Toorak Uniting Church

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When you see the glory what then?

Rev. Ken Gilson
Matthew 17: 1 – 9
6 March 2011

When we glimpse the fullness of what could be, we are called to the tough work of bridging the gap between the world we live in and the world that could be; the world as we see it and the world as God sees it. Let us begin by looking at the picture on the sheet.

Introduction: This picture is not a photograph but an iconographers depiction of the transfiguration event that we read about in the gospel reading. What do you think the artist is trying to tell us about this experience? What first draws your attention; catches your eye? the mandular - the bright light around Jesus. The darkness at the centre. (This is a theological statement not a visual statement. The light is more intense at the centre of a flame but the closer you get to God the more you realise what you don’t know about the mystery that is God.) Brilliant white of his clothes, the figures on either side of Jesus, who are they? what are they doing? What are the disciples doing?

Have you ever had one of those moments when you look at someone you have known for years and suddenly you see them in a completely different light? It’s like you’re suddenly seeing them AS THEY REALLY ARE for the first time, and although the intensity of that insight may only last a minute, you’ll never be able to see them in quite the same old way again. And sometimes you can never see anything else in quite the same old way again either. What you see of them, effects the way you see all of their relationships; and gives new meaning to who and what they are and perhaps even to who you are.

THIS IS THE LAST SUNDAY IN EPIPHANY. The words God speaks to Jesus today are similar to those spoken about him, by the angel Gabriel when he came and announced that Mary would bear a son who would be called ‘the son of the most high God’, similar to the words spoken to/or about him at his Baptism."You are my dear son. I am please with you" In this Transfiguration experience it is as if the journey has come full circle, yet we don’t find ourselves back at the same point. Some Questions to ponder as we think about this passage from scripture Has this Epiphany journey, we have been on over the last six weeks changed you? What encounters can you remember? How have you heard the stories that are so familiar and what has been new for you? How often have there been transfiguration moments that have changed you and your world during the epiphany time? Where do you see the breaking in of the holy in your own experience and community and how have you responded to it?

LETS GET DOWN TO THE TEXT The writer say the disciples saw Jesus GLORY. What does the word glory mean to you? And how would you define God’s glory? From its use in scripture, glory means; the weight, importance, consideration which is due to someone or something, usually God. Glory is often described as a brilliant, even blinding light which has something mysterious about it. When glory is experienced it brings a greater awareness but not necessarily greater understanding of the experience. It often leaves the one who experiences it, dazed and wondering. And only at some later time does understand come to the person. How do we experience it? Such experiences come as a gift, a surprise, and they are not something we control or conger up for ourself.

TO GLORIFY something, is to recognise and express in some way, the importance of that thing or person, for the individual or the community. Worship is the act of expressing in different ways how important we believe the one who is being worshiped is, for our life.

HOW DO WE DO THIS WITH DAILY LIFE? • Saul Alinsky, a community organizer from Chicago, once said "Don’t just do something. Stand there!" In your own experience, how do people react after an encounter with mystery? (for example in worship, beautiful scenery, listening to music)?
The question Saul Alinsky is asking us is Do you give yourself space for reflection on these things, these moments of awareness or is there too much activity in life to allow an appreciation of glory.

Is there too much pressure in the world to allow you to reflect appropriately on God’s glory? Are we missing out because we are too busy?

Lets begin by following the story Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up a hill to pray.
When we pray the first thing we are seeking is to make contact with God. So we are told that it is while Jesus is praying, in the act of making contact with God, that his appearance changes. We are told that two men, who also share this glory, are talking with Jesus about his coming death in Jerusalem. We are told that they are Moses and Elijah. The writer then tells us that Peter and James and John, who have been sleeping, wake up having missed all this. They see Jesus and his glory and the two men. And as the men are leaving, (the writer comments ‘not knowing what he was saying’) Peter says something which means, ‘let’s stay here in this wonderful moment’ But before he has finished speaking a cloud envelopes them all and a voice says "This is my son whom I have chosen. Listen to him" When the voice finishes Jesus was alone. The scene finishes with us being told that, the disciples at that time, told no one about what they had seen, IF WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND ANYTHING ABOUT THIS PASSAGE we need to briefly revisit the journey we have been on since before Christmas. It began with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her, Jesus will be "the son of the most high God".

We learned of Jesus birth and how Mary remembered all the things, the shepherds had told her, and thought deeply about them. Then of his dedication in the temple, prophets tell us "This child is chosen of God, for the destruction and salvation of Israel" Later, as a 12 year old, Jesus amazes the leaders of Israel with his understand of God’s ways with his people. Next we were witness at Jesus baptism where we heard a voice from heaven "You are my dear son. I am pleased with you" Then we went to the wedding at Cana, where Mary tells the stewards to listen to Jesus and do what he says. And the needs of the people are met with an abundance of wine. We then travelled to Nazareth where we heard Jesus read, to his own town’s people, the prophecy from Isaiah, which says "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." and then heard him say "This passage of scripture has come true today as you have heard it" We were with Peter, who, after catching nothing all night, is told by Jesus throw your net on the other side and he has a catch which the boats could not hold.
And we listened to Jesus speaking to the people on the plain telling them that the poor, the hungry, and the down-trodden are the people God sees as special.

To answer this question there is one more thing to take into account. If we look at the gospels of Matthew Mark and Luke we will find an unusual thing, today’s story has exactly the same setting in each Gospel record. Note, Before taking Peter James and John away to pray Jesus has asked his disciple, Who do you say I am" Jesus then tells his disciples that ‘he must go to Jerusalem and die’, and that anyone who wants to follow him "must forget himself, take up his cross and follow me" (9:23). Then comes the transfiguration; And it is followed by Jesus and the disciples going back to the plains where Jesus heals a man, blind from birth. Jesus then speaks again about his death.
And as if they had never heard a word Jesus had said. The disciples get involved in an argument about who among them is the most important.

It is the centre piece to their story. The events we have witnessed have together predicted who Jesus is. The voice from the cloud tells us who he is and what our response needs to be. But we shall have to wait until after his death and the resurrection to understand fully what all this means for us and the world. I ask two questions. "Who can tell me what is truly important for my existence here and now?" or "To whom can I go, to discover what gives meaning to life? If our answer is God. Then the words of the voice from the cloud "This is my beloved son, listen to him." tell us the significance of the events which lead up to this event. If we have some other answer the event is meaningless.

OVER THE NEXT WEEKS OF LENT we will be looking at the events that lead to Jesus death and his resurrection. Events that the writers believe changed the world that we live in, Gave to those who listen to Jesus a new way of understanding of what life is about; What makes it meaningful. The world in which we live has a legal and a medical model of what life is about. The model says, "life is about people getting their rights fulfilled, and their needs met". We experience ‘The good life’ when each person has the greatest space to assert and fulfill their rights and each person have the resources to have their needs met. (In this model Needs and desires are the same.) But this world view does not ask us to make a judgment about the goodness of those rights. Or if all our desires need to be met.
The gospel sets before us a different model of the world because it asks us to make these judgments and live by the answers we get. It asks us, to live a life which brings joy to me and to all people. What so-called rights are for the good of all people? And what desires do we really need to have met?
The voice from the cloud tells us that we will find the answers to these question when we listen to Jesus and particularly as we listen to him during this period of Lent, as he moves towards the his death on the cross.

Let us finish with a time of REFLECTION

Read this with frequent pauses, allowing time for personal reflection. Through clouds of wonderment, of uncertainty, of anxiety, sometimes, still we hear the voice of God, proclaiming the presence of Christ in the midst of our day to day living. "This is my Child, the Chosen One; listen to him." If we pause. What do we hear? What hopes do we hold? How is life changed by this experience of knowing we live in the presence of God’s Chosen One? What transfiguration moments have we played with on this path? What hopes does God hold form us and how have these hopes grown and changed us? How do we perceive Christ present in this different world? This season closes. Another begins with its own journey, leading to a cross, and through that cross to new life. But there is much we must encounter before we reach that empty tomb. Take these hopes, birthed in the memory of God’s tender, firm voice proclaiming that wherever we are, we are in the presence of the Christ. And to God be praise and glory, Amen.

© Rev. Ken Gilson, 2011

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