Transfiguration of Christ – 27th February 2022
We have come to the climax of Epiphany. We have reached The Transfiguration of Christ. Ever since we talked about enlightenment at the Magi’s visit, we have been exploring Power in Christ’s Presence. We have learned that transformation is a process. We have learned that we can go from “good” to “great”. By the renewing of our minds, our will can be transformed. And the apex of that transformation is highlighted on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Our readings today are about Moses and Jesus both being transfigured. Both the Exodus passage and Luke’s account describe faithful leaders going up to the mountain seeking God and returning changed people.***
Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday of Epiphany, leads us into Lent and the sombre reflection of the Lenten journey. Rather than preaching on the usual mountaintop experiences that prepare us for life in the valley or how the disciples wanted to freeze the moment instead of seizing the moment, how about today we reflect on the closure of the Epiphany season?
Closure is something we need here at St Johns Papatoetoe. The Children’s Ministry needs closure. The ministerial transition needs closure. The current RED Traffic Light mitigation of COVID-19 risk has tempted us to remain in a survival mode. It is time to close off the past and prepare for a new future.
In most closures in our lives, we do not know or appreciate what is about to come next. We may fear or be wary of what is to come, or we might be excited. Either way, human nature is tempted to hang onto to what we have even if it is undesirable. We are more comfortable with what we know than with what we do not know.
To move forward, a journey that will commence next week, a Lenten Pilgrimage of “Walking with Christ”, we must close Epiphany’s door. In so doing, St Johns closes another chapter in their journey of ministry in Papatoetoe and surrounds.
Beginning with the End
How do we begin to close?
Some people go on a retreat or pilgrimage as a way of accepting a closing door and seeking direction about the next phase of life. Some find other ways of naming the ending and preparing for a beginning. Does a retreat or pilgrimage always involve leaving town or making a journey somewhere? Can this happen without even leaving our homes? There are likely lots of untold stories of this very kind of retreat or pilgrimage among us. Even today some have not be able to leave their homes, except for essentials.
So we can enter Transfiguration Sunday as one of closure. But the question still begs to be answered: “How do we begin to close?”
Those who have heard me speak outside of the pulpit will know my answer. Dr Stephen R. Covey, in the pivotal book 7 Habits of Successful People, taught Habit #2: “begin with the end in mind.” It is understanding where the finish line is at. Too many people run a race without understanding where they are going. How can you measure the correct amount of energy to exert at different turns on the track if you don’t know where the end is at?
What results are being sought? Church family, we are launching into a new phase of mission work here in Papatoetoe. To understanding why we are doing what we are doing is only possible when we begin with the end. Beginning with the end means identifying desired outcomes for our behaviour. What is it we want to accomplish?
But before I answer that question, let me just note that thinking about the End when we are still in the middle of the race is what our gospel passage is all about. The Transfiguration of Christ was a display of his resurrection power. It was manifested before he went into the final journey that led to his crucifixion. It was a “teaser” for the fishers, Peter, James, and John. When they were at the end of Christ’s journey, they were able to understand by looking back to the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration body of Christ was one and the same as his resurrection one and a forerunner of our future glory.
Our mission is to connect with God and Community. Connections have been the focus in our recent mission plans. More specifically, we have focused on connecting with the Community. That has entitled St Johns to merge St Philips and Cook Islands Otara into this place of faith. That has enabled the construction of a beautiful lobby for both church and community centre. That has empowered the community centre to refocus the use of its facilities. It was a “good” mission plan.
What does it mean to move to “great”? How can St Johns Papatoetoe improve on what was a successful plan and marvellous execution? By adjusting the emphasis of its mission from Community to God.
Our mission is to connect with God and Community. While emphasising the connection with Community, we did not disconnect from God – that is important to realise. Rather than interpreting the past, let us leave it behind. Let us close on that chapter. Let us reach forward. Let us look unto Jesus. Let us see the Transfigured Christ. Let us be inspired to adapt our mission plan and refocus on connecting with God.
Connecting with God
This message is not going to lay a new mission plan. That is still being worked out behind the scenes. Session reviews and updates the mission plan every five years. Covid and ministerial transition delayed the revision due in 2020. What this message is about is how do we connect with God?
Word of God
I have three answers to that question and the first is the written Word of God.
The bible readings today are about God’s glory. The Corinthian text, which we did not read, connects today’s readings together by identifying God’s Spirit as God’s glory. That means that as believers in Jesus Christ, we have the same Holy Spirit of God. That Spirt is the author of scripture – our Holy Bible. The first way we connect with God is by spending time in scripture.
As a church, we can adjust our mission plan to put God’s word forward. That is one reason why the Bible Reading charts were provided at the first service we held after the Lockdown. Are you reading the Bible? Are you keeping track of your passages read? Are you working toward gaining the Certificate of Completion?
Let us begin to celebrate the Holy Scriptures. Let us embrace them for personal transformation. Let us allow them to inspire our collective transfiguration.
Prayer to God
How do we connect with God? My second answer is by praying to God.
Luke’s account of Jesus on the mount leaves no doubt about the affect of God’s glory. Jesus’ face changed. His clothes became dazzling white. It was visible to naked human eyes. That is the glory God’s covenant people will share at the resurrection. The gospel passage associates God’s glory with prayer for Jesus went up on the mountain to pray.
When is the last time an elder prayed with you? Don’t be ashamed to ask your elder to pray with you over the telephone. I know current Covid-19 Health & Safety policy does not allow in-person pastoral visitation. But we can still connect through various apps such as FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp and others.
As a church, when is the last time we called a prayer meeting? A meeting set aside for the sole purpose of praying for the mission of St Johns Papatoetoe?
Do you set aside a time in your personal life to pray? As Christians, we confess God is a living Being who has great interest in our everyday lives. Our prayers are the equivalent to Old Testament sacrifices offered up to God. They are likened to incense going up into the air for God to enjoy.
Do you pray with your family? Spouses and partners, do you pray with each other – not just for each other? Parents and children, do you pray with each other? God’s house is meant to be a house of prayer. Praying to God is one way we can refocus our mission here at St Johns Papatoetoe.
Communication of God’s Word
There is a third and final way we can answer the question, “How do we connect with God?” The answer is to communicate God’s word.
One of the points often overlooked in the account of Moses’ transfiguration is its connection to the word of God. Moses went up to the mountain to receive once again the Ten Commandments. God spoke those words to him. Moses then went down the mountain and communicated God’s words to God’s people. It was through the communication of God’s word that the issue of transfiguration was discovered.
According to the Apostle Paul, Moses was asked to veil his face by the people. They did not want to be confronted with transfiguration. Perhaps they were afraid or simply rebellious; either way, Moses could never be himself again in front of others. Moses could only reveal his true self to God. That communion with God was transformational. Moses never stopped communicating God’s word.
As a church, we can expand our bible study beyond the one connected with Aorere College. We can add evening classes for members and adherents to learn more about their faith. We can offer courses online and invite the community to learn more about our Lord Jesus Christ. The point is not to be ashamed of our scriptures. Believe them; hang on to their ancient teachings; tell others about them.
Living a blessed life – one filled with purpose and fulfilment – is one that taps into the divine. The believer of Jesus Christ is united with God’s Spirit and thus empowered by God’s glory. You connect to resurrection power through scripture, prayer, and faithful communication of God’s word to others. Can others see God’s glory on you and in your actions? Can Papatoetoe see God’s glory on St Johns and in our activities?
To Jesus Christ, who loves us
and freed us from our sins by his blood
and made us to be a kingdom,
priests of his God and Father,
to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.