Last Sunday before Lent – Rev Alison Way

Video links: Service Video for the Sunday before Lent:

Bishop Rob Martin’s reflection:

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

In the name of God, source of all being, eternal Word and Holy Spirit Amen

So here we are – on the verge of Lent once again. As tradition has it we have the story of Jesus’ moment of transfiguration. Transfiguration is not an every day word – and is a special kind of transformation on a grander scale. It literally means – A change that displays God’s glory in Jesus, in God’s son. The word transfigured is describing this glory radiating not just from around Jesus but from within Him – as part of who he was, giving us a tangible deep sense of who Jesus was.

I want us to pause for a moment and shake off our preconceptions about this and imagine we are in the shoes of Peter and James and John. When the stories of Jesus get too familiar, we can tend to lose sight of the wonder and mystery. In these moments much was revealed to them – of Jesus being God’s son.

The purity of the dazzling white appearance points to this as does the reality of the two great forefathers of faith Elijah and Moses along side Jesus. They bring great credibility and integrity to this moment. I don’t know what Peter thought he was witnessing – but in the face of such wonder – he is babbling. (Any of us who in the face of crisis or greatness tend towards babbling – knows why he is doing this!) After all Peter was a simple fisherman, he must have been amazed, and the passage says even though he found something to say (really he did not know what to say!)

If all of that wasn’t dramatic enough – we then have a voice from an overshadowing cloud – adding to the scene and stating the reality playing out in front of Peter and James and John. The voice says This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him! Confirmation of the importance of the moment is there in the voice of God. We have echoes in our mind of the voice from the heavens at Jesus’ baptism, which started with the same 2 phrases, This is my Son, the beloved. Peter and James and John would not have been there for the baptism, and only have heard about it – but now they are seeing and hearing for themselves. And then just as quickly as it had started, it was done. Suddenly, there was just Jesus and this moment of wonder, awe, and mystery that is the transfiguration had passed.

We have this moment year by year as a herald to Lent, as it is a significant turning point. In Mark’s gospel, up to the end of Chapter 8 the story is pretty action packed with healings, miracles, teaching and parables. Shooting from the hip one after an another, but from then onwards including the gospel we heard to today there is a change of tack and focus. Coming next on from this, is some action described as happening over 6 days, as the disciples are coming to terms with who Jesus is and what is going to happen to him. First in this six day period, Peter declares Jesus is the Messiah. And even as soon as them coming down the mountain Jesus starts to open the disciples’ eyes to teach them about how he will suffer and die and rise again. He even ordered the disciples with him to tell no one about what they had seen.

In our terms today, for Jesus the transfiguration was a very very significant ‘reveal’ moment witnessed by 3 of his closest disciples. A real turning point  – A turning point is an event marking a unique or important historical change of course. Or a turning point is one on which important developments depend. Something that changes our direction and focus. Most of us will have ones we could refer to in our lives, and events which have changed the order of things entirely and forever.

Sometimes a turning point – literally turns our life in another direction –  and we turn from the path we have been on to one going in another direction. Sometimes a turning point brings clarity and feels like we have turned a full 360 degrees and though we are still looking at the same things we see them in a new informed light – whatever the circumstances of the turning point has brought. For many of us a significant turning point may have been taking on board the Christian faith in the first place – certainly that is the case for me. Or for others significant turning points have come when we first met a future partner or had the first child or of course when someone close to us dies.

I think all this Covid stuff has been something of a turning point – en masse for all of us. This time last year we were still gambling along normally, though the news from across the world was beginning to get increasingly alarming. Turning points bring us to new places but are not comfortable or cosy! Turning points are times of challenge, revelation and change.

In our Church calendar we are rapidly approaching a significant turning point too – as we turn towards preparing for Easter and the season of Lent. Lent starts solemnly on Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of our journey to the cross and resurrection of Christ. This is a time to take on board some challenge, revelation and change in our lives to mark this turning point. This Lent as there always are, there are lots of options on how to have a holy Lent. The most important thing is whatever we do needs to bring us closer to God.

For some this may be ‘giving something up’ for Lent – I have to say I am not particularly recommending this approach for 2021.  Though you can disagree with me about this I think things are tough enough in our lockdown as it is.

I am much more in favour of ‘taking something up’ for Lent – at the beginning of this service I talked about a number of things we could take up:-

  • Greater depth in our daily prayers – characterised by daily praying with our cross prayer stones (available from both churches see the newsletter as to where you can collect one from).

  • Greater depth in our daily bible reading – characterised by engaging with the #livelent reflections from the Church of England, via the booklet, daily emails, or app.

  • Greater depth in our worship – characterised by engaging with our weekly Night Prayer on Zoom (you can also connect to this on the phone – get in touch if you want to do that).

  • Greater depth in our fellowship and learning together by joining the Churches Together Lent course looking at the beatitudes on Zoom – called Happy and Blessed.

  • Another suggestion might be tackling some of the things that show greater love for God’s beautiful world, reducing our carbon footprint, our use of plastic, switching to planet friendly cleaning products, recycling more and so on…

Make sure whatever you do is something that is sufficiently challenging (but not too much deprivation in our times of isolation from one another) to bring about a turning point that brings you closer to God. All this allows the power of the Holy Spirit that is with us in everything to make us more Christlike. We need this to be something transformational for us (something that will change us through God is working in us and through us). And dare I say we need this to be something “transfigurational” for us – which displays God’s glory in Jesus, in God’s son

We are looking this Lent to approach it in the knowledge and hope of Jesus’ transfiguration. Jesus transfiguration was working from the inside and brought a tangible deep sense of who Jesus was and everything he has done for us. This Lent let’s get beyond surrounding ourselves with God’s love from the outside – even though that is always good. Let’s get down and really deep, and allow time for God’s love to well up from within ourselves – so we are truly instruments of that love. So that God’s love dwells in us and overflows from us in all that we are as God’s love dwelt in Jesus and overflowed in him on the mountain during the transfiguration.

Let us pray

Almighty God, we ask you to show us something more of who you are and how awesome your presence is. Overcome our fear of the unknown, and lead us into a new experience of you. Amen

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 a gathering prayer