Preaching again! This time an all-age service, and I was delighted to see a packed Church with lots of youngsters readying themselves. A new alb too (I borrowed the one I wore on Jan 22nd), which J&M oh so very kindly got ready for me pronto, and which Janet presented to me on Friday…
First Reading – 2 Corinthians 4.3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Gospel Reading – Mark 9:2-8
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
Hymns (chosen by me from Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New):
57 Awake fling off the night
105 Christ whose glory
845 Jesus bids us shine
419 Lord the light of your love
Today’s Gospel reading is all about light. Jesus, with three of his friends, treks up the mountain. And Jesus is transfigured before them. To be ‘transfigured’ means to become more beautiful. And the Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus is dazzling, that Jesus shines.
Put your hands up if you’ve read or seen Harry Potter. (Lots of hands raised) Wonderful isn’t it? In Harry Potter 3, Professor Dumbledore waves his hand over a candle, and it magically lights. As he does so, he says, “happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers, to turn on the light.” To remember Jesus’ love for you and feel supported. Light in the dark gives us hope, that’s what we think about when we light the candles in our prayer corner. And standing on the mountain, shining amongst the cloudy, cold day in the mountains, Jesus’ friends are given strength.
But that’s not all that this passage is telling us. Let’s go back to Harry Potter for a minute. The students at Hogwarts School have all kinds of different lessons to go to. Professor Flitwick teaches Charms, where you can make something do something extra. Make something fly for example. Like party tricks. And so there’s a reason why Professor McGonagall’s lessons are separate from his. Her lessons, are those of “Transfiguration”. Where she can change a rat into a golden goblet, where she completely changes the nature of the thing before her. The Transfiguration of Jesus, then, is no party trick. It is a revealing of the deep, beautiful nature in him. When Professor McGonagall transfigures something, the molecular structure of that thing alters. And while Jesus is transfigured on the mountaintop, he is altering something too. Symbolically, Moses and Elijah, who appear with Jesus in the light, represent the Law and the Prophets. God shouts from the heavens, “Listen to him!” Listen to Jesus. Jesus is altering the way things are. He is telling us to be careful of what we think are cast-iron certainties, and look at things in a new light. From a new viewpoint. To stop rushing to cast judgement, and to love more dearly.
I like reading poetry. And a poet called William Blake wrote a poem called “A Dream”. In this dream, there’s a tiny ant called Emmet. And Emmet is crying, because he’s lost in a big dark forest and can’t find his way home. But thankfully, someone helps him. A glow-worm comes along and finds Emmet, and the glow-worm says, “don’t be afraid. I can light the way for you.” And Emmet journeys with the glow-worm, finds his home, and is happy.
When Jesus is transfigured on the mountaintop, he is revealed as the Son, the Beloved, who we need to listen to. And with Jesus as the Light of the World, we can all be little glow-worms helping others, and we can guide people in his way. Guide them not because they’ll be punished by an angry man in the clouds if they don’t, but because if they aren’t guided, if they’re abandoned and don’t find out what love really is, they end up in the dark, in the forest, alone and waiting for a light to help them find their way home to be happy again.
We are the family of this Church. And together, we can be lights in the world, giving hope to others, loving others, and walking in the way of peace. God is Love. And he wants us to shine for him, as his Beloved Son did on the mountaintop, and can now, does now, in us. We can transform, transfigure, our world into a truly beautiful place. We just need to shine.
I was confirmed in December 2010, and the very last words spoken by the Bishop in the service have stuck with me: “Shine as a Light in the world, to the glory of God the Father.” Amen