3 minutes reading time (686 words)

Glory all around

This post consists of the Gospel Reading and address for the online service on Sunday February 14th:

Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

It's easy, when we read such stories as this, to think of our lives as being far removed from these extraordinary events. It's easy to gasp in awe at Jesus' Transfiguration, and say - well, nothing like that has ever happened to me. Easy - but wrong. For, like every Bible story (and every character we meet in the Bible), this one invites us to make the connection with our lives and our world. That's the unique, sustained power of the Bible: we are presented, over and over again, with the intersection, the meeting place, between God and human beings. And then we are asked to move beyond our reactions as spectators - admiration, scorn, fear, joy, wonder, laughter, surprise - to apply what we have viewed to ourselves, and so to discover what God is saying to us, right here, right now.

Of course, it's hardly likely that the extraordinary experience of those three disciples with Jesus on the high mountain will be replicated in your lives or mine - though, of course, nothing is impossible for God! But what we will see, if we have eyes to see, if we are looking, is a succession of what we might call glimpses of glory: moments (and usually just moments) when something of God's glory and beauty and light is revealed to us, and we realise, just as Peter, James and John did - this is real, there is something wonderful, astonishing and lovely, just beyond or behind the everyday facade of our lives. It could be a poem, or a landscape, or a piece of music, or a storm, or a birth - or sometimes a death. Yesterday, walking the dog through the dunes, it was a glance up at the slope, covered with vegetation, between the path I was on and Marine Drive. I saw the incredible range, even in winter, of the colours, textures and shapes, and for a moment I was transfixed, and filled with thankfulness for God's presence, somehow luminous in this tiny patch of nature. And then it was on with the dog walk.

And that's the other thing we learn from the Transfiguration, and specifically from Peter's reaction. He wants to make it permanent, this glory; he wants to make dwellings for Jesus, Moses and Elijah; he wants to find a place where God can stay. But it can't be so: he and the others must come down off the mountain and re-engage with ordinary life in all its mess and muddle. It's the same for us: we can't hang on to these flashes of glory, we have to move on. But the good news is that we move on in some way fortified by what we have experienced. For an instant, we have understood that God is real and present and with us, just as the three disciples did when Jesus' glory was unveiled to them. We have the reassurance that, whatever life's troubles and pains, glory awaits, glory is behind everything, and all shall be well.

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