Writings from the ministry team
for your refreshment
Sermon Ė Sunday before Lent Ė 26th February Ė Transfiguration
Exodus 24:12-18 The Covenant Confirmed
2 Peter 1:16-20 Prophecy of Scripture
MATTHEW 17:1-9 The Transfiguration
So, today is Sunday 26th February. Just an ordinary day in the normal calendar of life. But in our liturgical calendar itís a rather special Sunday. Itís the Sunday when the season of epiphany finally ends and the Season of Lent is about to begin. It markís the time when we turn towards the wilderness of Lent. A time of self-examination. But it doesnít have to be a gloomy time. In fact, a spell in the wilderness could be just what the doctor ordered. A time away from the distractions and turmoil of everyday life. A time to contemplate change.
Our readings talk of mountains and clouds and transformations, The Transfiguration. Perhaps now is the time to climb your own mountain, to pray with God for your own transformation. A chance to enter, like Moses, into the cloud, and listen, for whatever it is that God has to say to you. Our readings show that it is possible.
Both Moses and Jesus had to climb a mountain in order to spend time with God. But neither of them went alone. Moses had his assistant Joshua and Jesus had three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. His best friends if you like, his inner circle. At both events, God was encountered through a cloud. Moses was invited into the cloud. He spent forty days and nights inside said cloud conversing with God and receiving His Laws on tablets of stone. The very rules of life by which we all live today.
Jesus, on the other hand, had a cloud that surrounded him. A bright cloud that enveloped him in its folds. Therein he is joined by Moses the law giver and Elijah, said to be the greatest of all the prophets. Both of whom have previously met God on the top of mountains.
Peter, James and John are witnesses to this meeting. The coming together of divine presence. They see their Lord change before their very eyes, Ďhis face shone like the sun, his clothes turned a bright whiteí and they see him talk with Moses and Elijah. They are literally standing on the threshold of heaven in a moment filled with great mystery. The faith journey of the disciples that had led them to this time and place on the mountain as they followed Jesus, is a reminder to each of us of the importance of seeking greater truths for living. But they couldnít cross the line between heaven and earth. They could only stand and watch. There they witnessed Jesusí ministry as a continuation of that of Moses and Elijah. You see, Godís revelation is always at his invitation.
Both Jesus and Moses changed during their time in Godís presence, in the cloud. Jesus was seen by his friends to become radiant like the sun. His clothes were a brilliant white. Moses too when he left the cloud had changed. He didnít realise it but the people around his saw. His face had become radiant, so much so that he had to wear a veil so as not to worry his people.
So, when we set out in faith, we never really know the greatness of what is being revealed to us. When we open our hearts in prayer, or lift our souls in worship, or search out God's Word with open minds, we're never quite sure where it might lead. Will it push us out of our comfort zones? Will we come away with our own radiant glow? One things for certain, in order to grow in our faith, we have to put ourselves in a position to receive God's guidance.
How many times in our own faith journeys have we been inspired to see beyond our own little worlds?
How many times have we been challenged to grow in our faith and understanding, only to find ourselves talking more about the moment we saw the light or felt the Spirit, rather than following where that light or Spirit might lead us?
What leads us to worship? Is it merely a habit, a cry for help, a yearning for peace in our hearts, or an appearance we're trying to keep up to impress others?
What leads us to pray? Are we merely going through the motions? Are we asking without any willingness to give ourselves?
Whatever the reason, when we brush against the Holy Spirit, we often find the way changed, at least for that moment. Our perspectives change, we see others as brothers and sisters. Enemies become people of worth. The cries of the needy and forsaken are heard. The challenge of seeking justice for all and peace on the earth become sacred callings. Barriers erected in our hearts, that divide us from each other, begin to crumble. We begin to see life in terms of, Not, what can I get by with, but, what More is possible for me to do? We begin to see.
The Transfiguration reminds us that things look very different when one stands in God's presence. When we are conscious of being in the presence of God, it can be very unsettling. Our ways of living and thinking are challenged. We are standing on the edge between the ordinary and the extraordinary, between just existing or really living with God through Jesus Christ.
There are also times when God comes to us. Itís not that God has been hiding, more like Heís been waiting. Like the disciples, we must be prepared for such a moment. Itís not God who has to move forward, but us. We're the ones who must grow in our faith. We're the ones who must see with greater love and depth. At the heart of our faith, we affirm that God is the same today, as he was yesterday, and as he will be tomorrow.
The disciples were literally struck down by the impact of what they were a part of. They were completely overwhelmed. The radiance of Jesus as he shown like the sun. The sudden appearance of Moses and Elijah. The bright cloud overshadowing them and then the voice of God saying, Ďthis is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleasedí. The very same words that were heard at his baptism in the river Jordon with his cousin John.
How do you respond when so completely overwhelmed?
The challenge for the disciples and the challenge for us is to listen, to know that there are times when we encounter the presence of God, when we're definitely not in control. All we can do is listen and trust. When we worship God, we are allowing ourselves to be approached by the Holy Spirit.
The danger is, that we think we know best when actually we donít. We need to listen and obey. Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish theologian wrote, "If it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger." In other words, you can't always choose what is going to happen to you in life. But, you can always choose how youíre going to respond to what has happened. You canít just sit back and contemplate on what has happened. We canít treat faith like a relic, always reliving what has happened on the mountain. You have to come back down the mountain and respond.
We are challenged to see further into our faith, to respond in new ways to Godís calling. I read somewhere that, "Sometimes, God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey him. When youíre in the dark, listen; and God will give you a message for when you're back in the light."
We cannot control when these moments of revelation will come. We just have to prepare our hearts and be ready. The best way to prepare ourselves properly for what we might call the routine moments of meeting with God - is in prayer and scripture, in worship and sacrament. We have to listen and to respond. God will come to us, each of us in His own time, when He is ready.
So, when God comes to us, when we stand at the crossroads between existence and truly living, when we are moved to a new understanding of faith, there is a belief, an awareness, that comes when we have experienced it for ourselves. When we too feel that radiant glow of Godís presence in our lives. To see Jesus with Moses and Elijah, to hear God's blessing, was preparing Peter, James and John for Calvary and what lay ahead. To accept Godís presence in our lives will prepare us for what lies ahead. I wonder how many will leave here today feeling that they have truly been touched by God and will it show