The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:
s080e05 Lockleys Transfiguration 6/2/2005
'eyewitnesses of his majesty" 2 Peter 1.16
Each and every one of us has perceived something of the majesty of God; indeed I suspect that there are very few people who have not had some experience of the divine.
For some it will be in a conversion experience to which you can put a date, time and context. Others will have a growing sense of calling, growth in little quantum leaps. People will have visions in the night; some will marvel at the stars, some the microscopic world. Others will be at peace listening to music; others will find the majesty of God in art. Others will find the message of love in the word of God and in the sacraments and fellowship of the Church. As I have said before, God comes to each of us in different ways.
When the disciples were on the holy mountain, they fell on their faces in fear. Countless people had done the same thing before them and countless have done the same thing since. And each and every time, God reaches down and picks the person up. Our primal dignity to stand on our own two feet and more importantly to think for our selves will not be taken from anyone.
So the revelation of the majesty of God is not to make us or anyone else cower.
I was thinking a while back how there are lots of things we could do which are essentially incompatible with being a Christian; child molestation immediately springs to mind. But when it comes to what we actually do, there are in fact few specifics. And I was thinking that there are few specifics, simply because there are so many ways of acting out the Christian life in that state of life to which it pleases God to call us. Much of it comes entirely naturally; in fact we would consider it quite odd if people didn't do them. So parents naturally care for their children. The recent willingness of the Australian community to contribute to those affected by the tsunami is a prime example. No one had to do any arm-twisting here, and I suspect this was equally true elsewhere in the world.
There is this curious silence when it comes to what God wants us to do in our lives. This might indicate to us that there is not just one path to follow. This might indicate that we can actually make up our own minds.
The famous incident in the home of Mary and Martha and Martha's exasperation that Mary leaves her to do the cooking, springs to mind. In the old paradigm, the woman's place was in the kitchen, gave Martha no other choice. But Mary chooses to be elsewhere; no longer does she have to abide by outdated paradigms. There is nothing wrong with being in the kitchen; I enjoy that part of my life immensely. I especially enjoy entertaining. Mary had been liberated from cowering under the old paradigm and she wasn't going to be put back in her place, by Jesus or anyone else. I bet that Mary felt transfigured at that moment; when she realised that she actually could choose and that this choice was honoured by God.
So our perception of the majesty of God is not to make us cower, and it is not for us to suggest others ought to cower before us. Our perception of the majesty of God continues to allow us choice; indeed I suspect that transfiguration opens up many more possibilities for us, rather than narrowing them down to a few.
So, what's good for the goose is good for the gander and our perception of the majesty of God continues to allow others choice; indeed I suspect that transfiguration opens up many more possibilities for them, rather than narrowing them down to a few.
So transfiguration gives us, and all people: the ability to choose, to reason, and to grow. That which is opposed to God leaves people no choice but to comply and remain stunted.
For most of our church life, we have been given things to do. In most of my parishes the people were worn out with doing things. There is a style of management that believes that the devil makes use for idle hands, so keeping the people busy means they don't get into other mischief; like criticising the priest. The old paradigm of work-aholism was sacred. Now there is nothing wrong with being busy for the Lord. But God doesn't demand this, or anything else, of anybody. We can just as easily live out our Christian life by heeding the advice of Exodus 14.14: "The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still."
So for me this puts another slant on those words "tell no one about the vision". We might think that what we are called to do as Christians is to witness to what we have seen. And Jesus says "No!" I don't know about you but I've always had this mistaken impression that being an evangelist or a preacher was the mark of a "real" Christian. The old terminology when a person was ordained was that they "went into the church" as if the church was the sole preserve of the clergy. No, rather than telling others how we have perceived something of the risen Christ, we have to have enough patience and preparedness to listen to hear the stories of what others have seen and to acknowledge and affirm the truth as they see it.
For me the majesty of God is inextricably linked to the fact that it is denied to no one; all are invited; no one is forced. The majesty of God is all about us and how each and every one of us are to become all that we were meant to be from the beginning.
And for me this has much resonance with the words of Bishop John Spong who regularly pleas: that we "live our lives fully, love wastefully and become everything God created us to be". Even the majesty of God revealed to humanity is for the up-building of humanity not for the magnification of the divine status.
Each and every person here who is a parent, will I'm sure remember times when it seems one or other of our children have grown an inch overnight. (2.54 centimetres; for those unused to inches). Much of our physical growth occurs when we are asleep, when we are doing least to bring it about. Similarly I would testify to how much I grew while I was on pilgrimage overseas; it isn't just the hair! :-) I cannot tell you how it happened but happen it did, while I was doing least.
And it is strange, as I have returned to my "normal" existence (or what passes for normal being a member of the clergy :-), how during this time after Christmass when things have been quiet, I have become anxious that I should be busy. I haven't learned the lesson of the pilgrimage and rejoiced in the growth that is still taking place.
The promise and the good news is for us and for all, that God's primary purpose is our fulfilment in life.
And so I conclude with the final words of Psalm 27 (17): "O wait for the LORD; stand firm and he will strengthen your heart: and wait, I say, for the LORD."
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