Dimensional Rifts and You*
February 14, 2021
by Pastor John Partridge
2 Kings 2:1-12 Mark 9:2-9 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
If you are a fan of Star Trek, science fiction, comic books, the Marvel moviemaking universe, or physics, you have almost certainly heard of dimensional rifts. For those of you who have not, the basic idea is that other universes exist, within the same space as our own, but slightly out of phase with ours in some way, or more to the point, in a slightly different dimension than our own. In comic books this is used to explain how Captain Marvel and Superman can both exist on a planet known as Earth but have never met one another or how Doctor Strange can magically travel from one place to another. In Star Trek, it provides an opportunity for the heroes to encounter strange new aliens, or the basis of cloaking technology, or for the famous episode in which a good Captain Kirk fights with an evil Captain Kirk as well as how we remember Mr. Spock with a goatee. In all these cases, a dimensional rift is place where, by accident or design, two different worlds that are ordinarily separated can meet, and even interact, with one another.
But since none of us are characters in comic books, television, or movies, what does any of that have to do with us? And the answer is that these examples from our imagination might aid our understanding of a few unusual moments that we encounter in scripture. Our first example of this for today if found in 2 Kings 2:1-12 where we read about the last day of the prophet Elijah’s life on earth.
2:1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So, they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”
4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”
And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So, they went to Jericho.
5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So, the two of them walked on.
7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.
While the spiritual world is normally invisible to those of us in the physical world, there are moments, like this one, when a dimensional rift seems to open between them, and the spiritual world breaks out into ours. As Elisha cries out in amazement, a chariot, and horses of fire emerge into our physical world and separate Elijah and Elisha just as Elijah is carried into heaven by a tornado of swirling winds. And, just as suddenly as they appeared, the horses, the chariot, and the whirlwind, disappear back through the rift taking Elijah with them.
At least a part of the message for us is something that both Elijah and Elisha were well aware, that although it is most often unseen by us in the physical world, the spiritual world is just as real as ours and what happens in the spiritual world has an impact on the physical world as well as those of us who inhabit it. The message of scripture is that the spiritual world is connected to our world, and influences the events of our world, even if it only occasionally breaks through in such a way that it can be seen by us.
Perhaps the most well-known dimensional rift between the spiritual and physical worlds is recorded for us in Mark 9:2-9 where we read the story of Jesus’ transfiguration:
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Because much like the angels, Jesus is himself a spiritual creature, during the time of his ministry on earth, he existed in both the spiritual and the physical worlds. Despite that dual existence, his spiritual presence was not visible to the physical world, until a rift between the two opened on the top of that mountain. At that moment, and in that place, both the physical and spiritual worlds existed, and were visible in the physical world, at the same time. Although Mark describes Jesus as being “transfigured” in the presence of Peter, James, and John, we might also think of this as a moment in which the Disciples were simply able to see Jesus as he really was, or how he would ordinarily appear to be in the spiritual world. And, because our two worlds collided in that moment, the disciples were also able to see Elijah and Moses, men who were long dead in the physical world, but whose lives had continued, uninterrupted, in the spiritual world.
But why does any of that matter to us?
It matters because it has implications for the people, and for the church, in the first, and in the twenty-first centuries. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Paul writes to the church to explain our role in sharing the gospel and explains how we, as the followers of Jesus Christ, can be the agents of the spiritual world in the creation of “dimensional rifts.” Paul says:
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
While it may be helpful to think of the spiritual world as being in another dimension or on the “other side” of a dimensional rift the truth, Paul says, is that the “god of this age” that blinds unbelievers to the truth. And, while some have taught that the “god of this age” is Satan, Paul never describes the enemy of God in this way and likely would never have elevated one of God’s enemies to the status of a “god.” But what Paul has described as a god, are things like wealth, money, sex, power, selfishness, culture, princes, governments, and other things that can be worshiped in place of the one true God. Our own sin is what blinds us to the truth of the gospel and to the nearness of the spiritual world. But, as the followers of Jesus Christ, we have the power to be “dimensional rifts” between the spiritual and the physical worlds. We have the ability and the power to let light shine out of darkness, to let the light and truth of the spiritual world break out into the darkness of the physical world in which we live. As the followers of Jesus Christ, we can let his spiritual light shine in our hearts so that we can see the truth and so that God’s glory can be revealed to the people around us.
We are the “dimensional rifts.” We are called to be the sources of light and the sources of truth. We are the ones who can fight against the gods of this age, who can fight against the worship of self, money, power, pleasure, and everything else. We are the ones who can help our neighbors to see the light of the gospel by letting the light of Jesus shine in our hearts and break through into our spiritual dimension.
You may not be the captain of a starship and it may not be quite like what you might find in an episode of Star Trek, a movie from the Marvel Universe, or a Doctor Strange comic book. But you are called to be a dimensional rift, and let the light, love, and truth of the spiritual world fill your heart and break out into your neighborhood and your community so that the people around you can see and hear the truth of the gospel of Jesus.
Make it so.
You can find the video of this worship service here: https://youtu.be/QhG52V8fQE0
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.