of their burial location. Elijah is one of them, because the “chariots of Israel and its horsemen” carried him away from Elisha’s sight. And so with a wink and a nod to what is yet to be for Jesus, this dramatic story of Elijah’s ascent into the heavens underscores Jesus’ own resurrection which he had spoken obliquely about, along with his suffering and death, to the disciples in the passage immediately before today’s Gospel reading. It’s best to read the two passages together.


The other great Old Testament figure is Moses, who is equated with the Law, the laws of Moses given by God in the Sinai. The Scriptures say Moses died in Moab on the eastern side of the Jordan without entering the Promised land but ‘only God knows where he is buried’ (Deut 34:6) so there is some mystery involved. He too, by his presence on that mountain top gives THE ‘Facebook like’ to Jesus.

No greater or more significant figures representing the “Law and the Prophets” could be with Jesus on the mountain. It is almost, but only almost, an anti-climax that at the end of the Gospel reading that God also gives what is obviously THE ULTIMATE Facebook like with the words:

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And God isn’t directing this statement to Elijah or Moses but to these three key disciples of Jesus – Simon Peter, James and John!


God’s declaration answers Peter’s dramatic declaration, in Mark Ch 8 vs 29 where he says in response to Jesus’ question at Caesarea Philippi “but who do you say that I am?” “You are the Messiah” but Peter then berates Jesus for talking about being handed over, of suffering, of rejection and death.


This isn’t the first foolish thing Peter has said. Blown away by Jesus, Moses and Elijah being all together he wants to build three shelters for them. And while Peter has been lampooned for having put his foot in it with this statement, he most likely just wanted to build something permanent so this encounter,  Jesus’ transfigured transformation, could last a little longer and live on in a tangible way.

We’re all guilty of never wanting to leave that special moment (or we keep referring to it) or the place where it occurred. For we are always a pilgrim people, always on a journey towards a promised future


So this story about God, Elijah and Moses, says to the disciples, this is the company I, Jesus keep, this is who I AM, they are why I am here.  Don’t go keeping the company of or listening to those who think I may be John the Baptist, one of the Prophets, a military Messiah or that I’m just a carpenter turned Rabbi or Teacher, from Nazareth; nor by what you think my life will or should be.


One of the reasons our Lord gives us the Scriptures, the community of faith, the Church, the gathered people of God, prayer & Sunday worship is so that we don’t primarily keep the company of those whose thoughts and good ideas may lead us away from Christ and his very particular journey and life transforming call.  We all need the love, devotion, commitment and company of an Elisha who followed Elijah’s every footsteps and was transformed in God’s service as a result.

We all need to be part of a community of believers who look to Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith. It is so tempting to view discipleship through the lens of what the world values or what our individual life experience may suggest. We all need those mountain top experiences that sustain us for daily life on the plain, those insights that help us grow in the faith and help us lose the temptation to make ourselves in our own image, not in God’s image. We need to share them with each other.


During the past 12 months I’ve discovered the company you keep. I’ve seen firsthand your interest in and care for each other. Since Sandra’s sudden death, I have seen just how important it has been to grieve and love as part of this Engadine community of faith. You are an inspiration and an encouragement. In your own way, you have perhaps unknowingly, or instinctively, gathered together so none of you lose their way or is overwhelmed by their grief. Not every community of faith does this. This company you keep is precious. Thanks be to God! Amen



HYMN TIS 765 ‘Shine Jesus shine’



Lord, the light of your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness, shining
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us
Set us free by the truth you now bring us

Chorus: Shine on me, shine on me

Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord, and let there be light


Lord, I come to your awesome presence
From the shadows into your radiance
By the blood I may enter your brightness
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness
Shine on me, shine on me




As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story
Shine on me, shine on me.




HYMN TIS 398Come down, O Love divine



Come down, O Love divine!
seek out this soul of mine
and visit it with your own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.


There let it freely burn
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let your glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and make my pathway clear, by your illuming.


Let holy charity
my outward vesture be,
and lowliness become my inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart
which takes the humbler part,
and for its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.


And so the yearning strong
with which the soul will long
shall far surpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace
till we become the place
in which the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.