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10th February – Sunday next before Lent – Jack Noonan

 
 

Audio:

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Exodus 34. 29-35; 2 Corinthians 3.12 – 4. 2; Luke 9. 28-36

Text:

Today according to the Liturgical Calendar is; The Sunday next to Lent.

Liturgical Calendars are sometimes validly criticised for being restrictive in terms of flexibility and selection of scriptural readings. But despite these limitations a liturgical calendar has the distinct advantage of annually having us corporately revisit events and episodes in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

With this calendar’s seasons we travel from Annunciation to Incarnation. From Baptism through Ministry to Crucifixion. And from Resurrection narratives to Ascension and Pentecost.

By the time we next meet we shall have entered Lent; a period of reflection, preparation and renewal both corporately as a congregation and personally as individual believers.

Human beings are now flawed creatures, but originally we were made in the very image of God and are wired to function accordingly. Those who become believers in Jesus come to possess a unique regenerated spirit. We are indwelt by the very creative Spirit of God himself…… becoming a peculiar people, a royal priesthood, the salt of the earth. God now gives us His nature via grace. We are simultaneously in this world but not of it.

While the church’s liturgical calendar operates year in year out externally to us. Its function is not restricted to the just the external domain. On the personal level the liturgical calendar is a profound form of mediation.

This mediation is forever through the actions of the Holy Spirit spiralling out to humanity while simultaneously spiralling in to the core of the Divine Word, spiralling up to the mystical limitlessness of God’s Divine Love, which we participate in, and simultaneously spiralling down plummeting and sounding the depths of that same Love in Jesus.

This is the ballroom of our Divine dance with God. The dancers are you and me, our dance partner is none other than the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

The essence of being a Christian is relationship not religion. Without a fully human and absorbing relationship with God we are left with the husk of mere religious practices , not the energising kernel of full spectrumed creative Love offered by a beautiful, passionate, jealous and creative God. ; )

By next Thursday we shall have entered the Season of Lent. A solemn season in that, within 40 days, we’ll rehearse the dreadful cost of our salvation. Christ’s cosmic dread in Gethsemane, the betrayal of unconditional Love, a trial without justice, defacing torture followed by an ignominious death that stabbed into the very heart of the Triune God. But Jesus Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross………. for you … me and every human being.

During the forthcoming Lenten Season we need / must set time aside to establish, re-establish, revitalise, regenerate and deepen our relationship with Jesus who is in the words of Hebrews: is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His Being, sustaining all things by His powerful Word.

This is the lens through which I approached today’s readings.

The Gospel passage describes an awe inspiring scene. It is preceded by Peter’s declaration of faith and the Lord foretelling his death and resurrection.

I love the humanity of the disciples. We can take great consolation from them. Invariably when momentous events are occurring, or about to occur, they are solely preoccupied with wanting to get some sleep.

We can imagine the scenario from being half asleep to the dawning realisation that something strange is going down.

The 3 disciple are dumbstruck at the changing appearance of Jesus as He prayed. The appearance of His face was different/altered/transformed … it shone clear and bright like the sun (Mt). His cloak was dazzling white, gleaming like lightening. (Flashing with the brilliance of lightening). This scene is a dramatic prefiguring glimpse of the majestic awesome re-appearance of Jesus at His second coming.

It also struck me that before Jesus embarked on His ministry. 3 years earlier, and very often during the ministry itself He spent a considerable amount of time in prayer. Remember he was a man ……. but a man in tune with God. For Jesus had to set aside His divine nature. During these times with the Father he drew down the divine sustenance and spiritual resilience He needed in order to be prepared for what was before Him. There is a solid lesson for us here.

It also struck me that the awesome nature of this display of the transforming power of God was to prepare the man Jesus for the cosmic battle with the powers and dominions of Satan which He, Jesus, as a man representing all humanity, would be shortly engage in…..all because of The Godhead’s Love for us and our original destiny.

Luke’s description clearly echoes our earlier OT reading from Exodus. To the disciples the presence of Moses and Elijah, awesome in itself, was magnified by their glorious splendour, majesty and brightness.

As with Moses, Jesus would also lead an exodus of people to the promised eternal land and while journeying, sustain them with hope like Elijah.

But first … the journey to Jerusalem and His death on the Cross. Before our resurrection there is also our recognising and accepting the wisdom in our cross.

Again our Everyman Peter steps in where angels fear to tread. He is wonderfully spontaneous and ‘up-front’. Peter is literally having a ‘mountain-top experience’ and understandably wishes to prolong it.

He suggests building booths but was not to know that 3 booths would completely understate Jesus’ relationship to Moses and Elijah.

Peter’s monologue is cut off in mid sentence .(Mt is more detailed than Lk here). The AV reads a shining cloud (composed of light) overshadowed them. Lk adds and they were afraid as they entered in.

Here the God the Father speaks … not only to John, James and Peter but also to all subsequent generations of humanity.

(For the 3 observations I make I used Mt and Lk using the KV, The NIV, the Amplified Versions and Young’s Literal Translation. The purpose was to get as full a sense, as possible, of what was being said) .

  1. Jesus is identified: This is my Son, My Beloved, My Chosen One
  2. The Father’s attitude to Jesus ‘with whom I am (and have always been) delighted.(Mt)’…I have chosen(Lk)
  3. God’s word to us: ‘you must continually listen to and yield to and obey Him.’

 

We are told by God our Father that: ‘This is my Beloved Son…continually listen to and yield to and obey Him.’

What is your immediate reaction to that? Take a moment to register it in your heart. What is your reaction saying?

The answers may well set your Lenten Wilderness Walk to your Garden of Gethsemane, witnessing your dying to self, ego and its various manifestations of pride.

But journey on through the stations of your cross, soaked in the Holy Spirit. Jesus has blazed this trail before you and is a very present help to you. Resurrection comes with the dawn …. and the Love who surpasses all love will greet you.

Application: )) and Conclusion ! ; ))

This morning’s second reading gives us a good starting place. We must become aware of the veils that cover our hearts and minds. These veils keep us from experiencing God. We need to look to Jesus to remove them.

The heart and mind in biblical ‘psychology’ are not separated as they are in the classical Greek philosophy which infected some early church fathers and the historic churches to the reformation and beyond.

In biblical ‘psychology’ the heart and mind are two sides of the same coin. The mind is the thinking part of the heart and the heart is the feeling part of the mind. This is a profoundly holistic approach. We are designed by the Creator to be transformed and moved by concrete experience rather than abstract concepts, principles, mere information and lifeless ink. Thoughts have emotions. We think with our senses. We re-experience it in our minds.

God is not an abstract principle confined to our mind and divorced from our heart. God loves flesh and blood, became flesh and blood, is affected by the ebb and flow of our messy lives.

Use this Lenten season to seek out God striping away the veils that hinder our minds and heart from creating a real and pulsating relationship with Him .. Jesus is God in flesh and blood .. He has proven His love for us.

Where to start …..

In any worthwhile relationship that we wish to grow and maintain there is communication and time spent together. We get to know each other. We share thoughts and hopes together. We develop trust and intimacy together. Relationship with God needs exactly the same.

Talk, read and listen. Talk, read and listen. Talk is the ordinary word for prayer ; )

Only by praying do we learn to pray. Call on God in whatever condition you are in. Begin at where you are at.

*Don’t wait until everything is ’just right’ before you pray. No need to pretend to be holy.

*It’s ok to argue, yell and complain in prayer

* Pray everywhere and anywhere and at any time. Walking, bathing, sitting on the tram, waiting, daydreaming.

*The main thing to remember is that prayer is nothing more than an on-going and growing love relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As C S Lewis advises ‘’Lay before Him what is in us not what ought to be in us.