Texts: Genesis 15: 5-18, Psalm 26, Philippians 3: 17-4: 1, St Luke 9: 28-36
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
One of the problems of having small gospel readings Sunday by Sunday is that we see only a few verses and look at them in isolation. We forget what went before and don’t bother with what comes after. That is a mistake because the gospel is not just about what is said but the context in which it comes to be said. Today is a case in point. The setting of this gospel reading is all important.
Jesus has been preaching and healing for 3 years of active ministry and He has already heading for Jerusalem and the showdown with the authorities. He has found large crowds following wherever He went, but some of them were there to watch the spectacles and the stunts for which He was becoming famous. He needs to know what the small band of loyal followers really think of Him. Has this mission really taken off or has it been a waste of time? He has to know and a week before today’s episode He asks the disciples who they think He is. That is when St Peter makes his great statement, ‘you are the Christ, the son of the living God’. What a relief that must have been! At least someone is on the right track!
Whatever Jesus does, He always seeks out His father’s will first. He has not come to earth to please Himself but to please the Father who sent Him. That is why we read so often that He spends time in prayer. As He heads in the direction of Jerusalem, He needs to be sure that this is only way for Him to go. An on that mountain top He receives the endorsement He seeks.
We cannot know exactly what happened on that mountain, but we can be grateful that St Peter was part of the inner circle to be privileged to be part of it. St Luke’s gospel [and the later ACTS is based largely on St Peter’s recollections. This gives us the nearest to an eye witness account of that event.
Whatever happened it was spectacular, something hard to put into words, and very clearly the endorsement that Jesus needed. The vision of His endorsement by Moses and Elijah is a clear message to His Jewish followers, since Moses is the lawgiver and Elijah the prophet who have provided the backbone of their religion and culture. [BCP Ten Commandments – all the law and the prophets. The presence of St Peter, for all his faults, to become the ‘rock upon which the church would be built’, is a clear message for generations to come. Underpinning all this is the clear endorsement of what His son is about to undergo. ‘This is my son, the chosen one. Listen to Him’. That was their message and it is ours.
Whether or not we have had a mountain top experience of God – that moment when He is so close we feel we can touch Him, we can all LISTEN to Him. We listen in the silence of our hearts, we listen in prayer. We listen when we go about our work of looking after the vulnerable and marginalised, when we think of serving others rather than being served by them. But mostly we listen when we encounter Him in the Sacraments; that sublime moment when our humanity and His divinity touch.
Lent is NOT about giving up sugar, smoking, alcohol. It’s not about taking more exercise, worthwhile those these actions are for their own sake.. These attempts all too often leave us bad-tempered and miserable. It’s not about starvation and long faces and a desperate impatience for Easter Sunday and freedom. Lent is be about a time of growth, in faith, in love, in service. The Missal reminds us on Ash Wednesday that Lent is a time for reconciliation; a time of healing in our relationships with God and with each other. We can begin that healing when we listen to what God is challenging us to do and to be. We can start by quiet contemplation of the act of One Man in the heat and dust of a Friday afternoon and why He did what He did for us.
‘This is my son the Chosen One, LISTEN TO HIM’