Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

The Transfiguration
February 7, 2016, 9:21 pm
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Sermon preached at All Hallows, Easton, Sunday February 7, 2016


On this Sunday before Lent, the modern lectionary directs our thoughts to the Transfiguration of Jesus. This comes at the mid-point of the first three Gospels, first half leading up to the recognition by the disciples, Peter being their spokesman: You are the Messiah, the True King. Immediately, Jesus begins to warn them of his cross and passion. A week later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain, to witness his glory, to see him talking with Moses and Elijah, to hear the Father’s voice proclaim, “This is my beloved Son.” This confirms and ratifies their own recognition of him: the Messiah, the true King of Israel and the world. Not Caesar. Not Herod. Jesus.

Jesus takes only three special friends. Significantly, it is the same three who will witness Jesus on another mountain, the Mount of Olives, not in glory but wracked by fear and sorrow as his passion is about to commence. This past week I’ve been at Walsingham, on retreat, with theme of friendship. Not surprisingly, the emphasis was on friendship with Jesus. At the last supper, Jesus told the disciples, I won’t call you servants, I call you friends. Speakers made the point that friendship implies knowledge, sharing in the thoughts and intentions of another, not just following orders. The Gospels tell how, during his public ministry, the disciples failed to understand what Jesus was up to. From now on, they will understand, although always growing in under-standing.

Your friends are the people you want near you both when you are happy and when things get tough. You want to share your happiness them in the good times, you hope to draw strength from them in the bad times. Jesus is God in human form. As a real, flesh and blood human being, Jesus needed friendship, just as we all do. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When Mary and Martha were mourning, he comforted them. When he himself needed support, he asked his friends to be near him.

Jesus came among us to rescue us from darkness and despair, from suffering and death. The way he did it was by sharing in all these things with us, and then going right through them to the other side. The glory revealed on the mountain is what he wants to share with us, having shared our human sorrows in Gethsemane and on Calvary.

He calls us to be his friends. Friendship means sharing- especially sharing thoughts and intentions, sharing confidences. On the threshold of Lent, can I suggest ways in which we can deepen our friendship with Jesus? First, by getting to know him better, reading and re-reading the gospels. By talking to him in prayer, by opening our hearts to him and sharing our thoughts.

Then, secondly, remember having a friend in common creates a link between people who are not yet friends themselves, and opens the possibility of becoming friends. This is what the Church is about. In a healthy parish (which I think ours is) being all of us friends of Jesus means that we are, or are becoming, friends of one another: willing to share, willing to stand by one another.

Thirdly, it is natural to want to introduce a friend, someone important to us, to others. Friends of Jesus want to introduce him to their other friends, and to introduce them to him. That is what “mission” and “evangelism” boil down to: telling others about Jesus, bringing them into friendship with him.

St Paul speaks about being transformed. The closer to Jesus we get, the more like him we will become. “We all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness,” he says in today’s Epistle. “Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we see his face,” as the hymn puts it. The divinity of Jesus was veiled by his humanity; in the Blessed Sacrament even his humanity is veiled by the forms of bread and wine. But it is the same Jesus, God-made-man, who is present today, to give us life and strength, to be our Friend.

St Paul goes on, “Having this ministry… by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience,” to help everyone to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.” What we preach, he says, is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. In the world of Jesus’ day, the word we translate as “Gospel”, euangelion, was in common use for an official proclamation of good news (the equivalent today would be an announcement from Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street, of a royal engagement, a royal birth or suchlike). God’s reign is being inaugurated, and Jesus is King. And we are his friends!!! How wonderful is that?

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