Sermons



Rev. Rosemary Webb
23rd February 2020
Transfiguration

From where I am standing, I can just see the window in the Lady Chapel, some of you will see it better than that and some of you can’t see it at all. I know we are so very lucky to have so many beautiful windows, but I have to say that window is my favourite, to me it has a simple beauty which truly encapsulates The Transfiguration.

Throughout the Old Testament, whenever God wished to capture people’s attention he took them up a mountain. Look how he brought Moses and the people of Israel to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, how he made the people tremble with the power of his voice, so that they would never forget that message. Later he took his people to Mount Carmel and challenged the pagans to a contest, and using fire from heaven consumed Elijah’s sacrifice, again showing his almighty power to the Jewish people.

I always feel God’s power in mountains, their beauty and simplicity. When our son and his family lived in Hong Kong, we used to fly over north west China, and I was overwhelmed by the enormous expanse of mountains (in fact it was about the only thing which made the journey bearable). They seemed to go on for miles and at 40,000 feet there seemed to be nothing else, no buildings, people even trees, just that expense of nothing. Really bringing home to me the sheer beauty and size of God’s creation, from the small crowded areas we live in to the barrenness of the scenery in Asia. One planet but such diversity. Also, I think, reminding us that however crowded our island is, we can always find space if we but seek it.

In today’s reading God took his people to yet another mountain – Mount Tabor, but these were not just any people they were the Disciples, Peter, James and John. Not so they could talk about the view, But I believe so that they would have nothing to distract them from God’s message, so they could fully understand who was with them.

It’s often tempting, when thinking about the Transfiguration to talk about ‘mountain top’ experiences with God and hope that we will all get to experience God in a dramatic thunder and lightning way. I have heard some Christians spend their whole time wishing for a dramatic experience of God and then wonder why they’re disappointed.

I personally believe that The Gospels were written as much for us, as the 1st century people. I believe that on that day God was speaking as much to us now as he was then. That when Jesus lets Peter, James and John peer behind the curtain to see who He really is, that through that encounter he invites us to have a look behind the curtain ourselves, to stop and think, and to believe. The explanations are to the point, not complicated but God wants us also to listen.

But as we heard it was nearly beyond the disciples comprehension to take it in. They fall asleep and it takes a flashing light transfiguring Jesus’ clothes into a dazzling white, so white that nothing on earth could bleach them so white to waken them, they were aroused from their ignorance, their sleeping, to see the true light of Christ, they were shocked into understanding.

So, Peter, James and John are woken up from their sleep by this flashing light had come to understand that Jesus is speaking to the two great figures of Judaism – Moses and Elijah. Those two prophets who were long-dead, but still with God.

As we heard God had to plead with them to believe him and he still has to plead with us Is it that all that God teaches us, promises us, is too marvellous for us to believe.

When we think about the transfiguration, how Christ’s clothes became dazzling white, so white that nothing on earth could bleach them so white. Then a cloud came, and down and overshadowed them, and the Father’s voice this is my son.

God was challenging the disciples to acknowledge, that this is Jesus, this is the Messiah. That he and Jesus are one, that Jesus has all the authority needed to lead the people, that it is Jesus that they must love and follow. And God says, look he is here with Moses and Elijah – But Moses and Elijah are just prophets, He is my Son, this is him, believe me, believe my words. this is the one I have promised you since the beginning of time.

Sadly, God is still having to plead with the world, with his creation to know and believe in him. So, as we approach the contemplative and sometimes difficult season of Lent, we are given a glimpse of who Jesus really is, resurrected, ascended, glorified; we must keep this reality in our minds as we journey towards Easter. I believe that we have these stories so that we can learn from them, be strengthened by them.

And going up the mountains, can we learn from that also. The joy of mountains is that we can have peace, not be disturbed, and I believe in Lent we need to make that space for ourselves. We should all aim to make a place where we can listen to God, share our worries and seek his peace. May only be a few minutes a day, but that is better than nothing. Let’s all give it a try, let us pray that we can bring compassion into the world today.

And I think we have so much learning to do, I can’t believe that God isn’t shaking his head in disbelief about the mess we are all in. The world has made such marvellous scientific discoveries, we have doctors who have made brilliant discoveries, most of the world are better educated and yet I never remember this country being in such a mess and I am just old enough to remember WW2.

There seems to be so little compassion, understanding, as intelligence increases, and communication becomes so easy, so does cruelty and bullying. When people are depressed, perhaps made a mistake, unable to see the path ahead, there always seems to be, and it doesn’t matter who you are, for the famous, one newspaper, and for the unknown, a Facebook – so called friend – ready to really kick the person while they are down. They write columns on what a dreadful thing has been done.

None of us is perfect, we all make mistakes, there are times when we all need help. Has the world reached a stage where we cannot get our lives, and the lives of others into perspective?

Jesus tells us to love one another , he doesn’t say we have to like someone. But people, whoever they are, don’t have to be cruel, show hatred. Too many people today seem to think they know more than anyone else, they have a right to out anyone else in their place, that it is their duty to do so.

I really hope and pray, that this Lent, as a world, we do all try and find our own space – we do need to try and find our own space, mountain top, a small room, park bench, where we can sit in silence with Jesus and listen to him… We only have to ask him to come with us and he will listen, he will understand our fears, show us not just his love for us, but also for those for whom we pray.

 
 
Matthew 17: 1-9