The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r202.htm
s202e04 Lockleys 22/2/2004 Last Sunday after Epiphany &endash; the Transfiguration.
"all of us É are being transformed" 2 Cor 3.18
One of the great blessings of this life is being open to learning and to change. My father had a couple of sayings: "the best things in life are free" - which was curious for someone who made a living selling gifts - and "as soon as you stop learning you're dead". I look at my offspring and see how much more accomplished they are than I was at their age &endash; and I guess I am not alone in this perception as a very proud parent. In the past children were seen and not heard. Nowadays young people are taught to think for themselves, express their opinions and utilise the talents they have. What a blessing this is!
I was reminded recently that it is during the first five years of life that we learn the most. It is when we learn to walk, eat, talk and relate to those around us. Again, I don't suppose I'm any different from other parents, but there have been occasions that I've thought my boys have grown an inch overnight!
And as we go through life, the only things that are certain are death, taxes and change. Sometimes it takes great courage to change. I think of times past when seemingly marriage was held more sacred, the agonising choice that women who were abused by their husbands had. It took great courage for them to finally up and leave a destructive relationship. They often faced hostility from family members and precious little support from the Church. I praise the Lord that things are easier these days.
I have said before, I find it quite amazing that here I am, a priest still after 25 years, and after preaching 48 Sundays out of 52, I still find the gospel fresh. If I ever thought about it, I'm sure I would have reasoned that I'd be burned out by now. A priest to whom I said this remarked &endash; that's because I still read. And of course it is true. You will know how frequently in sermons, I relate things I have read, or experiences I have had. One cannot preach in a vacuum.
The person who teaches and preaches naturally learns more than those who are taught or preached to. I can only offer you where I am at in my spiritual journey &endash; whereas you may well be quite somewhere else. Naturally my thoughts will not resonate with you as much as they do for me.
A person I trust implicitly commented recently &endash; it's a bit boring - the message doesn't change &endash; and yet I change. Each sermon I preach fills another little piece of the jigsaw for me.
The same is true of our human contacts. Every time we meet and converse with someone else we are changed. When I do the process of "Prepare" with a couple before they are married, and this is only an exercise in conversation through a computer, people are changed. After they hear the results, they know their prospective partner a little better and they know something more about themselves too. They are not the same people,that they were previously.
So transformation is part of our daily lives. Growth is so commonplace, yet nevertheless it retains its miraculous nature.
Transformation comes also as we give. I said in the beginning of this sermon transformation is about being open &endash; so we give others the opportunity to contribute to our lives.
But also we give as we help others. So in this sense transfiguration happens to us perhaps a little here at Church, but also as we relate to others in our families and community. Transfiguration happens at school, in class, at lunch and recess times, at work and at the bar. Transfiguration happens in sporting teams and social clubs. Transfiguration happens in social gatherings and yoga classes.
The demon that possessed this boy controlled his life. Everything that is controlling is demonic. Everything that is of God is about freedom. Even church dogma that controls is demonic. Controlling spouses are demonic.
I have, for some time, been a member of a political party. I joined because an Anglican politician I knew was proposing some changes to the laws concerning prostitution and I thought I'd do what I could to support him. But it is an interesting - though of course entirely fruitless - exercise, and I do not imagine for a moment that any other political party is different. But I have been struck that the constant themes have been - raising money and presumption that members agree with that particular party's policy. There is no particular desire to listen to the contribution members make in terms of changing policy - unless of course one has enough power and influence to rise above the grassroot levels. But then I thought that the church is not all that different. We are busy fund-raising, blithely assuming that everyone agrees with the direction we are going. I went to our diocesan ordination a week or so ago, and when I entered the cathedral that mixture of feelings - familiarity and intimidation came to me again - as it so often does. We too could be viewed as essentially not all that interested in the ways the grass roots congregations may make to the shape of the church. And I thought about drug dealers - they too are only interested in the money that can be bled from their victims...
In a book given to me recently, it has a conversation between God and a human. The human wants not to have free will because so often it is misused. It is an extremely clever argument, but in the end, of course, God being God cannot but give us free will.
It is not necessary or even especially desirable to look to come to church to be transfigured. God has innumerable ways and innumerable people to help us be transfigured and only some of them are in this congregation. It is enough that when you come here you are invited to be transfigured.
There is little point in a baby trying to learn transcendental meditation. The transfiguration a baby needs is to learn to walk. So transfiguration, appropriate to our needs, is offered. We don't teach babies to walk in church, that we do at home. So it is the people around us who help us in our transfiguration experiences. Parents, siblings, teachers, all ordinary people bring transfiguration into our lives.
And I thought about that comment - that the message doesn't change. Of course, each of us is meant to have a life outside of the church. We are not meant to worship God 24/7! After all, if we did, who would do the things we do to support others in our jobs and our volunteer time, take the "Meals on Wheels", the children to school, feed and clothe ourselves. God knows that we need to do these things and that others need us to do these things too. God doesn't want to monopolise our time and energy. God knows that politicians need our support and we are given time to do this. God also wants us to explore our own spirituality - God does not impose one on us, so we are given space to do this too.
Some people may well be transfigured by listening to or playing music, visiting the art gallery, or watching the sun rising.
I was reading a book of spiritual experiences and one contributor described the process of meditation and a sudden overwhelming peak experience that occurred. Somehow this person emptied himself of everything else and suddenly something of God happened.
Now I am sure that this may indeed happen, yet God is not limited by our degree of emptiness, nor does God only work through such spiritual people. God can touch each and every one of us in our own way, in the hurley burley of our daily and very ordinary lives.
I had occasion to have a conversation with a person seeking healing from depression recently. She asked if I knew of any christian group who could heal her. I replied that I didn't - yet I hoped she wouldn't overlook the people God had already put around her, to bring her healing - people like her doctor and the people with whom she lived. I do hope that she doesn't spend a lifetime remaining depressed - all the time looking for that special person who can "heal" her. The God I worship doesn't play "hide and seek" or put hurdles in front of anyone, over which they must jump, before healing, The God I worship has already put people around her to help, just as the God I worship has already put people around each and every one of us, to bring transformation into our lives.
We can, of course, resist God, but even if we do this we are hardening ourselves and steeling ourselves against God, and the God I worship has a habit of winning :-) So all of us are being transformed - sometimes whether we like it or not! So sometimes we choose transformation that is healthy and life giving and sometimes transformation which is not.
The God I worship transforms our lives as we realise that God removes all barriers to fellowship with other people, that God doesn't particularly want us to be on our knees each and every minute of the day, but empowers and inspires us to help, and be helped by, those God puts around us.
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