Last Sunday after Epiphany-Transfiguration

Sermon Title: Last Sunday after Epiphany-Transfiguration

Date: 15th February, 2015

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: Last Sunday after Epiphany

Lectionary Reading: 2 Kings 2:1-12, Ps 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-12, Mark 9:2-9

‘Change is not something we should fear. Rather, it is something we should welcome- for without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no-one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they want to be.’

I wonder what you think of that.  Do you agree that change is not something we should fear?  Do you agree that without change nothing will ever grow or blossom or us human beings?

Change is something we do sometimes fear depending on what the change is and I think also that whether we like the change or not, we will hopefully learn through it and grow.

We know about change in parishes.  Vicars come and go, children and youth ministers come and go, dear friends who move away maybe overseas, interstate, or go to a nursing home, or they die always bring changes to our lives and the life of a parish community.

All parishes are transient.  All parishes go through ups and downs.

We know about change.

Building cultures of strengths can provide the resilience needed to tackle the challenges that inevitably arise when changes occur.

Over the past week I have asked the wardens and parish council members about what are our strengths as a parish.

I had fun cards that had a strength word on it and asked what they perceive are our strengths.

Let me share with you some of their responses:

They said our strengths are: encouragement, celebration, generosity, respect, storytelling, resilience, humour, inclusion.

I wonder if you would add other strengths?

‘Strengths are the cement that enables a [parish] to stay together. Strengths in teams- Innovative resources

When cracks appear through change in a parish, it’s important to remind ourselves of the strengths we already have in our parish and those we want to develop further.’ 

Leonard Cohen sings in his song Anthem: “there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

I reckon that is a great metaphor for us!

We have cracks appearing: we have a deficit budget-yet again, we have said goodbye to Kate and so don’t have a children’s and family minister, we have a number of our friends who are going through some really tough times and making big decisions.

When we feel overwhelmed by the crisis we are facing, a little light can be invaluable; perhaps we need to look for, and celebrate, the tiny cracks when we find them.

The last couple of weeks I have felt somewhat frazzled without Kate and Gillian in the office and parishioners not well and our Bishop Barbara having a massive stroke and not going to live for long.

The little lights started glimmering, with wonderful women offering to assist with numerous administration tasks and others, men and women, stepping up in the other tasks that keep the ministry going here at St Paul’s!  I am most grateful!

On the first Sunday of Epiphany we heard the story recorded by Mark, of Jesus baptism in the river Jordon where the voice from heaven said to Jesus: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  Mark 1:9-11

Today on this last Sunday after Epiphany we heard the story of the Transfiguration. The voice from heaven spoke to the disciples rather than to Jesus and said: “this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

From Mark’s account of the life of Jesus, we find a lot happened between Jesus’ baptism and the transfiguration. The disciples witnessed Jesus healing, teaching, feeding, calling.

The disciples thought the healing, teaching, feeding and calling was wonderful. And it was. But the message that Jesus tried to get across to them of his suffering, death and rising on the third day was not the message they wanted to hear or were not able to hear at the time.

This is about cracks..this is how the light gets in.We don’t want the suffering. We don’t want the change to happen. We rebel against it. We want to have a birth of a baby without the pain…

When a crisis/change happens in a parish, is there hope?

Well, yes!  But we have to go through the suffering, the crisis and see where we put our hope, our trust.

I was imagining the three disciples following Jesus up a high mountain. The air is much thinner up high and so breathing a little more laboured.  They were probably just thinking they were going to be told some more teaching from Jesus. Instead, Jesus changed. His clothes became dazzling white and this transformation showed the disciples clearly Jesus’ divine status.  ‘In Jewish literature “whiteness” particularly white apparel, denotes belonging to the heavenly/divine realm.’ [i]

Peter was the brave one to say something.  I can understand his suggestion to make three dwelling for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. It was an ‘out of this world experience’!  It reminds me when something awful has happened to someone and we say ‘I’ll put the kettle on’.  Nothing wrong with making a cup of tea, but it’s our wanting to do something to help the situation, because we feel somewhat out of our depth.

These are times when the thinness of the mountain air helps us remember how close humans and the divine really are. We don’t climb mountains that often so instead the innumerable ‘sparkling moments’ – illuminated by shafts of light penetrating through little cracks will help us on our earthly journey.

The voice from heaven said: “this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Throughout Lent this year 30 plus people will be learning about contemplative listening.  The blurb in the introduction of the study says this. “Life is a spiritual journey.  Contemplative living is a way of responding to our everyday experiences by consciously attending to our relationships. It deepens our awareness of our connectedness and communion with others, becomes a positive force of change in our lives, and provides meaningful direction for our journey.”

The focus of the study is on listening and as we are challenged to listen more carefully to others we will be more able to listen to God.

From 1130am onwards today at Ros Whites home we will continue to listen to each other but this is specifically listening for the voices which will be seeds of hope……listening for that still, small voice of God that we often don’t want to hear because we are busy or because we are fearful of the consequences.

Are we willing to listen? To hear the voice of the one calling the people of St Paul’s to a new place of being in Canterbury with the changes that are happening?

The picture in our pew sheet of the little seedling in soil in the palm of a hand is a wonderful visual for us…the only way the little plant would see light was for it to find cracks in the soil, and find the light!

Let us pray:

Living Spirit of God, prepare and equip us for your mission.  Sow in us the seeds of hope. Grow in us your Word of life.

Give us faith and courage to step out into known and unknown places, seeking your Kingdom and justice.

Enable us to be bearers of Good News to the people of our parish and gather in the harvest of your love. Amen.

The Lord be with you

 

[i]  A Costly Freedom’ by Brendan Byrne page 145