This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 23 February 2020. You can read it again here:
Today’s Gospel reading is very familiar and I think we could be forgiven for thinking it’s August when we usually celebrate Transfiguration Sunday, but this Sunday is the one before Lent begins; it is a time of reflection and preparation for the major event, which precedes the Transfiguration.
We know that if the events of Lent, Good Friday and Easter had never happened then following events would not have taken place and we may not have heard about the glory of God, which was seen by Peter, James and John, but also by Moses and others before Christ was born.
Exactly why we have the three readings we have today I’m unsure, but I’m going to endeavour to try to uncover some of the possible reasons.
We begin with Moses hearing God’s voice on a high mountain. We know that when Moses comes down from the mountain he brings the commandments and he has encountered God’s presence. His face is so radiant he has to cover it for the people. This is only a glimpse of the glory God shows the disciples, who are blinded by it before they make out the 3 figures of Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
A light so bright it dazzles them and changes the appearance of Jesus. The only way I can imagine this if you’re in a car at night and an approaching car has their headlights on full beam, for a split second you are blinded by the light. One of my main fears in that moment is for an animal or pedestrian to step out into the road.
Anyway, back to the readings and how we might define God’s glory.
In the Old Testament we read of many occasions when God is seen, heard and walking beside the humans he has created. It starts with Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Abraham just to name but a few and then God seems to leave humans to it speaking to his people through prophets to ensure they follow his commandments and statutes.
Then things seem to go a bit haywire, people begin to forget what God has done for them and they start to turn away. They ignore the prophets and in some case even kill them. They seem to forget their God. They are led away by false prophets, false gods and idols. What must God have felt after everything he had done?
This short poem, something I picked up in a church, seems to express how God may have felt.
It’s called, “If God should go on strike.”
- How good it is that God above has never gone on strike.
- Because He was not treated fair in things He didn’t like.
- If only once He’d sat down, and said, “That’s it, I’m though,
- I’ve had enough of those on earth, so this is what I’ll do-
- I’ll give my orders to the sun – Cut off the heat supply;
- And to the moon, Give no more light, And run the oceans dry.”
- Then just to make things really tough, and put the pressure on,
- “Turn off the vital oxygen till every breath is gone.”
- You know, He would be justified, if fairness was the game.
- For no-one has been more abused or met with more disdain
- Than God, and yet He carries on, supplying you and me
- With all the favours of his grace, and everything for free!
- People say they want a better deal, and so ‘on strike’ they go;
- But what a deal we’ve given God to Whom all things we owe,
- We don’t care who we hurt or harm to gain the things We like,
- But – what a mess we’d all be in If God should go on Strike.
By: Walt Huntley
It was probably written when there were strikes happening in the country, but some of it does rings true, because people do sometimes forget what God has done for us and how his creation was made to sustain life.
But God doesn’t and didn’t go on strike, instead he decided to become incarnate through Jesus and try to understand what was going on. He walked with us and felt human emotions and suffering. God showed his glory through his son and the disciples witnessed it. They heard God’s voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” The same voice which told Moses to, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”
And all were witnesses to God’s glory, but how do we even attempt to describe what this is?
To define the word glory is almost impossible, because glory cannot be seen; it is a manifestation of God and in the Bible it is generally described as a bright light. It is similar to the holiness of God, both I feel have the same meaning. If you put the question, “What is the glory of God?” into Google (an internet search engine) there are some interesting answers, but one I feel possibly gives an answer which is as close to a definition as possible;
Answer: “The glory of God is the beauty of His spirit. It is not an aesthetic beauty or a material beauty, but it is the beauty that emanates from His character, from all that He is.” A loving, forgiving God.
So, Moses, Peter, James and John were all witnesses to this glory and not just his glory, but to his voice and presence as well.
Has he left us, no! God wants a relationship with us. When we think, “I must tell so and so about something that’s happened, good or bad,” that’s fine, but tell God first. He is our Father, he wants to know what makes us happy as well as what makes us sad.
Do we see his glory? Yes, it’s all around us in the beauty we see in nature, when we look at our families, friends and children, it’s in our church community and even in the eyes of strangers. It may not be a blinding light, but it is present with us.
Do we hear his voice? I think so, yes. Not always loud and clear as Moses and the disciples heard, but it’s that still quiet voice when we are sat in silence, those words that pop into our heads, a whisper of love and encouragement. Fortunately, for us, we don’t have to climb a high mountain to achieve that stillness.
Do we feel his presence? I think so, when we are going about our daily tasks, preparing meals, cleaning, meeting with friends, even shopping. Have you ever felt a presence near you, walking beside you or sitting close? However, when you look there is no one and I’m not going into the spectral world when I say that and not everyone may have the same experience.
God wants to walk with us, he wants to share in our humanity, to be part of our world, that why he came in human form. He sent his Son to understand us and to be with us and left his Holy Spirit to continue to walk with us.
Therefore, the readings today do begin to make some sense. Moses spoke and walked with God. The disciples walked in the presence of God through Jesus Christ, they heard his voice, witnessed the work of God and we today are invited to walk with God everyday of our lives.
God is in us and with us and as we begin this Lenten time and our Year of Service, let us walk with God through Jesus, let us become part of his life. Let us share his love for all and the suffering he endured.
Let us walk with him as he walks with us.
Christine Hardy, Reader @
St. Margaret’s & St. George’s.