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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Transfiguration, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
February 11, 2018

Psalm 50; Mark 9:2-9

‘The glory of time and space with others’

Transfiguration is about seeing differently, seeing Jesus as the Christ again/anew, and there are various ways to see the Gospel for today. Little details in the story cast light on different aspects of faith. Peter, James and John are 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 ...

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 (we are shocked/dazzled) to realise we are 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.”

Perhaps you’ve been dazzled by Jesus, a friend to the poorest, the last and the least – Jesus the champion of the colonised, the marginalised. Perhaps you’ve been dazzled by Jesus, embodiment of Sophia – a feminine wisdom, a queer wisdom, a cross-cultural wisdom.

Today I notice the warning Jesus gives to 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 after wisdom be undermined.

In chapter eight, Jesus speaks to his disciples for the first time about a suffering Messiah – a weak and weeping Messiah, a rejected and executed Messiah. In chapter nine, then, “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” (Bruce Prewer).

Our text is the second of three scenes in Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus is declared to be God’s Own/Beloved (the first occurring after his baptism [1:11], the third on the lips of the centurion immediately after his death [15:39]). Each follows a description of or allusion to Jesus’ obedient entrance at depth into the human situation alienated from God. “It is as the One who has obediently made a costly entrance into the depths of the human condition that Jesus is revealed as Messiah and [Child] of God” (Brendan Byrne).

It takes time to appreciate these three scenes as pillars of Mark’s Gospel. The secret is revealed in time.  

Everything about our 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 we might call the glory of time and space with others.

There are good secrets here. Our God has entered deeply into the pain and suffering of the world in order to set it free (10:45). 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 late 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 I didn’t really get it at the time. Maybe I can better understand it now.

Days before my father’s funeral, my heart recalled a story, a sacrament of care and forgiveness by which I understood something more of wisdom, something more of unconditional hospitality, many years after the adolescent experience.

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 anew/again, and there are various ways to see the Gospel for today. Little details in the story cast light on different aspects of faith. Peter, James and John are 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.


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