Preached at All Age Eucharist 07-02-2016. Reading: Luke 9.28-36.
May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O God our strength and our redeemer.
Today’s reading, the transfiguration, is all about transformation. Some of the children have brought some Transformers to show us. [Children show and explain about Transformers.] Transformer transform from one thing to something else completely, like from a dinosaur to a robot. But the sort of transformation we see in our reading today is not like that. Jesus is not being transformed into something different from himself, but something which is somehow more like himself.
At the front here we’ve got something to help us think about this different kind of transformation: some magic painting, the sort where you paint it with water to make the colours appear. If you would like to come and try doing some while you’re listening, please do – we’ll have a look at them at the end.
So the transformation Jesus undergoes at the transfiguration is something different. This is something so strange and awesome (in the proper sense of the word) that the writer of Luke’s gospel is at a loss to describe it. “The appearance of his face changed” we are told. But how? What happened to it? What did it look like? How did the disciples feel when they saw it? We don’t know, but we can wonder. And the mystery of not knowing invites us into the mystery of the transfiguration itself.
In the mystical events of the transfiguration, Christ’s body is transformed by the glory of God. But what of Christ’s body in the world today? We are the body of Christ. He has no other hands but ours, no other feet but ours. We are – all of us – called to be members of the body of Christ, his church, in the world today. And still the body of Christ is being transfigured, changed, renewed, by the glory of God.
God is continually transforming God’s church to be more and more like Jesus, if only we will be open to that transformation. You might have noticed in the last few weeks our new welcome sign outside church “All are welcome… come as you are”. That’s a sign of how God is transforming God’s church in this place – even a few years ago, I don’t think we could in all honesty have put out that sign. But as we seek to be Christ’s body in this place, we are learning to express the radical hospitality and love of God for everybody. And we are still learning, and still being transformed.
At a national level too, new projects are born out of a conviction that God’s call to the church is one to transformation into something which better reflects the all-encompassing love of Jesus. This week saw the launch of the LGBTI Mission, a project working towards the full acceptance and affirmation of gay people within the Church of England. That’s something I’m very much involved with, and happy to talk more about after the service with anyone who’s interested.*
God is continually transforming God’s church, but we have to be open to that transformation. In the story of the transfiguration, notice that it is when Jesus “went up on the mountain to pray” that this extraordinary transformation took place. It is God’s role to transform God’s people, but it is our role to put ourselves in the path of God’s grace, through prayer, through listening, through openness to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church in our time.
God remains unchanging, but we, God’s people, are continually transformed to become more like Jesus, so that we can reveal more of Jesus to the world, just as Jesus himself was transfigured on the mountain to reveal more of his true self to his disciples. And this change, this transformation, starts for us, as it did for Jesus himself, with prayer.
So let us pray that we may be continually changed and transformed to be more like Christ. Let us pray that the body of Christ in his church will go on being transformed and renewed in his likeness. And let us pray that by God’s grace we may show the world more and more of who Jesus is, until the whole church is showing the whole Christ to the whole world, and we can truly say: “All are welcome, all are loved, all are called into God’s kingdom – who ever you are, what ever you’ve done, wherever you’re coming from: come as you are, and be met, loved and transformed by the living, risen Jesus.”
Now let’s have a look at these water painting pictures that some people have been working on. [Children hold up paintings.] The pictures haven’t changed – they’re still pictures of the same things – but we can see something more about them now than we could before because we can see the colours. In the same way, Jesus at the transfiguration is changed in a way which doesn’t make him into something different, but helps us see more of who he is.
*For more information about the LGBTI Mission, see http://www.lgbtimission.org.uk