Sunday, 3 March 2019

First sermon at All Saints Burnham Thorpe

As you may know I was not always a vicar and when I was working in America at the beginning of my career the financial director of my company was a genial, rather larger than life ex-baseball player with a likeable and compelling personality. From time to time Mark would appear in my office with the question “Steve, would you like to do lunch today?” Now, I was busy managing a factory with all the troubles that involved but I quickly learned that the answer to that question had to be yes and not no. I knew that this meant that Mark had a particular and important message that he wanted to give me over the steak and fries - it might be a good one or a bad one but he was determined to give it. Now I was reminded of this when I read this morning ”Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up onto a mountain to pray.”

How did that come about I wondered? Most usually we see Jesus in a crowd or at least with all his disciples so there must have been an invitation: 

“James, Peter, John can you do a mountain today?”

We now know that whenever a Bible passage is set on a mountain that something important can be expected. The giving of the ten commandments or the sermon on the mount are just two of the best known examples but there are many other occasions. In any case I imagine that James, Peter and John were ever expectant : Being around Jesus would make you that way. And so of course they accepted the invitation, and this mountain top moment was quite exceptional.

We find ourselves towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry when he is beginning his journey to Jerusalem, Luke foreshadows this by noting that the disciples were heavy with sleep and we cannot help but remember that this would be true again in the garden of Gethsemane in some days time. Jesus is praying and his clothes become dazzling white reminding us of Moses coming down from the mountain where he had been speaking with God. Every time Moses was close to God he was changed and so he adopted a veil to shield Aaron and his followers from the brightness. Jesus, talking with God the Father is similarly transformed. We are shown in this way most certainly that the God Jesus speaks with and calls father is the same God that Moses spoke to. We are struck that prayer is transformative and that even Jesus in close communion with the Father is affected. 

Equally we are offered an echo - for at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he is baptised by John in the Jordan, he came up out of the water, the Holy spirit alighted upon him in the form of a dove and a voice came from heaven saying 

“This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.

And now on this mountain top with Moses and Elijah nearby a voice comes from the cloud saying

“This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him.”

So at the beginning of his ministry and now as Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem, critical moments in his time on earth it is clear that God the Father wants to dispel any doubt that may linger in the disciples’ minds about Jesus’ identity. Only a few lines previously in this Gospel Peter has answered Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?” and now Peter is there on the mountain top seeing that Jesus cannot be Moses or Elijah and being told “This is my Son”

When  financial director Mark appeared in my office, my mind would turn to the to do list - the product that had not turned out right, the union negotiation that needed managing, the report for the board, - I have not time for lunching I would think. 

I wonder if we are sometimes like this - Jesus invites us to pray to him and to God our Father, to bring our worries, hopes and dreams to him. There is a permanent invitation and we should find opportunities to take it. For in our daily lives if we can find even a moment, just a moment to be with God, we may just find ourselves a mountain top being overwhelmed with fresh insight and being transformed anew. 


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