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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Transfiguration Sunday, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
February 15, 2015

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50; Mark 9:2-9

‘Listen to this music’

Transfiguration is about seeing differently, seeing Jesus as the Christ differently, and there are various ways to see the Gospel for today. Little details in the story cast light on different aspects of faith. It makes its own kind of sense that Peter, James and John should be awestruck, moved to prayer, compelled to spiritual utterance, silenced, and led again in the Spirit to share hopes for healing and liberation. God be with you ...

The Rev. Elenie Poulos says that the "weird freaky story" can remind us of two important things.

First, that God's love is transformative. It changes us not by turning us into people our friends wouldn't recognise, but by freeing us to be exactly who we are – children of God, made in God's image, embraced by the God who loves us, unconditionally, just as we are. Supported by the community of faith, just like Jesus was that day on the mountain, we can be encouraged to receive God's love for us and find companions to walk with us on the journey.

The second thing the story reminds us of is that the key to the mission to share the transforming love of God in the world is to listen to Jesus. Jesus' life in words and deeds, describes the mission – it is a mission of salvation from injustice, greed, oppression, violence, marginalization and hunger. Jesus' life, in words and deeds, describes the values that must underpin our work for justice, peace, reconciliation and freedom: grace, forgiveness, compassion, generosity, hospitality, humility, prayerfulness and justice.

By living by these values, and understanding that the journey includes the violence of the cross before it discovers the fullness of resurrection, the saving and transformative love of God will begin to shine ... and justice, peace and hope will break through. It has already happened. It is happening and, despite how grim the future can appear to be, it will come to pass.

On a previous Transfiguration Sunday I noted the significance of Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah - Jesus engaging the two most important strands of Jewish tradition: law and prophecy. I gave a homily based on reflections by the Rev. Garry Deverell, saying:

If you want to pray after the way of Jesus, you must do as Jesus did. Instead of addressing God directly, as many “religious” folk do, because they imagine they know already what God would say, sit down and listen to what God has already spoken in the stories and traditions of the faith. Listen to the Scriptures, to the liturgy, and to the sayings of the saints and doctors of the church. For God has spoken already, and you shall find the new word by listening to the old word. You shall discover how to question God by first allowing God to question you. You shall find the answers to your questions by communing with the answers others have found by praying as you are praying.

Another time I shared an epiphany - a moment of seeing Jesus differently - in terms of the Eucharist as a vegetarian meal, saying:

Throughout history, Christians have given extensive moral consideration to their treatment of animals. Modern secular reason in the forms of economic rationality and instrumental utilitarianism has advanced a loss of respect and care towards the earth and its creatures. It comes as something of a shock to realise that one is caught up in an economy that systematically mistreats/tortures/uses animals.

Professor Michael Northcott of the University of Edinburgh, writes: "... in the Eucharist, animals are no longer sacrificed or eaten, since sacrificial slaughter has come to an end on the cross of Christ."

And today I notice the warning Jesus gives to the disciples with respect to speaking too soon of spiritual experiences.

The "messianic secret" is a key theme in Mark. Readers/hearers are counselled to ponder long and hard the meaning of words like "Messiah", "Christ", "resurrection" ... lest an emphasis on nonviolent confrontation with injustice be lost ... lest an emphasis on unconditional hospitality be lost ... lest a true striving for wisdom be undermined.

The "messianic secret" has to do primarily with the meaning of Jesus as Messiah/Christ. "It is Jesus the friend of sinners, who is transfigured and talks with Moses and Elijah. It is this Jesus who forgives his enemies and does good to those who persecute him. That is the final word" (Bruce Prewer).

Everything about our Gospel text alludes to expectations of a glorious end time (bright light, clouds, religious figures, divine presence), and yet the point may well be for us to reconsider glory and time. Certainly, the disciples are discouraged from dwelling in/on the peak experience, however awe-inspiring.

My thoughts are led away from the mountain, away from contemplation of peak experiences in my own life (I was thinking of sharing a reflection on the night of my ordination), and toward what I might call the glory of time and space with others. There are good secrets here. Unspeakable gratitude and love. The psalmist says: We stand or fall on whether we have a grateful heart.

I remember a woman at theological college who resisted completing a pastoral theology assignment because she felt strongly that writing about her deceased husband would somehow dishonour their marriage. She felt protective, reverential love for the person with whom she had shared so many years. She wasn't prepared to speak or write about him.

I confess that I didn't really get it at the time. Maybe I can better understand it now.

There is wisdom in knowing when to speak, when to keep a secret, when to wait, when to speak again.

Transfiguration is about seeing differently, seeing Jesus as the Christ differently, and there are various ways to see the Gospel for today. Little details in the story cast light on different aspects of faith. It makes its own kind of sense that Peter, James and John should be awestruck, moved to prayer, compelled to spiritual utterance, silenced, and led again in the Spirit to share hopes for healing and liberation.

Transfiguration is about seeing (and hearing) differently ...

The Persian poet and Sufi master, Hafiz, says: I am/ A hole in a flute/ That the Christ's breath moves through -/ Listen to this/ Music. Amen.