Saturday, 5 March 2011

Transfiguration/St David's Day

Readings:
Exodus 24: 12-18
Matthew 17: 1-9


I wonder how you would respond if someone asked where you find God?
Some people would point to amazing places – I remember some friends being utterly bowled over by the Grand Canyon: personally I find the sands around the causeway to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne very special.
Some people might say they find God in amazing feelings: John Wesley, founder of Methodism spoke of his heart being ‘strangely warmed’, I have heard people talk about a sudden rush of a sense of love, or of worship which helped them feel they had found God.
Other people might talk about finding God in amazing people – saints whose lives we read about in history books, or people we know or have known ourselves.
And a final group of people might say they find God in the quietness of a church.. or a forest.. or their own room.

There are no right & wrong answers of course, and it is amazing to reflect on the great variety of ways in which people become aware of the presence of God.

The story we heard of the disciples experiencing the transfiguration of Jesus seems to combine an amazing place, amazing feelings and an amazing person – as Jesus is changed in front of their eyes and they see him as God’s own son.
The disciples are up a mountain with Jesus. They know their Hebrew scriptures, they know that up a mountain is the place to meet with God – just as we heard in our reading from Exodus. What is strange and different is that they meet God in Jesus and see him in a different way than they ever have before.
They might hope to meet with God on the mountain with Jesus, but in fact they meet God on the mountain in Jesus.

Everything that happens in this story is directed at the 3 disciples:
Jesus led them up the mountain
He is transfigured before them
There appeared to them Moses & Elijah
A cloud overshadowed them
Jesus came and touched them
Jesus ordered them to tell no-one what they had seen.

Whatever happens on that mountain, it is for the disciples’ benefit, it is to help them understand more about Jesus’ identity and purpose: it offers them a glimpse of the glory that truly belonged to Jesus, and which is normally veiled in his earthly ministry.

In a sense this story says a lot about why the disciples believed in Jesus – especially as they reflected on this experience in the light of two very similar experiences of finding God with them: before this event, at Jesus’ baptism, and after this event, at Jesus’ resurrection.
The transfiguration helps the followers of Jesus to understand more about who Jesus is – God with them in a human being. But it might leave us wondering how we – who cannot have this experience – might come to believe in Jesus as God with us.

After his resurrection and ascension, Jesus is no longer physically present on earth – so we cannot experience what Peter, James & John experienced – but Jesus leaves a new body on earth – the church. The church is called the body of Christ because in it we can still see God with us – God at work in the world.

The historical saints of the church are a part of this body which can be known to us. So we remember St David today.

There is a story told of St David that on one occasion he was preaching to a large crowd of people and God caused the ground beneath his feet to rise up to from a hill, so that more people could see and hear David.
Whatever the truth of that story, there is no doubt that in the life of David people saw Jesus at work – teaching, caring, telling people about God’s love.

Sometimes it can feel as if saints as those whose lives have been so holy and so extraordinary that we can only marvel at them and feel inadequate. But saints are really those people who have reflected God’s glory in their lives – who have loved with the love God gives them – and to a greater or a lesser extent we can all do that.

God may not cause the ground to lift us up when we speak, but we can be unafraid to lift up our voices to tell others what we know. We can be courageous to say when, where and in whom we have found God, we can share the ways in which we have experienced something of God’s love.
We have not had the extraordinary experience of witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus, which the disciples had. But thanks to their account and to the whole gospel we are privileged to know just who Jesus is – the Son of God, come, veiled in flesh, to live and die and live again for love of the world. And we can point other people towards the glimpses of God’s glory that we have seen – and listen to the stories others tell – and learn more about God’s presence with us in Jesus.

As Lent begins next week, can we find ways to deepen our knowledge of Jesus, explore his identity more fully, and share our stories with others?

Here today at the table of the Lord we are welcomed and invited to share in remembering his life and death and resurrection as we celebrate with this bread and wine. May we know God with us here…and everywhere. Amen.

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