SERMON IN CR CHURCH SUNDAY NEXT BEFORE LENT YEAR B
2 Kings 2:1-12 2 Cor 4:3-6 Mark 9:2-9
Neither a book, nor a programme, is really good, if we’re just lulled into a warm cosy glow. It takes more than that to make it a memorable, life-changing experience. We have to be surprised, to be astonished even, by unexpected events, by previously unknown characters, or facts, by piercing insights. In fact good books, good programmes, on science, history, technology, whatever, do the same thing. They all take us out of ourselves - as on a balloon ascent - and we can see more from that different point of view than we could ever have done otherwise.
If only we could read the Bible like that! It’s hardly possible, because whether we hear it read by someone else, or even if we read it in a new translation, we think we’ve heard it all before and we know only too well what it’s going to say.
I’ve been told that in Hebrew the word “prophet” or “prophecy” isn’t about telling the future. It is the word of God. So when the Israelites heard prophecies, they expect them to take place, sooner or later.
They’re always looking for events and people to fulfil this or that prophecy. A selective process, because they only look for events they themselves long for. Soon. Preferably now.
In the exile, in the diaspora, in massacre, oppression, they look for a saviour, a redeemer, a messiah, to turn everything upside down, grind their oppressors under their feet, put themselves on top, as they were in the time of David, in the time of Solomon, when they occupied the whole Land, when kings and queens had brought tribute to Jerusalem. Or so their - and our - scriptures say. Every prophecy which said that would happen is treasured. The others are ignored. The prophecies they ignored said they were called to be a light to the Nations, to those unspeakable Gentiles outside the Law. That they themselves are called to suffering.
The One who is indeed the Word of God knows better. He knows too that we can’t learn just by teaching, preaching, not even by miracles of healing and control of wind, seas and storms as only can be done by God himself. He knows he has to do it by example, by walking a lonely road, on his own.
The story was written up quite a bit afterwards, though told with the immediacy of a press report. All the time we hear the gospel, when we listen to the epistles, we can hear whispering voices: yes, you see, he IS the Messiah after all. Yet no one, at least hardly anyone, believed it at the time. He isn’t the Messiah they expect, let alone the Messiah they want.
Here, look: the impetuous Peter actually says the word itself. You are The Messiah! What boldness, what courage! So few, so very few, caught on.
They all forsook him and fled.
After the Crucifixion St Paul actually SEES Him in glory, the glory of the Father, the uncreated light of Glory, when God spoke the Word and it was Light.
Even before Crucifixion and Resurrection the others see Him with Moses and Elijah, whose presence itself means he’s the Chosen One. Transfiguration = Metamorphosis. Again, our English word has a weakened meaning. It is in fact change of form, as big as the change from the chrysalis into the butterfly. The same thing but looking completely different. It is a foretaste. The Father feels compelled to say This IS my Son, the Beloved: LISTEN TO HIM. The Father does his best to make the point but when it came to the crunch, they still forsook him and fled.
We, when it comes to the crunch, are we prepared to accept that our lives in community, whether in CoR, CR or in a congregation, whether ordained or not, isn’t all sweetness and light, isn’t just about acquiring skills and status to impress people, so that we’re admired and listened to? Even now, if we keep our eyes open, we see in glimpses something of his real glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. During Lent we do the Stations of the Cross and prepare to walk with Him the way of the cross in real life terms. St Paul could even write:
Struck down but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:11)
Antony Grant CR