Sermon 26 February, 2017
I want to begin with something
most of you will not have heard before. It is from “
White Queen and Alice are having a conversation.
seven and a half exactly”, replied
“You needn’t say exactly”, the Queen remarked. “I can believe it without that. Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day”.
can’t believe that", said
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a piteous tone. “Try again, draw a long breath and shut your eyes”.
“I dare say you haven’t much practice”, said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’d believe as many as six impossible things before Breakfast”.
This morning we have two, not six, seemingly impossible things to believe before we have our breakfast but, before we attempt this, we may need more than a deep breath and closing our eyes. We need also to realise that the experience of belief is not the same as understanding all this belief leads to.
For example, we may believe that we love someone but it will take years to understand what loving that person means. It could take a lifetime. This is the most assuredly true when we consider belief in God but understanding all that this belief entails may take many years of exploration. It is as if one has put one step on to a ladder but not yet realising the staircase that lies ahead. Perhaps complete understanding only comes when we meet God face to face and know God as he knows us.
The first seemingly impossible thing presented to us is the experience of Peter, James and John on that mountain, which we heard about in today’s Gospel. Suddenly there is this blinding light radiating from Jesus, a symbol of his Divinity. This friend Jesus, with whom they had talked and walked and shared meals with - he who is a friend is now brimming with his Divineness. Yet it is still the Jesus they can see up there in the middle of all this splendour and Reverence. The Gospel says that they were simply terrified. Peter points to the vision and mutters something about three Tents although, really, “He did not know what to say”.
learn that the figures of Moses and Elijah are seen talking with Jesus.
the purpose of the vision was to assure them it was all in God’s hands. The
end was the smothering Glory now enveloping them – if that was to comfort them,
it did not work.
now come to the second seemingly impossible thing to believe before our
breakfast. Most of us in the Western part of Christendom have limited our
ideas of the Transfiguration to the person of Jesus on his own. What is largely
overlooked in our part of the Church is that this Revelation is about our Transfiguration
too; it is about what happens to you and to me.
foundation message for us is that at the birth of Jesus the whole of creation
was directly renewed. Christ assumes our humanity and we were given the gift
(grace) to become part of the Divinity. It seems that we have been ignoring this
amazing gift, the picture we have for us of Heaven, through Medieval times until
now. Is Heaven the reward for being good while on this planet? The foundation
meaning for the universal Church is that Heaven is the ultimate destiny of
It has to be said that the other picture of Heaven as a reward for good behaviour means the Gospel account of the Penitent thief makes no sense at all.
re are two facts which support the mystery of our being given a gift as part of
the Divinity. In the Eucharist, at the offertory, the Priest holds an empty
chalice. Into it he pours wine.
"O God, who so wondrously created the dignity of human nature and did still more wondrously restore it, grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of your Divinity, who in our humanity humbly deign to dwell, even Jesus Christ our Lord". Julian of Norwich described this as being KNIT together in God.
2015, as part of a continuous meeting of Orthodox Patriarchs and Anglican
theologians, the following agreed statement was published: "Through
our dynamic growth, we are conformed to the image of the Son of God (Rom.8:29)
sharing ever more fully in deification (theosis) and all of us with unveiled
faces, seeing the Glory of the Lord, as though reflected in a mirror, are being
transformed in the same image, from one degree of glory to another” (2
Cor.3:18). In this way we participate in the mystery of Christ’s
Resurrection including the Transfiguration.
It will take us a lifetime to understand all this.
step might be the word of Jesus: "Abide
in me as I abide in you" (John 15:4).
want to end by mentioning something which recently happened to me. Over fifty
years ago, as a curate in
Simon Holden CR