Saturday, 1 March 2014


Matthew 17:1-9
The Transfiguration
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Recently I was asked whether I would favour a move to set the date of Easter. Easter can be celebrated anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th, depending on the date of the March full moon! So I was being asked whether I'd prefer to celebrate Easter on a fixed day each year or whether I was happy that it is a moveable feast.
Thinking with my preacher's hat on, I said that I preferred it to be a moveable feast because then the season of Epiphany that comes right before Lent that leads up to Easter was also variable - with a late Easter, there would be extra Sundays in Epiphany. Epiphany starts with the traditional arrival of the wise men after Christmas and goes on through to Lent. It is a season of revelation. So, it seems to me, the longer we have to ponder the mysteries of faith, the better. A late Easter, as it is this year, gives us the opportunity to look for more signs of God in Scripture and in the world today. and then we move onto Lent when we have the opportunity perhaps to reflect on all the discoveries we've made during Epiphany and make sense of those in the light of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, and his impending death and resurrection.
But, however long or short the season of Epiphany is, it always ends with the story of the Transfiguration that we read this morning,- the story of Peter, James and John going up a mountain with Jesus and witnessing something out of the ordinary.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany before we move into the season of Lent.
Just one more dazzle before we enter the more austere Lent.
But what a dazzle, a dazzle that confounds the disciples as they see Jesus' appearance transformed alongside the appearance of long dead saints, Moses and Elijah.
What are we to make of this story today?
What message and application can we take from today's gospel for our life today?

Well, let me backtrack a bit first.
Is that what we've reduced the gospels to?
Stories with a message and an application?
Stories in which we can find pointers for the way we live in the world today?
I'm not convinced that the gospels fit neatly into our quests for direction.
Especially not practical direction.
Too often, they defy our logic.
They won't be strait jacketed into our systems and theories.
And THAT'S what we should be excited about.
Things that confound.
Things of faith that defy logic and force us to stop and ponder, maybe even listen.
Because in the midst of all that dazzling, in the midst of appearances of long dead prophets, came a voice to which we might listen.
Out of the cloud on the mountain top, came the voice of God, saying: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
These words echo the words the disciples heard as Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan after being baptised by John.
Words spoken at the beginning of his ministry heard again as he prepares to enter the last phase of his ministry, as he prepares to come down off the mountain top and make the journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
Words from the beginning echoed in the beginning of the end
Listen to him.
When is the last time you heard the voice of God?
When was the last time you stopped to listen?
Or have you decided that God simply doesn't speak the way God used to in days gone by?
I've just spent 24 hours training for my role as an assessor of applicants who offer themselves for Church of Scotland ministry.
A huge part of the assessment is listening - listening as others speak of how and when and where they have been conscious of God speaking into their lives and calling them to a life of service in the church.
Time and again, as Assessors, we are humbled by the sacredness of listening to how others have encountered God and, more, how they have felt compelled to answer that call by offering themselves for holy ministry.
But you know well that ministry of word and sacrament is not the only ministry to which God calls us.
Everyone of us here, everyone, is called to ministry, to serving God in countless ways.
When was the last time you thought of yourself as called by God to serve?
Those of you who will make and serve coffee after the service this morning - do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God?
Those of you who will take tapes of the service into people's homes during the week.
Do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God?
Those of you who donated, arranged or who will deliver the flowers this week, do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God?
Those of you who have lovingly prepared this sanctuary for communion, pressed table covers, cut up bread, poured wine, do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God?
Those of you who greeted folk at the door this morning and handed out bulletins, do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God.
Those of you who will count the offerings at the end of the service and struggle to get columns to balance, do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God?
Those serving as elders and those newly ordained, do you see your leadership as a ministry to which you are called by God.
Those of you who will go into work this week and speak of your faith, or invite a friend or colleague to join in some church activity, do you see that as a ministry to which you are called by God?
Listen to him! God says. Listen to him.
Listen to Gods beloved son calling you to all sorts of things in life.
Speaking to us in all sorts of ways every day.
Listen to the voice of the Son of God who comes to us this morning in this sacrament of communion, transforming bread and wine and transforming us as we share
This transfiguration Sunday, before we step into Lent, let's allow ourselves to be dazzled by the mystery of God revealed in Jesus.
And, blinking in the light, let us hold, for a while, the wonder of this mountain top experience and the echoes of the beginning in the beginning of the end.
And then let us step back into our communities, conscious of the sacred journeys that we make, journeys filled with the voice of God calling us into service.
May we pay attention to Gods voice calling us and respect the myriad ways that God calls others too.
When we are aware of that sacred path that we travel together, we will see the light of God in all whom we encounter this week and we will journey in love.
Thanks be to God.

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