Transfiguration Year A @ St. Paul’s Canterbury

Sermon Title: TRANSFIGURATION : YEAR A  @ St Paul’s Canterbury
Date: 26th February 2017
Preacher: Archdeacon Jan Crombie
Church Calendar Date: Transfiguration
Lectionary Reading: Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

‘Dethroning Mammon’ – p11-12… 200 words

One would have to say that in considering ‘moments of immense force and drama’ around Jesus Christ, the Transfiguration event would have to be right up there.  So in the light of Justin Welby’s confronting challenge of Jesus correcting mis-seeing, what are we to see in Christ’s transfiguration?  How are we, Christians 2000 years later, to see this extraordinary, out of world, happening?

29 year old son rang in the midst of preparation for the sermon; he is actually the child of ours who asks… what are you doing?  so I told him, and said, do you remember the Transfiguration story… vaguely,  he said (this is also the son with whom I have wonderful debates about the irrelevance, and the relevance!  of the church).  Anyway, I reminded him of the event – high mountain, the shining light, witnessed by his friends.  And I said, in a perhaps glib summary, Transfiguration Sunday occurs on the eve of Lent, and can be seen (so this is a way of seeing) as affirmation for Jesus himself as he turns his face to Jerusalem and certain death.  His father, God, absolutely reassures Jesus that all that he has done and is doing is right.  In that affirmation of identity comes the platform, the seal, of encouragement for courage in what lies ahead.

Now Jesus’ friends, on the mountain with him, what did they see?  Something so magnificent, of awesome nature, they wanted to capture it.  Let’s have a building project says Peter; let’s capture God in a building… well, I am being somewhat facetious but it is the story of the church since Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century, made Christianity mainstream … and since then, Christians have poured resource and focus into constructions.  To honour God? yes.  But also to capture God, to create constructs and fabrications around what it means to belong to God – to belong to the church.

To correct mis-seeing, we need to see properly, as it is.  The Transfiguration is a story that demands sight, it is a momentous visual event.  It is told in three of the Gospels; it is a crucial part of the Jesus story.  And therefore our faith, our relationship with him.

What do we see?  What are we called to see?  What does God want us to see?

It seems to me we are being challenged to see – with our listening… The words of God, from the overshadowing bright cloud,   are direct connectors with another event of enormous force and drama.  Indeed, the starting point of Jesus’ ministry – Christ’s own baptism.  “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased;”   The identity reinforced, God is God, Jesus is God, from the beginning and continuing, this is who he is.

But there are some extra words at the Transfiguration; God adds a rejoinder…and that is “listen to him!”.  Listen to him.  It reminds us of Jesus’ high repetition rate himself… “those with ears, listen”.  What we are called to see in the Transfiguration of Christ is God who is with us, and all that he has said and continues to say, is revelation of Godself.  And we, who come after, can trust this.  But we have to learn to listen – how to listen, and how to discern and trust what we are listening to.

Our listening is to be our seeing… because that’s how we meet Jesus, isn’t it?  We weren’t on the mountain; we are not the original disciples and people who, as we hear from Peter today “had been eyewitnesses of his glory”.  And yet Justin Welby claims rightfully “we have seen Jesus”.  We see Jesus, we know Jesus, in our eyes of faith – meeting him in the scriptures, meeting him in human encounters, meeting him in the prayer God is continually calling from us, revealing within us.

We see Jesus; we see what he does; we listen to him.  We have to believe, though, that Jesus’ sight is better than ours; that, indeed, he is calling us to see as God does, to notice what is important in God’s eyes.  What we see we value; seeing as Christ is seeing is seeing what God values.

Partnership ministry is all about endeavouring to notice the world and need as Christ does. His seeing is for the flourishing of all life.  Thus our noticing, and doing something about the need, calls us to do so in the manner and the way God values; that we are indeed returning to God, mirroring, our understanding of what God sees, and therefore  what we yearn to be seen, so that the world starts to perceive differently.  And thus that power shifts, so that divine economics become the constructs of how we engage as humans with all that God has created.

Let me share with you some ‘shifts’ that come to my mind…

When I was a curate, in Brisbane Diocese, many many years ago, I worked in ministry in several areas with Ian, a parishioner about 60 years young.  Ian was involved in teaching religious education in the primary and high schools; faith education in the parish; he drove the bus with the Catholics for families to visit loved ones in prison; he took communion to the shut ins.  I found out that Ian had been a biochemist, and academic, and chose to retire early to minister in these ways, in the community and parish.  What we see we value…

I remember a hospital chaplain being amazed at a man he had just met.  The man’s young son had been diagnosed with leukaemia.  That same day the father resigned his extremely high profile, big earning job, to be with family and his son for the journey.  What we value we become what people see…

Our children were absolutely flabbergasted when they met my priest colleague Rod, and found out he was a vet and had given it up to enter the church.  Many thought he had chosen the foolish path…

And this little story… When our children were young, Elizabeth only 4 years old, we joined several families one day for a long hike through the Gold Coast hinterland, Binna Burra.  I will always remember… we had literally gone 150 metres of a 17 kilometre walk when Liz stopped everyone and pointed out a delicate white flower, growing between fallen wood and ferns.  No time, hurry up, said the group… and on we marched.

So much to see, young eyes, uncluttered, unhurried, fresh from the womb.  As William Wordsworth put it, in his famous poem about children’s growth so based on imitating those around them…. and yet for all of us, our starting point…

But trailing clouds of glory do we come   65
        From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

 

We are literally surrounded with opportunities to perceive what we see differently.  Jesus claims that we need to see as children;

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  How we need to make space for young life to help us see without the guile of the world…

For we all see the same thing; our challenge is to perceive correctly, in a way that shifts the balance of the world God’s way. Seeing correctly enables us to value correctly, and to distinguish truth.

And the truth is that we have seen Jesus. And we are called to see him every day in the face of all whom we meet and see.  We see and listen to him in the scriptures as we over and over discover this God who is gracious and generous beyond worldly understanding. We meet and listen in prayer as we make space for God to shift our hearts into Christ’s, and correct our mis-seeing.

We have seen Jesus and we have been transfigured ourselves.  May all whom we meet and know see what we value.                                      Amen