Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Long sermon notes for 28-2-10

Ah - much. much too long! Here's the unexpurgated version - editing will have to wait another couple of days.

Lectionary readings are:

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35


Lent 2 - trusting God

There are times when it’s hard to see any real link between the 3 readings chosen by the wise people who wrote the lectionary. And there are times when it’s hard to see any link between those readings and our lives today. And there are times when it is hard either to see a link between the readings themselves or to see a link between real life and any one of them - and then writing a sermon feels like hard work!

But then as I was reflecting on the readings I started to think about some of the real lives of people I’ve come across this last week: people struggling with bad news from the doctor, like the woman I had a brief conversation with who aid she was living with terminal cancer; people feeling like strangers in a strange land, like the man I know who is facing a complete change of lifestyle and really isn't sure what the future holds; people trying to make sense of their lives in the face of upheaval or broken relationships, like the people of Haiti or Madeira. A question emerges in these lives - and I think in all of our lives at some time or another - what does it mean to trust God in this situation? And I wondered whether this same question offers us a link between our 3 readings : what does it mean to trust God in this situation?

Abram has already had quite an adventure by the time we meet him in Genesis chapter 15. At 75 years old, Abram left his home town of Ur, in Southern Mesopotamia and his wider family and travelled with Sarai, his wife, & Lot, his nephew, to Canaan. When famine struck they went to Egypt and then back to Bethel. Here Abram & Lot separated, after which Lot was captured by hostile armies and Abram rescued him. The Lord God has previously promised Abram the land all around Hebron and in the part of the story we have heard today Abram is promised first of all, numerous descendants and secondly, the land of Canaan.
It is interesting that we are told that ‘Abram put his faith in the Lord’ and yet when God says ‘I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land as your possession’ Abram asks ‘how can I be sure that I will occupy it?’.

The Lord’s response is to show Abram a vision of a covenant ceremony, involving sacrificed animals. In a covenant between 2 people of 2 tribes, a representative of each party to the covenant would pass between the 2 halves of the animals. to show that if they broke their half of the deal they would expect to be dismembered as the animals had been. In Abram’s case, only the symbolic presence of God - in the smoking brazier and the flaming torch - passed between the animals. The Lord has made a covenant with Abram - but Abram still has his doubts and questions, and his relationship with God continues to include testing and repeated promises from God. What did it mean for Abram to trust God? Not just a once and for all leap of faith, but a set of steps towards doing God’s will - and on-going relationship with God where Abram’s trust needed to be re-stated from time to time, despite what God had already done for him.

And so what of Jesus? As we heard in our gospel reading the storm clouds are gathering around Jesus as he approaches Jerusalem and his death. Jesus refuses to turn and run, despite the warning that Herod Antipas has plans to kill him: he will continue to heal and teach even though he accepts he could meet his end in Jerusalem. What does it mean for Jesus to trust God?

Perhaps this meditation, from American author -Barbara Brown Taylor can help us to understand this:
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus' lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world --wings spread, breast exposed --but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. … Jesus won't be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.
She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her -- wings spread, breast exposed -- without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.


For Jesus, trusting God means accepting that it is always right to continue to show compassion, as Jesus does for Jerusalem, whatever the consequences. Trusting God means continuing to love to the uttermost and to trust that God’s power will be stronger than death.

And what about Paul’s letter to the Philippians? This is one of those passages of Paul where he can come across as a real pain in the neck ‘join together, my friends, in following my example...’. Yuck! And yet in another letter to the Corinthians, he does at least say ‘follow my example as I follow Christ’s’. Paul is trying to point out that, in following Christ, Christians are following the one who put God’s will first and continued to work and speak for the kingdom even when that way led to death. Paul is probably writing from Prison in Rome - so when he talks about suffering he does know what he’s talking about. He is probably also warning the church at Philippi against following some of their local leaders, who it is thought were teaching a kind of gnosticism which stated ‘if Christ has won us favour with God through his death then now that we know that, we can live with ease and do as we like’. Paul warns that pursuing pleasure through earthly things alone leads to destruction, but that ‘we, by contrast are citizens of heaven’ - so that whatever happens to us on earth will be transformed by the love of Christ at the end.

What did it mean for Paul to trust God? It meant that despite the suffering he was enduring he could look forward to eternal life in the risen Christ. It also meant that he could warn others not to think only of satisfying their everyday needs. For Paul, trusting God meant accepting that there was always more to life than meets the eye - that there is divine purpose and love.

What does it mean for us to trust God? I don’t think we can give hard & fast answers to that question. Trusting God meant different things to Abram & to Jesus & to Paul, depending on their situation. It could mean different things to the people I was talking about at the beginning of the sermon & different things to each of us according to the situation we are in.
But in all Abram’s questioning, Jesus’ persevering and Paul’s teaching there is a determination to look beyond the simple appearance of what is happening and try to discern God in action behind it.

That is also what our communion meal is about. At one level this is simply bread and wine and will remain so, yet trusting in God means believing that God longs to relate to us through it, to show us at this table that we are fed, loved and cared for. And trusting God means believing that through this meal God changes us to be more like Jesus Christ.
Eat & drink & know God’s love for you. Amen.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sermon notes 21-2-10

Lent 1 (Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Luke 4:1-13)

What is it about the story of the temptation of Christ that makes it so important? So important that we start our observations of Lent with this story every year. Well, of course the pattern of our observation of 40 days of Lent before our celebration of Easter is, in part, echoing Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It is a time of preparation, even of hardship, for those who observe a strict fast in Lent – and some people do. But I think we have to beware making too strong a comparison between Jesus’ time in the wilderness and our Lent.

For one thing, the temptations Jesus suffers are hardly the ones with which we wrestle – turning stones to bread, seeking world domination, proving

our power by death-defying feats. We should beware feeling that the temptations Jesus faces are nothing to do with what we face in our lives and that therefore this story tells us lots about Jesus but nothing about our own lives or our relationship with God

On the other hand, we should beware relating too strongly to the story and looking to make Jesus our example, saying ‘Jesus gave up food and drink and suffered for 40 days and therefore so should we’.
If Lent becomes about what we do, or don’t do, or give up, or suffer, we are in danger of becoming trapped by a piety which would take our focus away from God and back onto ourselves.
And if Lent is about anything, it needs to be about focusing on God.
So let’s look at this story again.
The lectionary writers suggest we hear the reading from Deuteronomy alongside Luke’s account.
The Deuteronomy reading takes us back to the time when the people of God, led by Moses, were wandering in the wilderness, looking to find God’s promised land. The passage we heard is laying down an act of worship, a kind of harvest festival, to be celebrated by God’s people when they finally enter the promised land. They are to offer the first fruits of their harvest to God and to state
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor, who went down to Egypt but was brought out of slavery by God..”.
After not 40 days but 40 years in the wilderness, the people of Israel claim a promise from God that the wilderness years will end, the promised land years begin – that all will be well. God’s people are shaped by their experiences of a God who will not abandon them, but who will lead them to freedom.

So what is Jesus doing out in the wilderness? Seeking to be shaped in a similar way.
Away from the distractions of friends and family, the newly-baptised Jesus spends time in the wilderness listening for God’s word, and choosing. Jesus needs to choose how to build the kingdom, how to enter the promised land - how to do things God's way not his own way. Each of the temptations Jesus faces are not about resisting bad things (like sin and vice and greed) – they are about Jesus resisting doing things in his own strength and by his own power and forgetting to trust God, because it matters not only what we do but how and why we do them.
At the start of his ministry, Jesus must choose whether or not to use his power to sway the crowds, to win adulation, to wield power as he chooses.
Jesus squarely chooses the way of the Lord. He will trust God for his food, his well-being, his power.
Jesus has emptied himself of the power of heaven to live an authentically human life, and he will trust God, not magic tricks, to show him how to bring the message of love to his fellow human beings.

It is Joshua, the leader of God’s people who actually took them into the Promised Land, who states this choice clearly:
"And Joshua said to all the people [of Israel], . . . choose you this day whom you will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord"
(Josh. 24:2, 15).
Jesus, in the quiet of the wilderness, chooses to serve the Lord, to listen for God’s whisper in his life - and we must do the same. So giving something up for Lent (if that’s what you choose to do) is not just about losing weight, toning up or being pious, it's about stilling the competing little voices in our heads and listening for God's way to be clear.
We must choose God’s way:
- in our spiritual lives, choosing how to spend our time in prayer or study or service of others;
- in our home lives, choosing to balance time for family, friends, work and ourselves
- in our church lives, choosing how we will use our resources of time and money to serve God and serve others.
This Lent may God give us the wisdom to choose well, and to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lent 1

So, the readings are

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and
Luke 4:1-13

Well, yes you can have Romans too but believe me I'm struggling enough with those two.

So here's the thing - I have a funeral Thurs & Fri & a planned, booked, can't be cancelled honest-to-goodness day off on Saturday. So here we are on Wednesday &.. not much ideas-wise. Hmmm. Thought to myself 'I've preached oin the temptation of Christ many, many times before - wonder what I said... (sneaky thought of recycling entering my head - was it a temptation?). I can't find ANY of my previous attempts on disc, memory stick, or the back of any envelopes. I know we pray 'lead us not into temptation, but this is ridiculous.

So - where to go?

Deuteronomy - A wandering Aramean was my father.. and all that - lots of promises from God that the wilderness years will end, the promised land years begin - all will be well. So what is Jesus doing out in the wilderness? Choosing - how to build the kingdom, how to enter the promised land - how to do things God's way not his own way: because it matters not only what we do but how and why we do them.

Jesus squarely chooses the way of the Lord - and we must do the same.
So giving up stuff for lent (if you're into that) is not just about losing weight, toning up or being pious, it's about stilling the competing little voices in our heads and listening for God's way to be clear.

Do you think people will mind a 3 minute sermon? I could wear the flowery clogs??

Sunday, 14 February 2010

We make plans.. God laughs!

Put a lot into the sermon this week - wanted to really open this story to a congregation that is having trouble seeing a future & is fearful of change. Read, wrote, prayed, re-write, talked to friends, read, re-wrote.. etc.

Then on Friday, as part of an attempt to get more healthy I went for a long-ish brisk walk in some boots I thought were broken in, Result - 2 very raw heels & I can't put shoes on this morning. So I had to preach in the only backless shoes I have - some flowery clogs. Result - no-one remembers a word I said - everyone goes home discussing my feet. Minister is kept humble - and a good thing too!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Transfiguration - version 3!

After a very helpful comment (from a good, wise and experienced friend) that I needed to change things around and not assume that people will stick with it right to the end, here is the final version, with, I hope, more 'punch'.

Transfiguration
The story of the transfiguration of Jesus stands out as being unlike the stories of Jesus’ teaching, or healings, or the call of the disciples - it’s not a story we can easily try to imagine or relate to. Perhaps the best approach is just to listen to the story itself, because listening to a story carefully is sometimes the only way to begin to understand it - and the more strange the story is at first hearing the more carefully we need to read it.

But before we look again at the story, I’d like us to think about the difference that this story makes to us: why is this story important?
Sometimes in our church life we can be like Peter – we get caught up in concerns about structures and buildings, we can only think about how to keep things as they are. Keeping going, keeping the show on the road, wanting change to stop so we can feel safe. This is all a natural reaction, but it is not a reaction of trusting faith.

The eyes of faith see the amazing glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ – they catch a glimpse of what God is doing, how the grace and power and love of God has flooded into the world in Jesus Christ. In the transfigured face of Jesus we see that God’s love for us is real and that God’s love reaches out to touch and to change. This can be scary, but I think we have to be ready to see what God is doing and to risk being part of it.
It's a very understandable and human reaction that Peter has: build a shelter, keep the world safe, do it right. And I think for many people in the church, the church is the bit of life they really desperately want to be stable and secure and in good order. But the gospel tells us that faith is about transfiguration - and that's frightening. So how can we read this story?

I’d like to suggest three possible ‘ways in’ to understanding this, or indeed any, gospel story. We can ask:
• Why does Luke tell us the story - what is it ‘doing’ in this part of the gospel?
• Who are the significant figures in the story, what do we know about them and their possible significance?
• Is this story like any other stories we know & if so what might they be trying to tell us all together?

Why does Luke tell us the story?
The part of the gospel we heard starts with ‘Now about 8 days after this...’.
It is one of those times in Luke’s gospel when he places one thing in relation to another - so to what is he relating the transfiguration?
8 days before there has been the question from Jesus ‘who do you say that I am?’ where Peter blurts out ‘you are the Messiah, the son of the living God’ And what happens just after the transfiguration? Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem - the story of Jesus’ life begins the downward turn towards the cross and suffering and death. The transfiguration stands between two concepts that could be seen to conflict: Jesus is God’s chosen one ... and Jesus is going to die a despicable death.

The transfiguration leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is the one chosen by God, the Son of God, the Messiah, but that far from protecting him from harm, this places him in great danger, because it is only through submitting to death that Jesus will be able to display God’s saving love.

Who are significant figures in the story and what is their significance?
Jesus takes Peter and John and James with him. The next time we read of Jesus going somewhere alone with these three will be in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest. At these times of intense importance in his life, Jesus takes with him the 3 disciples he most trusts. These two episodes in Jesus’ life - of glory and transfiguration, of affirmation by God on the mountain top, and of suffering and agony in the garden are inextricably linked.
And as the story progresses, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. These 2 represent the Law and the Prophets, they underline Jesus’ place as firmly rooted in the tradition and history of the people of Israel. They are also 2 men who walked and talked with God - as we heard in the Exodus reading, Moses, too, had a glowing face when he had been talking with God.
The presence of Moses and Elijah, heroes of the faith who knew God intimately, marks out the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and the Father, even before the cloud descends, signifying God’s presence, when God himself is heard to say ‘This is my Son - listen to him’.

Is this story like any other stories?
We can see parallels of this story with the story of Jesus’ baptism, where very similar words are heard from heaven ‘you are my beloved son’.

It also reminds us of the story of Jesus’ resurrection where dazzling angels are seen and where Jesus is recognisable yet clearly changed.
And we have the passage we heard from Exodus about Moses’ changed appearance and the effect it had on the people who saw it.

As we look at all these possible ways of reading the story - I think there is a theme which links them: the question of Jesus’ identity.

The transfiguration is a strange account, no doubt about that. But as we try to read and understand we keep being brought face to face with who Jesus is. The transfiguration leave us in little doubt that Jesus shows us glory and agony, and through them shows us the love of God more clearly than we could ever have hoped before. The disciples are left feeling that Jesus, their teacher and friend, is also the Christ – God with us. This can make lives and even faces shine with the glory of God, or it can give us enough strength to keep going when everything feels hopeless.

We don’t need to fear change – since the future of God’s kingdom is in God’s hands. The transfiguration needs to challenge us to let go of our fears of the future, stop building shelters and trust the God who meets us in Jesus. We need to walk with Jesus and the disciples, down the mountain and bravely into the future, knowing that God’s love will never fail us.

And to God be all the glory, in the face of Christ, in Christ’s followers, and in Christ’s church, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Transfiguration - version 2

Thanks to thinking about this with my friends at Revgalblogpals, it's only Wed afternoon, and here's version 2! Less getting bogged down in the Biblical parallels (fascinating though they are) and more focus on how this story impacts on us.
It might even go through a third draft before Sunday!

Transfiguration
The story of the transfiguration of Jesus stands out as not being like stories of Jesus’ teaching, or healings, or the call of the disciples - it’s not a story we can easily try to imagine or relate to. Perhaps the best approach is just to listen to the story itself, because listening to a story carefully is sometimes the only way to begin to understand it - and the more strange the story is at first hearing the more carefully we need to read it.
I’d like to suggest three possible ‘ways in’ to understanding this, or indeed any gospel story. We can ask:
• Why does Luke tell us the story - what is it ‘doing’ in this part of the gospel?
• Who are the significant figures in the story, what do we know about them and their possible significance?
• Is this story like any other stories we know & if so what might they be trying to tell us all together?

Why does Luke tell us the story?
The part of the gospel we heard starts with ‘Now about 8 days after this...’. It is one of those times in Luke’s gospel when he places one thing in relation to another - so to what is he relating the transfiguration?
8 days before there has been the question from Jesus ‘who do you say that I am?’ where Peter blurts out ‘you are the Messiah, the son of the living God’ And what happens just after the transfiguration? Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem - the story of Jesus’ life begins the downward turn towards the cross and suffering and death. The transfiguration stands between two concepts that could be seen to conflict: Jesus is God’s chosen one ... and Jesus is going to die a despicable death.
The transfiguration leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is the one chosen by God, the Son of God, the Messiah, but that far from protecting him from harm, this places him in great danger, because it is only through submitting to death that Jesus will be able to display God’s saving love.

Who are significant figures in the story and what is their significance?
Jesus takes Peter and John and James with him. The next time we read of Jesus going somewhere alone with these three will be in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest. At these times of intense importance in his life, Jesus takes with him the 3 disciples he most trusts. These two episodes in Jesus’ life - of glory and transfiguration, of affirmation by God on the mountain top, and of suffering and agony in the garden are inextricably linked.
And as the story progresses, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. These 2 represent the Law and the Prophets, they underline Jesus’ place as firmly rooted in the tradition and history of the people of Israel. They are also 2 men who walked and talked with God - as we heard in the Exodus reading, Moses, too, had a glowing face when he had been talking with God.
The presence of Moses and Elijah, heroes of the faith who knew God intimately, marks out the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and the Father, even before the cloud descends, signifying God’s presence, when God himself is heard to say ‘This is my Son - listen to him’.

Is this story like any other stories?
We can see parallels of this story with the story of Jesus’ baptism, where very similar words are heard from heaven ‘you are my beloved son’.

It also reminds us of the story of Jesus’ resurrection where dazzling angels are seen and where Jesus is recognisable yet clearly changed.
And we have the passage we heard from Exodus about Moses’ changed appearance and the effect it had on the people who saw it.

As we look at all these possible ways of reading the story - I think there is a theme which links them: the question of Jesus’ identity.

The transfiguration is a strange account, no doubt about that. But as we try to read and understand we keep being brought face to face with who Jesus is. The transfiguration leave us in little doubt that Jesus shows us glory and agony, and through them shows us the love of God more clearly than we could ever have hoped before. The disciples are left feeling that Jesus, their teacher and friend, is also the Christ – God with us.

What difference does this story make to us?
Sometimes in our church life we can be like Peter – we get caught up in concerns about structures and buildings, we can think about how to keep things as they are. Keeping going, keeping the show on the road, wanting change to stop so we can feel safe. This is all a natural reaction, but it is not a reaction of trusting faith.

The eyes of faith see the amazing glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ – they catch a glimpse of what God is doing, how the grace and power and love of God has flooded into the world in Jesus Christ.
In the transfigured face of Jesus we see that God’s love for us is real and that God’s love reaches out to touch and to change.

This can make lives and even faces shine with the glory of God, or it can give us enough strength to keep going when everything feels hopeless.
We don’t need to fear change – since the future of God’s kingdom is in God’s hands. We need to walk with Jesus and the disciples, down the mountain and bravely into the future, knowing that God’s love will never fail us.
And to God be all the glory, in the face of Christ, in Christ’s followers, and in Christ’s church, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Tranfiguration

Readings are

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]

At one church we have a 'creative church' service on the theme of love (St Valentine's Day). But at the 8am and at the second church of the day I will be tackling the readings. I began thinking about what a strange story this is (so strange that at least one commentator suggests it's a resurrection appearance that ended up in the wrong place!) and then got side-tracked by the number of parallels between this story and many others.

So this is what I have so far:
Transfiguration
What do we do with the story of the transfiguration of Jesus?
Read it. But how should we read it?
It stands out as not being like stories of Jesus’ teaching, or healings, or the call of the disciples - it’s not a story we can easily try to imagine or relate to. Perhaps the best approach is just to listen to the story itself, because listening to a story carefully is sometimes the only way to begin to understand it - and the more strange the story is at first hearing the more carefully we need to read it.

If we just read the story of the transfiguration & rub our chins and say ‘hmm, yes, deep’ - aren’t we in danger of being like Peter - who says “Ooh, Moses & Elijah are walking with Jesus - lets build tents for the 3 of you”& Luke says, rather scathingly ‘he said this because he did not understand’.
We’re in danger of doing the equivalent to Peter’s suggestion of building tents. Let’s enshrine this story as ‘important’ without really asking what its importance is, let’s pickle the story in aspic, give it capital letters & a long title ‘The Transfiguration’ & put it on a high shelf and never ask what this has to do with us.

So let’s, instead of building tents, try to find some tools for reading & understanding.
I’d like to suggest three possible ‘ways in’ to understanding this, or indeed any gospel story. We can ask:
• Why does Luke tell us the story - what is it ‘doing’ in this part of the gospel?
• Who are the significant figures in the story, what do we know about them and their possible significance?
• Is this story like any other stories we know & if so what might they be trying to tell us all together?

Why does Luke tell us the story?
The part of the gospel we heard starts with ‘Now about 8 days after this...’. It is one of those times in Luke’s gospel when he places one thing in relation to another - so to what is he relating the transfiguration?
8 days before there has been the question from Jesus ‘who do you say that I am?’ where Peter blurts out ‘you are the Messiah, the son of the living God’.
And what happens just after the transfiguration? Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem - the story of Jesus’ life begins the downward turn towards the cross and suffering and death.
The transfiguration stands between 2 concepts that could be seen to conflict: Jesus is God’s chosen one ... and Jesus is going to die a despicable death. The transfiguration leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is the one chosen by God, the Son of God, the Messiah, but that far from protecting him from harm, this places him in great danger, because it is only through submitting to death that Jesus will be able to display God’s saving love.

Who are significant figures in the story and what is their significance?
Jesus takes Peter and John and James with him. The next time we read of Jesus going somewhere alone with these three will be in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest. At these times of intense importance in his life, Jesus takes with him the 3 disciples he most trusts. These two episodes in Jesus’ life - of glory and transfiguration, of affirmation by God on the mountain top, and of suffering and agony in the garden are inextricably linked.
And as the story progresses, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. These 2 represent the Law and the Prophets, they underline Jesus’ place as firmly rooted in the tradition and history of the people of Israel. They are also 2 men who walked and talked with God - as we heard in the Exodus reading, Moses, too, had a glowing face when he had been talking with God.

The presence of Moses and Elijah, heroes of the faith who knew God intimately, marks out the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and the Father, even before the cloud descends, signifying God’s presence, when God himself is heard to say ‘This is my Son - listen to him’.

Is this story like any other stories?
We can see parallels of this story with the story of Jesus’ baptism, where very similar words are heard from heaven ‘you are my beloved son’.
It also reminds us of the story of Jesus’ resurrection where dazzling angels are seen and where Jesus is recognisable yet clearly changed.
And we have the passage we heard from Exodus about Moses’ changed appearance and the effect it had on the people who saw it.

As we look at all these possible ways of reading the story - I think there is a theme which links them: the question of Jesus’ identity.

When we look at how Luke uses this story in his gospel, it is to bridge the ideas of a chosen one of God who loves and suffers.
When we look at the characters in the story we are again reminded of Jesus as the one who faces agony and yet the one who walks with the God of Israel.
And when we ask which other stories this reminds us of, Jesus’ closeness to God the Father and his resulting transfiguration is echoed in them.

The transfiguration is a strange account, no doubt about that. But as we try to read and understand we keep being brought face to face with Jesus. The transfiguration leave us in little doubt that Jesus shows us glory and agony, and through them shows us the love of God more clearly than we could ever have hoped before.


...and then I need to end the sermon by helping people make a link between this realisation about Jesus' identity & their own lives - and at the moment I've run out of steam, but I might make a link to Lent, as a time to meet Jesus more fully... But hey, not bad for a Monday!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Spring IS coming!

I love to dip into Revgalblogpals, and though I don't usually 'play' at the Friday five questions, I thought that with no sermon to do I would, for a change:

Sally writes:
Candlemass is past, and Christmas is well and truly over, here in the UK February looks set to be its usual grey and cold self. Signs of spring are yet to emerge; if like me you long for them perhaps you need ways to get through these long dark days. So lets share a few tips for a cold and rainy/ snowy day....

1. Exercise, what do you do if you can't face getting out into the cold and damp?

I do find it therapeutic to clean the house vigourously - but if you could see the dust you'd know I don't often get round to it! I also make a point of always running, rather than walking, upstairs - something my mum always did until her stroke.

2. Food; time to comfort eat, or time to prepare your body for the coming spring/summer?

I try to eat healthily, but my body craves carbohydrate.

3. Brainpower; do you like me need to stave off depression, if so how do you do it?


I'm fortunate that I don't get 'down' much - but if I do then getting some jobs done (work, domestic, whatever) usually works better for me than sitting around

4. How about a story that lifts your spirits, is there a book or film that you return to to stave off the gloom?

I had the Michael McIntyre DVD 'Hello Wembley' for Christmas - he makes me laugh.

5. Looking forward, do you have a favourite spring flower/ is there something that says spring is here more than anything else?

A few years ago I noticed for the first time that the buds of Spring are there even as the Autumn leaves fall - but now is the time to spot those buds starting to stir into life. I have a horsechestnut tree in my garden & the 'sticky buds' are giving me hope that Spring will come soon.

Bonus; post a poem/ piece of music that points to the coming spring......

The Enkindled Spring D.H. Lawrence (1916)

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

Monday, 1 February 2010

February 7th 2010

Readings for this week are:
Isaiah 6:1-8, [9-13]
Psalm 138
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11

I'm fascinated by the contrast between the jaw-dropping vision Isaiah gets in the temple of God on a mighty throne, attendant creatures, smoke, etc... and the simple call the fishermen to follow Jesus (although it is accompanied by the miracle of the large catch of fish). I love the 'Miracle Maker' version of this story, which, if you haven't seen it, you can view at
www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE-KkMK0fE4&feature=related
I'm not sure I can post it as a link but I'll try!


Maybe it takes a miracle to convince us that the awesome God of Isaiah is come to us in Jesus of Nazareth - or maybe in the end that IS the ultimate miracle.

I won't be preaching this Sunday - it will be interesting to see what others make of these texts as we continue to travel from Epiphany to Lent.