This sermon was given by Rev Caroline on Sunday 11 February 2018.
When I was a teenager (and before I had come to a personal faith), I recognised that there was something different in the faces of those that I knew that believed. Before I understood that it was the Holy Spirit shining out of them, I used to describe this phenomenon as them having “ITV” faces which drew its analogy from the sparkly radiance that make up and lights achieved in a TV studio – ITV’s being slightly more so than BBC make up. This radiance was a source of fascination for me in these friends, something that they could not see in themselves when they looked in a mirror but something that the world could clearly see and describe in them.
Our reading today in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians gives us great insights into this teenage conundrum. It reveals to us how we are transfigured by two manifestations: the Messiah’s glory being revealed on the mountain top as the image of God and also of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus.
In the chapter prior to our passage today (2 Cor 3:18), Paul gives us a clue about how, with the Spirit of our Lord, we can all, as believers, with “unveiled faces” “behold” and “reflect” the glory of the Lord as if a mirror. The being unveiled refers back to Exodus (34:35) where, having come down from the powerful encounter with God whereby the commandments were given, Moses was so radiant that he needed to wear a veil in public so that the people were not afraid and “the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with (God)”.
Just as our personal encounter with the living God fills us with God’s spirit, we are gradually transformed into that image from one degree of glory to another. Through this mirroring we receive divine mercy that emboldens us to reveal the truth of who we are to others. Children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ with the truth of the gospel living in our hearts to all whom we meet.
As we allow the gospel to grow in our hearts and immerse ourselves in the love of God for us, we can echo Elisha’s cry of the heart to Elijah “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit” and, God will bless the genuine cry of our hearts for greater faith when our yearning comes from a place of pure intention for that grace.
How does this actually take place, though in our daily lives – especially when life throws its unpredictable moments of suffering our way. And how does all this actually happen — especially amidst the suffering in our lives. We and our bodies are all potentially vulnerable and unpredictable as are relationships in the world around us. Do our responses to these moments of sorrow and trial reveal a veil over the gospel or the truth about what the gospel means in our lives? How do we prevent our difficult feelings and struggles from becoming what Paul describes as “the God of this age”? For Paul, to allow the gospel to become veiled in our times of trial only leads to destruction in ourselves and in the effect that we have upon those that we meet.
To not cling fast to the glory of Christ crucified, his suffering in the midst of ours, his understanding of all that life brings to us and his dying so that we might all live is to try to diminishing his saving grace in our lives. He is there walking alongside us in our times of trial. The radiance of his light and love shines into those dark places and transforms and heals our lives. Often it is at our most vulnerable that the radiance that I had noticed in my friends as a teenager, shines in our lives most brightly and touches the lives of others that we might console each other and be strengthen as we share in life’s challenges.
The radiance in Jesus as he was transfigured discloses the Messiah’s glory as well as the glory and wisdom of God. The very light of God’s glory that will ultimately shine from the face of the crucified Christ.
As Peter, James and John gazed upon Jesus’ transfigured person, they are awe inspired, afraid and mesmerised. They know that something precious has been revealed that somehow needs protecting and preserving that is summed up in Peter’s words: Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”.
The disciples saw stewardship of this encounter and all that Jesus meant for them in the world as something to pin down, protect, preserve for the world to visit and witness. But, Jesus went down with them from the mountain into the world explaining that they had missed the point. Our faith in Jesus is not something to pin down to one place and time, to visit and then return to our lives in the outside world. It transfigures us just as it transfigures our relationships in the community and our families and workplaces.
Let us pause for a moment and bring to mind something in our lives or the life of someone that we love that needs God’s love and light shining into it.
As that context develops in our minds, I invite you to imagine Jesus’ face, transfigured, shining his healing light and love upon you and the situation.
Rest for a moment in that light and his love. Draw strength from it and ask Jesus how he would like you to shine his light in that place.
Lord Jesus, we lift before you these times of challenge and concern in our lives. We pray that you would bless each of these, your precious children this day. May we and they know the light of your love in our lives, your healing touch and your transformation in our lives. For your kingdom’s sake. Amen.