Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister




Soul Surviving: Riding Chariots of Fire

Transfiguration Sunday Meditation

Sunday, February 6, 2005



II Kings 2:  6-12


Matthew 17: 1-8



Rev. Dean Snyder

Dean Snyder, Senior Minister, is a preacher, writer and activist who coordinates a talented ministerial and lay staff. He has previously served congregations in Philadelphia as well as a director of communications, editor, specialist in congregational development and new church starts, campus minister and college instructor. A graduate of Boston University School of Theology and Albright College, his articles have appeared in dozens of publications.



Much of life is prosaic. We eat; we work; we play; we relate to one another as best we can; we love; we hate; we pray; we sleep.


I was watching a show on TV this week ... the host was interviewing a man who was billed as the trainer to the stars. He talked about getting the stars to eat and drink properly and when he talked about eating and drinking, he called them “fueling” and “hydrating.” Even those whose lives we suppose to be the most glamorous are prosaic enough ... commonplace, matter-of-fact, like prose rather than poetry, according to the dictionary definition.


We eat; we work; we play; we relate as best we can; we pray; we sleep; we feel happy; we feel sad; we are healthy; we get sick; eventually, we all die. Much of life is prosaic. 


Most of us are prosaic. We are mostly ordinary people. We, each and every one of us, have our struggles, no matter how successfully we manage to hide them from one another. We have our strengths and our weaknesses, our angels and our demons, our hopes and fears. Beneath the surface, I think we would be amazed at how alike we are if we could only really see each other.


This is what is quite amazing about the legend of the prophet Elijah in the books of First and Second Kings in the Bible ... how amazingly prosaic so much of his life is, more like prose than poetry, and how ordinary a person he is, as he struggles with discouragement and self-isolation and loneliness. As is so often the case in the Bible, Elijah is no plaster saint, no superhero, no star. He gets depressed; he forgets to eat or eats too much; he becomes enraged; he loves; he hurts; he grieves; he mostly wants to be left alone.


Yet the point of the story is that God works through this prosaic life, and what looks to all the world to be prose is really poetry. What looks to all the world like Elijah dying is really Elijah carried to heaven in a whirlwind surrounded by chariots of fire and horses of fire.


Even Jesus’ life, when you look at it day by day, is quite prosaic. He eats; he works; he plays; he relates as best he can; he prays; he sleeps. He is misunderstood again and again by those closest to him, his family, his friends. He is understood all too well by those threatened by him. He knows joy but is often sad, often angry, often disappointed. He dies like every man and woman dies.


Yet, the point of the gospels is that in the midst of this prosaic life, what looks to all the world like prose is really poetry ... resurrection.


And what is it that we believe about our prosaic and ordinary, day-by-day lives ... you and me?


Mostly, we get by, day by day. We occasionally taste joy; mostly we wrestle with disappointment and anger and discouragement and fear.


But the biblical story insists on looking at life differently. Where we see prose, the Bible sees poetry.


And here is the gist of the poem:


  1. That in even the most ordinary act of honesty, truthfulness and courage, God works a miracle that ends war and repairs injustice and heals poverty and disease. In every seemingly ordinary act of compassion, galaxies are transformed. Every decision to come out of our caves and do what we know God has made and called us to do saves generations to come; no matter if it looks to all the world like we are losing the battle.


  1. That a meaningfulness transcends the randomness of our lives. A deeper purpose runs through the scattered and inconsistent efforts of disconnected men and women to live honest, truthful and courageous lives. Something connects Moses and Elijah and Jesus and all the disciples who have lived and who are yet to live in a meaningful, redemptive pulse beating beneath the fluctuations, thrills and horrors of time. A poetic meaningfulness transcends the prosaic randomness of our lives.


  1. That death, and all that looks to the world like death – weakness and disappointment and defeat and sickness – death is a chariot ride. And that we visit earth again to be there in every act of honesty, truthfulness and courage.


Our prosaic lives have eternal meaning. We are connected in time: Moses, Elijah, Jesus and you and me. Every struggle for honesty, truthfulness and courage is the same struggle throughout time and eternity.