February 16, 2021
Categorised in: Sermons
The Event of Transfiguration
I don’t know what you make of the secular Valentine’s Day, but it’s undeniably quite an event. In the week before Valentine’s over 25 million kilos of chocolate will be bought. That’s more than ten times my annual consumption!
It’s a commercial event and, for some, a romantic event: 10% of all proposals per annum are made today.
But these walloping statistics aside, the point I want to make is that Valentine’s Day is indeed an event. Like it or not, something happens. And the reason for stressing this is because events are for everyone.
Strictly is one of the mainstays of family TV. It’s not rocket science. People dance. There are lights, music, sparkly costumes, tears, boos and cheers. And anyone, from the age of two to a hundred-and-two, can enjoy it. I expect that there are pets glued to the razzle-dazzle too, because frankly a doggie-sized brain is all that’s required to join the fun. Events are fully inclusive.
And the Good News is that at the heart of Christian faith lies an event – God shining his light into our world in Jesus Christ. Now ironically, I’m giving you an idea here, perhaps a surprising one; but treat these few words like a note on a piece of paper: read it, remember it, screw up the paper and throw it in the bin, and then look out for the event.
The lesson we heard from Peter’s second letter to the churches isn’t the easiest to follow, partly because we can’t exactly be sure of Peter ‘s adversaries. He alludes to his flock falling for ‘cleverly crafted myths’.
We don’t know what these were exactly, but you can hear in the phrase ‘cleverly crafted myths’ that the issue was manufactured fables or speculations, which held the prospect of secret knowledge or wisdom, which could put their adherents into a special category or class.
Against this, Peter wants to talk about something that he’s seen – an event: the majesty revealed in Christ’s transfiguration.
As we turn to Lent and the journey to the cross, we need, as the first disciples did, encouragement that there’s light at the end of the tunnel; and the light we’re given comes from Christ’s glorious majesty revealed in a brilliant light, and a voice coming from heaven saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’.
Apostles like Peter weren’t in the business of spinning a spiritual yarn, as their opponents were; they were bound instead to stand for what they’d seen and heard, and to pass on this witness to others.
And this event needs our attention, too. As Peter puts it beautifully: ‘You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts’.
What this means, less poetically, is that the light that once shone from Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration will return: in history, when the great day dawns of his final coming; and meanwhile, where the morning star rises in our hearts, the light that signals the end of our own personal darkness and despair.
At no point does this message become myth, to which only the brainy or specially wise can gain access. The message is an event in which everyone can share.
We don’t need to look too far to find a parallel to this sort of invitation. You’re watching this worship event on You Tube or Face Book. The service has been recorded. The event lies in the past, but now you have the opportunity to share in it. And you will succeed in sharing if you attend with care; it will do for you in your ‘now’ what it has done for us in ours. Our ‘nows’ will be joined in a chain of faithful transmission, which Christians call tradition.
You will know that those who first stepped into the majesty of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John, didn’t do terribly well at joining in with what was going on – the event left them floundering.
And if we’re to gain any benefit from it, we, with the help of their past witness and the witness of many others in our tradition, will need to return to this light time and time again, to see what it might mean for us, as we look and long for the dawning day of salvation.
Christ’s light is not so much to be understood as received. We need light in our hearts – enlightened, renewed hearts – to cope with the weight of grief, for the beloved dead, the shrunken economy, the uncertainty and continued restrictions. All this would be only defeat, were it not for the event that is coming:
God’s light in our hearts, renewing a right spirit within us.
God’s light in our hearts, witnessing to Christ’s continuing power to transfigure the world.