I serve on the leadership team of the Alabama Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation, a program of The Upper Room. As the worship leader, I plan and lead the fourteen services during each week of our quarterly retreats.
The Academy takes its inspiration from this story in Second Kings. The logo for the Academy illustrates verses 13-14 when Elisha receives Elijah’s mantle, illustrating the way in which the Academy experience is transformative. At the end of the two years together—just as Elisha took on the mantle of Elijah—we take on Christ’s mantle and are sent forth to bear witness to the work of God in the world.
The pattern of our weeks together transforms us from disparate individuals into a community of grace. The format (based on Benedictine monasticism) brings us together for morning prayer, afternoon Eucharist, and night prayer. We move through the day following a rhythm of learning from teachers and silence for listening and reflection. At the close of night prayer, we walk out into the great silence which is broken at the start of morning prayer the following morning. This participation in a common rhythm is the “container” that forms and binds the community together as we hunger, learn, and struggle with what it means to be followers of Christ in this broken world.
Early in the Academy experience, we carry assumptions, fears, hurts, and suspicions. Everything is unfamiliar—the schedule, the services, the people. When we come back the second time, we begin to settle in to the rhythm of the week. By the third gathering, we have begun to long for the community in the days before our journey. We sink right in to the rhythm, rejoicing in one another, singing the songs with open hearts, even sitting in the same place for prayers. We are transformed from a group of separate individuals into a community, woven together in love.
Where are the places or communities that feed your soul? Say a prayer of thanks for them.
In the week leading to Transfiguration Sunday, the texts all deal with holy, transforming light; but they also speak to the awkwardness of waiting for and finally experiencing that light. Elisha’s is a stop-and-go pilgrimage before he sees the chariots of fire. The psalmist proclaims the march of the sun across the sky while also waiting for the eschatological arrival of God’s justice for God’s people. Paul empathizes with the believers in Corinth who are having to wait and work to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a mountain where they wait and are terrified by the cloud of glory that overshadows them.
Read 2 Kings 2:1-12. Think of a time when you waited for a blessing from God. How did the waiting feel? How did you experience the blessing when it came?
Read Psalm 50:1-6. What helps you to be aware of God’s presence with you from “the rising of the sun to its setting” each day?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. What are the areas of your life where God is shining a light? Are there any areas where you may be blind to the light?
Read Mark 9:2-9. Identify a spiritual “mountaintop experience” you have had. What was the lasting impact of that experience on your life as a follower of Christ?
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