Sermon for Sunday 27th February from Nikki Firth

Luke 9:28-26, 2 Corinthians 3.12 – 4.2

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord.   Amen

Both of this week’s readings are so full, I must confess that when I sat down to think about what I was going to say today I became rather overwhelmed. Just where do you start when there is so much going on? I then became even more overwhelmed thinking about how much is going on, as I am fully aware that my brain only understands and grasps a teeny tiny part of it all and it is so much bigger than I can even begin to comprehend, so how on earth could I try to make sense of it to then share my thoughts coherently with you?  So, my starting point was a recognition of how little I know and understand and realising that throughout our lives we are constantly faced with barriers. Some of these barriers are glaringly obvious, fully signposted yet we can still be surprised by them – for example the approach road to the Mayflower retail park has been closed for several weeks, yet each time I drive there I must consciously remind myself, otherwise I would go onto autopilot and end up having to turn round to follow the diversion that is clearly marked out but I have missed! That road closure is clear, we were given notice and know it is there so that important work can be done, it has a purpose and a set time on how long it should take.  Whilst pondering what I was going to say, I was so grateful for the distraction when my work phone rang, what followed was a conversation that put me even more out of my comfort zone. I was asked if I would mind having my photograph taken, to be used as part of a piece of artwork that reflects the local community! My initial reaction was to laugh and state just how weird that would be, it is one thing to have a photo taken that you will never see again, it is something else completely to have that photo replicated and displayed in a place where you would walk past it almost every day, it sounds ghastly! Inside I was shouting no, no, no – but apart from saying it was weird, I could not give an actual reason why I could not do it! I realise this is a hidden or maybe even a self-made barrier, holding me back, stopping me from doing what I have been asked. It was left with an invitation, the same invitation that Jesus gives to us each day and we are called to offer to others “come and see” no pressure for decision making, just an invitation to show up! It got me wondering at how many opportunities we might miss to invite others here, to come and see, because we have self-made barriers holding us back, keeping us from sharing the Good news of Jesus and that is far beyond any piece of community art! What a challenge!

Last week, Revd Trudy reminded us that nothing is more important than prayer and today’s Gospel is a great example of when Jesus prays, God shows up!  We see this at His baptism, the selection of the 12 disciples happened after a full night of prayer, he prayed in the dessert when Satan was tempting Him, He prayed in the garden of gethsemane before His arrest and again on the cross. The strand holding all these things together and connecting Jesus with His Father is prayer.  Today we read how He has led Peter, John, and James up the mountain to pray, when something amazing happens – Jesus completely changes, and Elijah and Moses also appear. I can’t help but wonder what on earth the first thoughts the disciples had when they saw what was going on. Only a week before this Jesus had told them that anyone who wanted to follow Him would need to deny themselves take up their cross daily and then predicted His own death and resurrection. Now they find themselves standing on a mountain watching on through tired eyes as a completely transformed Jesus stands talking to Moses and Elijah, who are dead – before they disappear again – was this a glimpse of resurrection?

I can really identify with Peters reaction, instead of standing on and being fully in the moment and letting Jesus lead, he suggests getting busy and building tents for them. Was this suggestion to preserve the moment? Or maybe take control? Or was it borne from the human need to feel useful, be busy and have a purpose? Or was it something else entirely?  As Peter speaks a great cloud surrounds them, they stand fully immersed in the presence of God it almost mirrors what happened when Jesus prayed after His baptism. On both occasions, the voice of God is heard – but there are some clear differences.   At Jesus’ baptism the voice came from Heaven and the words were spoken directly to Jesus, commissioning Him for what was to come, but here the voice came from inside the cloud in which they were held, and the words were directed at the disciples, affirming what Peter had recently declared – Jesus is the chosen one, the Messiah and instructing them to listen to Him. They were fully immersed and held within that cloud, God’s presence.   I wonder how that felt?

I am sure that it must have been both overwhelming and awesome. a moment they would want to stay in forever, but these moments are not the reality, what happens up the mountain must stay up the mountain (well for now) as they must come down to face the hard stuff!  Now I am sure that many of us yearn for those mountain top experiences, the times when we really feel close to God – He speaks clearly, concisely and tells us exactly what to do (spoiler alert, if He did it would probably be the same as what He said to these 3, Listen to Jesus!)

 – the reality is, most of our lives are spent down the mountain facing the hard stuff, so what are we to do?  The epistle today starts by saying, ‘Since then we have such a hope, we act with great boldness’   but what is hope?

Hope is a word that gets used a lot, often in the wrong context when maybe a word such as wish would be more suited. True hope is desire and an expectation, when we pray, we desire to meet with God, and we expect (because He has told us) that He will show up.  Now amazing things happening through prayer are not just reserved for Jesus. In the bible we read accounts of how the gathered early church experienced a dramatic divine response to communal prayer at Pentecost, Cornelius the centurion’s prayer results in an Angel being sent and in him being chosen as the first gentile Christian and Paul and Silas were amazingly freed from prison, whilst praying!  In the Bible, People pray, and God shows up!  There are plans in Birmingham to ‘Make Hope Visible’ by building an eternal wall of answered prayer. It will be made up of 1million bricks, each representing a story of God answering the prayers of His people – I know this is not to everyone’s taste to build a sculpture like that, but wow – a million (at least) lives transformed by prayer – standing to be seen from miles around.  People pray and God shows up, now, here, today, tomorrow, and always!  Prayer is an opportunity to show up, with the desire to meet with God, expecting and knowing that He will meet us where we are.  When Moses met with God, he could not see Him face to face, God stated that His glory would be too much – just seeing his back, made Moses face shine so brightly he had to wear a veil to protect the Israelites, yet Paul tells us that through Jesus the veil has been removed. God is a living personal presence, not a piece of chiselled stone, God is personally present as a living spirit that has been gifted to us. As we turn to face Him, there are no obstacles, or barriers nothing between us. Jesus has already done what needs to be done, it is finished. When we show up to pray, God meets us and our faces reflect the light of His glory, we too are transfigured, changed and our lives become gradually brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become more like Him. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, there will still be pain and suffering, but God has generously invited us to come and join in with what He is doing, and will walk with us, leading, equipping, holding, and carrying us, removing barriers and obstacles if needed, or maybe placing them there to keep us safe – all we need to do is show up – with hope and pray!

This week I am sure most of us have been horrified, watching the unfolding situation in Ukraine, the faces of those children wearing masks because of the ongoing pandemic practising being piled up in bomb shelters, the tanks, missiles, the displaced people, the chaos and despair, it is so unjust beyond words it can leave us feeling frozen in fear and in helplessness, but as Christians we have hope in a saviour who has overcome everything, even death itself.  So let us stand firm, turn to face Him, and come together and pray. We know that God can and does do great things, so let us pray for others, pray for our world, pray for our church, pray for ourselves, pray on our own, pray together. Now even more than ever, lets stand united and ask Him for what seems to us impossible.

Because when people pray, God listens, shows up and things change!

Let us pray

Loving God,
We thank you that you promise to hear us when we pray
And thank you that there are no barriers between us,
the veil is removed, and we can turn to face you
Give us the courage to step out in faith, turn to you and cry out in prayer.
Safe in the knowledge that not only will you hear us,
but your promise tells us it will be answered
In the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ we pray Amen

Comments are closed.