St Bride's: Sermons


Exodus 24: 12-18 and Matthew 17: 1-9

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Exodus 24: 12-18

12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.

13 And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.

14 And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.

15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.

16 And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

17 And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.

18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Matthew 17: 1-9

17 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

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Two stories, two men, two mountains, two sets of bewildered onlookers. Two glimpses of glory. Two invitations to see through to somewhere else, to glimpse another dimension, another reality. And to be changed by what we see.
Moses, the great teacher and leader, goes up from Mt Sinai where he fasts and prays for 40 days and nights in the presence of God. And it shows. His face is shining - he is transformed. Aaron and the others are frightened by what they see - God's glory is almost literally, too hot to handle, too bright, too real, too much.

In Matthew's story it's another mountain and another hero. Jesus with Peter, James and John have gone to pray: and as Jesus prays he is transformed - his face changes and his clothes shine. The disciples are first bewildered, then terrified, as God's glory enfolds them all - a transforming experience in which they glimpse who Jesus really is.

Two stories, two men, two mountains, two sets of bewildered onlookers, two glimpses of glory.' A sense of the veil being momentarily lifted, and the divine reality being open to view for the briefest of moments, but with lasting consequences.
But surely that was long ago and far away? It couldn't happen now - could it? The fact is it can and it does - not necessarily as spectacularly, but in just as real and powerful a way as it did to Moses, James, Peter, John etc.

Most people when hearing the stories we have had as our readings this morning would say that such things - dramatic, overpowering experiences - don't happen, haven't happened to them: but I believe that most of us do have transforming, transfiguring moment - we often just don't recognise them as such because we're looking for the big experience, and so we miss the little ways in which God does draw near and reveals his transforming love.

If we were pressed to point to times like these we would probably talk about an experience of natural beauty (climbing a mountain, a sunset) or an event like the birth of a baby which is full of wonder. And yes, these are the obvious 'glimpses of glory' - but sometimes it's the not so obvious ones that tell us most about ourselves, and God.

I think of the funeral of Brian Edgeley about 12 years ago here in St Bride's. Brian was a homeless man - late middle age, family history unknown, but he used to be a regular here. We looked after his social security payments for a time, gave him clean clothes when he would let us, trimmed his beard, generally kept an eye on him. He hated being copped up indoors and even after a bout of serious illness returned to the streets. Eventually it got too much for his heart and he died unexpectedly. I last saw him sitting in St Bride's avenue, his transistor radio blaring away one cold February day.

I determined that he would have a proper funeral and we gave him full honours with the choir here in St Bride's. And do you know the extraordinary thing? That quiet, solitary yet gentle man had a full church as he departed to glory - 70-80 people here as a testimony that Brian, a homeless man, had touched many people's lives and left his mark: that for me was a glimpse of glory and a reminder of Jesus' words 'Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God' and in that service the Kingdom of God was very close to each of us who were there that day.

Such encounters with the living God and the radical changes which they bring are as real today as ever they were. Legion are the situations in which they occur. It may be in an act of worship, or a chance meeting on a train; it may be in a newsreport on the television or a dramatic event in a family or community. However it happens, God comes to people today in countless and unexpected ways.

Nor are the events limited to a particular age group, for God comes to people of all ages, from little children to the very elderly, and to every age in between. Our God is a God who comes. He came to people long ago and he comes to people of every age today, in countless different ways and his coming is always challenging and transforming.

That funeral service for Brian made me look again at my values and my priorities because here was a man who although penniless, seemed to possess something precious which at his death spoke powerfully of freedom and gentleness and vulnerability.

So not two stories, but three. Three stories, three men, three sets of onlookers, three glimpses of glory, three invitations to see through to somewhere else, and to be changed in the process.
And then there are all the other stories, yours and mine, that can lead to change and transformation, if only we will look and see and let them.

Almighty God,
In Christ you make all things new.
Transform the poverty of our nature
By the riches of your grace,
And in the renewal of our lives
 Make known your heavenly glory;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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