Saturday, March 01, 2014

Thoughts for 8.00 on the Sunday before Lent

How's your vision? Mine's a bit all sorts of ways. After a lifetime of wearing contact lenses for short-sightedness, then years when I could read fine if I took off my glasses, I'm beginning to realise that any day now I'll need to put ON reading I've reverted to contacts once more. One way and another,I guess I've always been aware that vision isn’t something to take for granted,- and I'm sure that I often I fail to see things clearly, or recognise them for what they are.
Today we celebrate a moment in Jesus’s ministry when his identity became almost literally blindingly obvious. Even though we have left the season of Epiphany behind us, today we hear about a true epiphany – a moment of recognition that changed everything.
There on the mountain, everything that Peter, James and John had begun to suspect about their Master, became blazingly clear in the strong and mysterious light radiating from his body and face. The disciples were permitted a glimpse of God’s transcendent glory on the face of Jesus... For a brief moment, the veil which separates the invisible from the visible, the future from the present, was lifted, and everything was wonderfully clear. No room for any doubt...Jesus is THE ONE!
They had been prepared for this by a long tradition in Jewish Scriptures. Moses had his own direct visions of shining wonder, as he encountered God on the Mountain – and the reflected radiance was such that he had to veil his own face to protect others from the glare.
Now on another mountain the disciples saw Jesus emerging from that great tradition…speaking with Moses and Elijah, his glory outshining them both.
Moses could lead the way to the Promised Land, but couldn't enter himself. Elijah could enter the heavens, but could take no one else with him.
But something greater, someone greater is here.
Jesus not only leads the way, as the pioneer of our salvation, he is the way that allows the rest of us to reach home – and his presence makes this holy ground.

Unsurprisingly, the disciples both rise to the occasion and fall characteristically flat on their faces.
They can't miss what's going on, - but their response is way off key! Peter does it again, rushing in with both feet, intent on capturing the moment. He has recognised God here, in this place on this day,- so if he can only build the right structure, he is sure he’ll be able to guarantee God’s presence forever.

Let’s build three booths….or a prayer hut…..a church...a Cathedrall”

Wherever we have once encountered God, we want to safeguard that encounter, to pour over it like a miser turning over his gold…when really we should turn from our encounters, our faces glowing like Moses, to our own task of enlivening and enlightening the world.
The Transfiguration is a beginning, a promise of what is to come, a vision of the glory we anticipate for the whole world once Jesus' redeeming work among us in complete.
But we can spot that glory here and now as well...if we only open our eyes. This week I've glimpsed it as I offered the Last Rites in a room full of loving family, gathered to say goodbye to their mum; in the way my housegroup rallied round to support ME as I struggled to deal with a rough sleeper, whom I know well, and for whom there really seems to be no happy ending; in the confidence with which an 8 year old asked me for baptism “Because I love God and I want to be like Jesus”.
Moments when the glory of God transforms our workaday reality...when we see for a moment that this world is brim full of His love, that changes everything.

But it's so very easy to miss those moments...Elizabeth Barrett Browning summed it up neatly

Earth's crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,”

A colleague shared a story online about a friend of hers who suggested to his congregation one August that they might, during the “silly season” replace the sermon with a chance for one of them to share, for a few minutes, a moment when they had noticed God at work that week. He'd expected to do this just til the schools went back – but 8 months on they are rejoicing in the process week by week by week (even though it's now as well as, not instead of the sermon) – and getting progressively more and more excited at the stories of God at work in their lives and their community.

I wonder if you might like to try spend time reflecting on that question “Where is God?” - not as a cry of existential angst but with the hope and expectation of seeing the glory for yourself.
For the point is that God's glory is there – whether we notice it or not – só as we come close to Lent, let's try to refine our focus and walk with eyes and hearts open, so that we may both see and celebrate the signs of God's glory breaking through in our world.
There may be more transfiguration around than you imagine. 

1 comment:

Jan said...

I have recently found you and love reading your sermons and blogs as a newly Licenced Reader. They are really written from the 'heart'. Thank you so much.x