St Bride's: Sermons

'Tis good, Lord, to be here

St Luke 9: 28-36

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28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:

31 Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.

33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.

34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.

35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

'Tis good, Lord, to be here

Transfiguration by Lodovico Carracci

It seems just days ago that we were building up to the festival of Christmas and now here we are preparing for Lent - Ash Wednesday being this week.

So as we move towards the Lenten period and through Lent to the other great festival of Easter, today - we are given a glimpse of what that will mean in today's Gospel reading. 

The Transfiguration is a glimpse of what will happen to our Lord post Easter as well as to what God's Son means to Israel, the new Israel, and indeed to the Church.  Jesus is transfigured - or transformed - and there on the mountain is the glory of God in the midst of life. 

The miracle of the Transfiguration is also a confirmation of Jesus' role for Israel. He is the fulfilment of all that has been shown to the people: - of all that God has done through 'the law' (Moses), and all that God has said through the prophets (Elijah).  But it is more. 

It is also all that Jesus has done in His life, in His ministry, to be completed on the cross and beyond: "This is my beloved Son ..." -

Those same words that were said at His baptism - are said now as He reaches the climax of His life - and moves on. Moving on the journey toward Jerusalem. 

All this is good too, for the disciples, for those followers of Christ to see and to understand - the New Israel, the infant and unfolding Church is shown the glory of Christ - and is given its ministry.

It is a pity therefore that the reading today stopped where it did on the mountain - for verse 37 tells us, "On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain a great crowd met him ..... There - a Father pleads to Jesus for the healing of his possessed son - He says to Jesus "I implored your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."

Jesus seems frustrated at the fact that they cannot do it - I assume because at least some have just witnessed the transfiguration, and been with Him and prepared by Him.

"O faithless and perverse generation" - he says. "How long shall I be with you and bear with you? 

From that glimpse of Christ's glory on the mount - there was the descent to the plain. The necessary descent where the disciples were to live out their ministry.

Immediately new challenges faced them and they fail. There is a sick child and the disciples seem helpless.

In their own power they cannot heal the child brought to them... No, not by their resolve and not in their own power, but they need to rely on the power that comes from God. So Jesus enters the picture and the child is healed.

It is a miracle AND it is an enacted parable

The parable is for us - that like the disciples in acting on their own, and under their own steam - they struggled.

We, like the disciples, are told to realise the presence of Christ on the mount and on the journey - and to be strengthened by that. This is the parable and this is the truth - It is the way that God would have it be.

Within this miracle of the transfiguration and miracle and parable of the healing - This part of the journey and journeying - is the profound and central theological truth of "Incarnation Theology". God is with us in Christ.

It is the dwelling of God with us - and around us.

So today - in the Gospel story of the Transfiguration let us look at it and to it - let us from the plain of our existence wherever that might be - look back to the mountain and lift up our eyes unto that hill, for from whence comes our help, our help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

It was this, the power and presence of God, which Jesus expected his followers to rely upon as they left the mountain, and tried to interpret his teaching of the Kingdom in their lives, with him and beyond His life with them.

So, it is with us, as we look at this Gospel reading, and as we leave the mountain and go onto the plain, resuming our journey as we leave here taking with us - what I hope, is a transfiguring and a transforming experience - to prepare us for the journey and for the tasks that lie ahead.

And so I would refer to the last verse of the gradual hymn we sang - those words, which I like to think of as a prayer, making out request to God: -

'Tis good, Lord, to be here,
yet we may not remain.
But since thou bids't us leave the mount
come with us to the plain.                                      

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