The Transfiguration and Peter Pan

At the moment Bob and I are keeping our eyes open for bargain D.V.D’s Disney cartoon, D.V.D.’S.

We’re already beginning to think in grandparent mode, and what we’ll do when the new grandchild arrives, grows up a little, and we get the chance to look after him or her.

I was going to begin this sermon by saying we were watching the Peter Pan D.V.D. the other evening, so now I don’t have to justify why it was that we were watching a child’s cartoon.

Bob fell asleep as usual, but I was fascinated, as I recalled that familiar story I had watched as a child; the only thing was, as I watched I couldn’t remember how it all ended.

I remembered that the evil captain being chased into the blue yonder, by the crocodile, and how the crew chased after him, but did the children fly home?

No! The pirate ship which has been the scene of much trouble, conflict and fighting, went through a transformation- more than that - a revolutionary transformation, for it turned golden, inch by inch, and began to shine with an overpowering radiance as, and was lifted clean out of the sea, and into the sky to fly alongside the moon, and so the children were delivered safely home. And all this was accomplished with a little fairy dust.

A revolutionary change occurs today in Luke’s gospel too, but this time it’s not attributed to fairy dust.

It says that Peter, James and John, accompanied Jesus as he went up a mountain to pray, and it was as he prayed that the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Some translations describe his face shining like the sun, and his clothing as brilliant as lightning.

In Matthew and Mark’s version it also adds he was ‘transfigured’

In all three gospels it notes that Moses and Elijah also appear alongside Jesus, but only Luke reveals the topic of their conversation…

…Jesus departure, which would be accomplished from Jerusalem.

You may remember a similar transformation happening to Moses, when he conversed with God on Sinai. His face was so full of God’s glory,the people were afraid to go near him, so much so, that he had to put a veil on his face, when he spoke to them; and each time he met with God, the glory on his transformed face would return. The veil which masked the glory of God was a fading glory, or so it implies in our N.T. reading today.

Each gospel too, records that the Transfiguration of Jesus happened … some days ‘after these sayings’

Which sayings? What have we missed? Is there a connection?

In fact some days before, Jesus had been telling the disciples of his coming death, and he had told them that some of them would not taste death themselves until they had seen the kingdom come in glory.

The glory they were about to encounter was God’s very presence filling each of their lives, in such a way as to utterly transform them too, a glory which would not fade but increase. This was to happen at Pentecost, after Jesus had died and had returned to the Father.

This glory on the mountain was but a foretaste of it, looking forward to a time, when they too would undergo a revolutionary transformation, by the power of the Holy Spirit

They obviously hadn’t understood Jesus words or the significance of them at the time.

It is not until Peter steps in and makes what we could call an ‘earthbound’ request saying, ‘Master it is good for us to be here, let us make three dwellings….’ that God begins to speak from the cloud, saying,

“This is my Son, my Chosen; LISTEN TO HIM!”

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There is so much of the earthbound in our world today.

We’ve built dwellings or places for worship, but to our own glory!

If items of news are to be believed, there seems to be so many things, which enslave us, when we could be gloriously set free and transformed.

Many seem to have given themselves over to godlessness, obesity, consumerism, promiscuity, drug abuse, pornography.

There is much talk at the moment of a Third World War being fought, with so much hatred and intolerance of each other.

If chat shows and magazine articles are to be believed it would seem that many people live lives plagued by loneliness, disease, fear and great uncertainty and dread about the future.

The church, in this country, according to statistics, whether we like it or not, seems earthbound too, and along with everyone else, is beginning to lose track of who and what she is, in an ocean of troubles and scandals.

There is only one who has the power to drive out the evil from our midst, transform us into gold, and lift us up from the chaos of the raging sea that threatens to engulf us and delete us.

The One God has chosen for the task- Jesus.

We all seem to have missed the words so important to the text-

“Listen to HIM!”

The church, of which you and I are part, needs to become the tool once more, whereby Christ can save his world.

Rather than dwell on what it is that holds us down, let us ask what will lift us up?

Could this morning’s gospel show us the answers?

1) Can we perhaps recall the first love we felt for Jesus, recall that moment when we were first changed by him, and recognise we are no longer as we were.

But we must keep on praying to be RADICALLY changed, so that more and more we become like Christ, TRANSFIGURED, so that others will see and desire God’s glory in us and want it for themselves.

2) Perhaps we can stop jumping in so quickly, like Peter, with our own opinions, ideologies and beliefs and really start listening to the voice of God’s own Son, his Chosen One, Jesus.

We hear his voice when we read the bible, we can experience his urging deep in our own spirits and we can listen to him in our daily experience of living. I suppose that’s why God gave us, and Peter, two ears and only one mouth….so that we can listen more and speak less.

Not only this but we’ve really got to start listening to each other too.

3) We’ve also got to learn, as a church, to come down to the plain, as well as being caught up in the mountaintop of spiritual experience or we’ll be no earthly good.

Many Christians I’m sure can get so caught up in their private communion with God, they forget all about public usefulness. When all goes well with us, we have a tendency to be mindless about the needs of society. At the precise moment when Peter wanted to build permanent memorials on the mountain, Jesus was much needed by the father of a possessed son, down below. And how can the people learn unless they have a teacher?

Let us go into the places where the people are, as is being suggested in a new report, recently debated in Synod, called the Mission Shaped Church.

4) When Jesus did eventually come down from the mount of Transfiguration to the plain, he found not enough prayer, not enough fasting, not enough faith on the part of his disciples. What will he find in us at his final coming? Remember it was when Jesus PRAYED that he was transfigured. When we pray we fetch in God’s wisdom, his grace and joy, all of which can make a face shine!

5) Come Pentecost each of Jesus followers began firing on all cylinders.

No longer were all just looking to the One person to do it all, they began to reach their own potential and use their own particular gifts of the Spirit to reach others for God.

They went out to where there was a need.

There came with the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit a boldness not seen before in any of the disciples and a glory not seen before on their faces.

They were willing to take great risks and they performed great works on the level plain, far greater in that, they were ordinary people filled with the power of an extraordinary God… and the surrounding world had to sit up and take notice, as this ship of gold simply lifted off.

No-one could ignore the fact that the world was being turned upside down.

Does our second or even third-generation pagan world not need to know of such a God as ours from the lips of ordinary believers?

I say ‘ordinary’ because I encountered some pretty weird witnessing last week in Speakers’ Corner in London. Lots of people had gathered to hear, and all they got was the rantings offered only by WEIRDOS sporting banana hats or snakeskin shoes or wielding flags.

What kept me earthbound there you may ask? Why didn’t I get my soapbox out? I asked myself this question too.

EXCUSES! EXCUSES! EXCUSES!

I made excuses!

But isn’t this typical of our own reasons for not sharing our faith with other today? We make excuses, we don’t want to embarrass others, we’re frightened of what others will think. But I would argue that ordinary people have the greatest story of all to tell.

We must be willing to tell our story…to gossip the gospel.

The more ordinary the person, the more ordinary the story, the better.

There are people out there who do want to know.

What is it Jesus said, If you are ashamed of me, I too will be ashamed of you when I come in glory!

Looking back I wish I had been ready, prepared and willing to seize the moment!

Will we be bemoaning words like these on our death-beds when it is too late, I wonder?

It’s never too late.

What happened then, can happen now, if we are willing to allow God to change us, and take risks,

If we earnestly seek to know God and have him fill us with power day by day, for the benefit of others,

and also if we’re able to recognise what it is that keeps us earthbound, and do something about it before it is too late.