notre dame montreal

Sermon preached by The Reverend Charles Royden

Mark Chapter 9   The Transfiguration

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I took part in the Brickhill cleanup yesterday, part of the 'Pride in Bedford' initiative organised by the Parish Council to look after our neighbourhood. We all assembled at the Brickhill Community Centre to collect our 'litter picker uppers' and plastic bags and - fluorescent 'Pride in Bedford' tabards, to clearly identify us as officially authorised to remove litter from the highways and byways. After I had completed the registration form giving my personal details, including my medical history and next of kin, just in case the rigors of litter picking took its toll, I set off to tidy Brickhill.

It was an interesting experience. Usually as I am out and about people say 'hello', some might just nod, but there is acknowledgement and friendliness. But not yesterday. Being clearly identified as a rubbish collector I noticed a distinct lack of friendliness! The usual 'good mornings' and 'cold isn’t it?' comments were absent as people looked the other way.

Now I am sure Jesus would have made a wonderful parable out of it. I merely make the point that we all have to be mindful that the Christian way is to treat all people with respect and courtesy. We should not be dismissive or think ourselves in some way superior to others, perhaps especially to those who have jobs which are considered menial.

Not one of us has any reason to consider themselves better than others. We are not elevated above others by the work we do, the status, qualifications or possessions we have. If we look disparagingly at somebody and think ourselves to be superior we have missed the point of the Christian message. We should never look down on others, we follow the example of Jesus who was to be found washing feet.

Now having said we should never look down on others, that brings me to the passage today from Mark and the Transfiguration in which we remember Jesus taking his disciples high up. Jesus goes up the mountain and takes some of the disciples and Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah. Some meeting.

We have all I am sure ascended mountains and felt the sense of grandeur which rising above provides. The last time I did this was on a visit to Caravaca de la Cruz, in Spain. We were visiting the Farthings villa in Spain and decided to go for a drive to see a relic of the 'true cross'. After all, what was a few hundred miles in a Nissan Primera to be able to see a piece of the crucifixion instrument itself.

It seemed like a good idea until after driving miles in the heat and getting lost, I found that the monastery was closed. A quick telephone call to a Spanish translator back in England and we realised that the sign outside the sealed monastery door meant that it was shut for lunch. Which in Spain means it opens again for a full hour, before closing again for dinner. We decided to go home and forsake the spiritual edification of the relic, but fortunately after we left we found sustenance, and eventually to our surprise returned some hours later to see the piece of the cross.  It was encased in an extravagant and no doubt very costly silver holder. However the cross itself was disappointing and would have made a less than an adequate splinter.

The high point of the visit to the monastery was to see a Ford Fiesta being brought to be blessed by the priest. As holy water was sprinkled onto the bonnet car to the appreciation of the driver I had all kinds of new ideas for fundraising.

Anyway, what was it which renewed our strength and caused us have new vigour?  After we left the monastery dismayed at the lack of customer focus, we had a high point, literally. We drove some miles into the countryside and gradually ascended a mountain to find ourselves on a plateau. I dislike heat and high temperatures and so it was acutely refreshing to come out of the air conditioned car and suddenly feel the drop in temperature high on the mountain. The air was fresh, once again I felt I could breathe. Then there was the view. It was fantastic. I could look back and see the journey we had made during the day. The geography of it all became obvious, whereas on the way there was much guessing,

  1. 'Shall we go this way or that, ?'
  2. 'Is the monastery on this side of the valley or that side of the river ?'

Suddenly everything was clear and understandable from the height. It all seemed so different. A world away. That mountain top experience made the journey understandable and gave us the encouragement and rest that we needed to go on. We could not remain there we had to get on, but it was a time to renew our strength for the next stage of our journey.

Jesus did the same thing with his disciples. Jesus knew that there were difficult days ahead of them, so he took the disciples up the mountain.
Spiritually we all need mountain times to help us to cope with the heat and stress of our every day life. We need mountain top experiences in our daily walk with God. We need those experiences to renew our strength for the difficult tasks that we face as we follow each day.

  1. You may have never been on a mountain top
  2. You may have never felt moments when the earth is filled with God’s glory.

But we all have to climb the mountain! We have to create spaces in our busy lives to recognise the awe inspiring, that which provokes wonder - the holy. To do this is to wake the spirit. We need to remember that God is not a distant being who is trying to speak to and just occasionally a signal breaks through space and then is lost. God is not remote, out there, God is at the centre of each of lives, whether we know it or not

In Acts 27:27 we read
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
'For in him we live and move and have our being.'

Think of God as the source of our being, at the heart of each one of us. Yes God is transcendent and magnificent, but God is also close enough to be real.
We are about to enter Lent and traditionally in our churches we have stopped meetings. This is a good thing, because we are using a discipline to create space to listen to God. We stop chattering and listen. This is a good season in which to set aside time to ascend the mountain. To create moments when we can discern God’s voice through the clamour of our hurried lives.

Often people will say that they wished their faith was stronger. I am not saying at all that we should all live our Christian lives on mountain top highs. Obviously we walk the same valley into which Jesus led his disciples.

However we will never be inspired, encouraged or sustained in our Christian lives if we refuse God’s spiritual food.

1. As we take time to read the scriptures God can inspire us
2. As we listen to God in prayer we can be guided and empowered to serve
3. As we remind ourselves of our complete dependence upon God by the imposition of ashes
4. As our handle cradle the spiritual food of bread and wine in Holy Communion
5. As we listen to the ideas and stories of others by coming to the Lent course. and drink we

These and many more are all things which have been given to uphold us in our walk with God.
And so, Lord Jesus look upon your children burdened with care. Take our responsibilities and concerns and help us to lay them aside and trust in you. Help us to make space in our lives that you might satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst and may we find refreshment as we abide in your presence forever. Amen.