Kerdh; The Cornish for Journey.

Reading material to stimulate the mind, inspire the heart and bring hope to the soul.

Kerdh; The Cornish for Journey.

Reading material to stimulate the mind, inspire the heart and bring hope to the soul.

Transigfuration

In my youth I took up the ancient Scottish game of “The Gowfin’ ”, or golf to you. I played regularly for about six or seven years and then gave it up; I really had no talent for the game; in my case golf turned out really to be a good walk spoiled. But in that case why did I persist for as long as six or seven years? Simply because from time to time I would stand on the tee and for once the swing would be right in the groove and the ball would fly off as if rocket-propelled going, as Bing Crosby sang, “right down the middle”. It was the most thrilling experience; it filled me with real joy and it kept me playing on for a few more weeks even though I usually ended up in the deep rough. We should never underestimate the power of joy; and I shall come back to that later. Joy is not an obvious aspect of the Transfiguration, but another property closely related to it is – glory. We have it in Exodus with Moses on the mountain-top; we find it again in Peter’s letter (“the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ “ Cor 4.4) ; and above all we have it in our Gospel lesson. This encounter on the mountainside is a very strange affair. Is it an historical event? Is it a dream – Luke’s account tells us that Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep? Is it a vision sent from God? Does it matter how we view it anyway? As is always the case the significance lies in what we can learn from the passage. Jesus deep in conversation with Moses and Elijah must have been a shocking experience for Peter and the others; like meeting your greatest sports heroes, or the Queen—Mark’s account tells us they were terrified. You don’t need to be a top-notch Bible scholar to see the symbolic significance of Moses and Elijah. Moses is the great liberating hero, leading the people out of captivity into freedom and, addressing the responsibilities which freedom brings; the giver of the Law. Elijah is the greatest of the prophets, so great that he did not die and be buried but was taken up into heaven on a fiery chariot; and was also believed to return to herald the coming of the Messiah. Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets; how that phrase resonates throughout Scripture, the twin pillars of Jewish culture, now as much as then. Luke tells us that the conversation was about our Lord’s departure; the shadow of the cross is there in the background. But the whole affair is girded about with the Glory of God; the cross is not to be a sign of defeat and death but of glory, and the empty tomb will reveal that glory in all its fullness. How very appropriate for the Sunday next before Lent. I don’t think Peter and the others were very much aware of that dimension but they were certainly deeply affected by their experience and it’s Peter who gives voice to their feelings – “It’s good for us to be here”. You might think the Bible account to be a bit understated; knowing Peter and his instant enthusiasms it’s quite likely he was more excited than he appears in our story. And it’s Peter, ever the practical one who proposes a wee bit of building work to commemorate the occasion. Perhaps Peter was like so many of us when we are confronted by an overwhelming experience; we resort to the practical, mundane things to give us time to process our feelings and come to terms with them. T S Eliot puts it so elegantly in the Wasteland; “When lovely woman stoops to folly And paces about her room again, alone, She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, And puts a record on the gramophone.” Peter is the spontaneous one, sometimes so spontaneous his mouth starts before he has put his mind in gear. Yet he is clearly the disciple Jesus favours to carry the work of the Kingdom forward. It will be Peter who preaches the first great Christian sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Peter wears his heart on his sleeve, maybe not the greatest intellectual he still has a gut feeling for Jesus’ message; he looks for the practical things that can be done. There is something childlike about Peter, I feel, and so it is no surprise that Jesus holds him in high regard. We know how Jesus felt about children, in fact you only need to go to the start of the next chapter to find him holding a child up as the example of how we should be in the Kingdom. Children loved Jesus, they swarmed around him, and Jesus never chased them away. Oh, the disciples tried to; they wanted to hear the deep important stuff about Scripture and theology but Jesus points out that these things are of no account compared to a little child and what we can learn from one of these. Walk past a school playground at break time and pause for a moment (these days it might be wise not to pause too long!); watch and listen to the children running, skipping, shouting, laughing – all simply for the joy of being alive, a joy which we grown-ups so often leave behind with so-called maturity. The child is naïve, innocent, where we adults think of ourselves as sophisticated, forgetting that the word has an odour of corruption about it – sophistry is the use of seemingly plausible arguments which are actually invalid. Jesus valued the unsophisticated, the naïve, the innocent and spontaneous child to any number of scholarly adults, no matter how intellectual. A child is a sermon in action; sometimes when we have a little one perhaps wandering around during the sermon, perhaps making a bit of noise and I see the odd irritated expression among you (not many of you I’m happy to say) I feel like simply shutting up and letting the child do the preaching. I believe the shortest sermon on record was when the preacher rose to his feet, pointed to where the children were sitting, said “There they are!” and sat down again. You see it’s all about joy; the joy of friendship (how easily young people make friends), of believing, of simply being alive. Isn’t this what the Kingdom is about? It’s the joy of the merchant acquiring the priceless pearl, the joy of the widow recovering the lost coin, the shepherd finding the lost sheep. It’s about joy in heaven over one lost soul returning to its maker. The Kingdom is all about joy. There on the mountainside Peter and his companions experienced the great joy of being enfolded in the glory of God; a joy that can transcend even the cross; a joy that is life-changing. Those mountain-top experiences fill us with joy and, like my occasional perfect golf drive, keep us buoyed up during the everyday practical business of getting on with our lives and our faith. Following Jesus is all about learning to live in the moment, not dragging the past behind us, nor anticipating future problems which might never come to pass. Jesus tells us not to worry about what to wear, what to eat ; who by worrying can add a single hour to his life? The Transfiguration is an event filled with light, a light which Christians are invited to reflect into all the world. N T Wright puts it like this, “Look at it this way: if even God took a day off, why do you need to worry? Look at the signs of God’s relaxed pleasure—the lilies, the birds—and learn to reflect that also.”