The transfiguring fog

Who is Christ to you? And what is it that he calls you to? May you have a blessing and fog filled Lent and may Easter bring you brightness, joy and clarity.

May I speak in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? Amen.

Have you ever felt as if you were in a cloud or a fog? It’s a common experience when all seems uncertain, when you’re not quite sure what the future holds, when life seems to be throwing more you than you can cope with.

Perhaps the cloud includes a feeling of guilt or regret. Perhaps you feel the same on a wider scale, when you see the consequences of natural disaster or despair at a world in which violence and economic uncertainty seem to have taken root. And then the cloud slowly lifts,

Sometimes depending on the circumstances, it can be a life changing experience. Things have a clarity that they didn’t have before. The journey may continue to be difficult, but you know that it’s not going to be easy. But the path lies more clearly ahead. And strangely, though, you felt alone and in despair in the middle of the cloud, you realise that all along, you were being upheld, and through the struggle being strengthened, for whatever lies ahead.

The past hasn’t changed. But you know that it is past; that you are forgiven? And maybe that’s all you needed? And that somehow you have now been transformed. And you know, to that you will be guided along the pathway to come and that whatever happens, you are loved.

You feel a kind of peace and assurance it’s a very real sense that you have been transfigured.

And ironically and perhaps frustratingly, that transfiguration was only possible because of the cloud you experienced. Through the cloud experience, you have been prepared for a new path that you must take. The transfiguration that we’ve heard represents a major turning point in the Gospel. Here, Jesus identity and glory is revealed to His disciples, and affirmed by God Himself. From here, Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem, on a path that would lead to the disciples shock and horror, to struggle, conflict and crucifixion. And then, to resurrection and glory.

In the floor of the great Basilica that stands on the traditional side of the of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor , though the actual location might may well be Mount Hermon to the north, you can still see the ancient remains of a Canaanite shrine, which would have been there in Jesus’s time. Whether or not this is the site of the Transfiguration, it being just a short distance from Nazareth, and between Nazareth and Sea of Galilee. This holy hill would almost certainly have been a place where Jesus had come to pray, to reflect and to prepare for his ministry in the surrounding region.

But getting to the top of the mountain, any mountain, whether it’s physical or metaphorical, is no easy task. It involves a climb, it involves effort. It involves a determination to reach the summit. Then if we are to receive some revelation from God, the patience to sit, to watch, to pray, and to wait.

As you all know, our family like to travel and mountains seem to often feature in our travels, whether it be the Alps or the Atlas, and most commonly The Great Rift Valley. The children much prefer to be climbing than travelling in the car, not just because they’re good climbers, but to travel in the car across mountains while Andrew is driving is driving is frankly, terrifying. I’m sure I’ve told you this before. He just cannot keep his eyes on the road. ‘Look at that amazing scene’ he’ll say head out the window, pointing across the great crevice we are perilously near the edge of. ‘No look at the the road’ the children are screaming from the backseat. We have learned that is better that if I drive across mountain roads. I might miss the beautiful scenery, but at least we get there. So generally, we prefer to be on foot. And so it was nearly 10 years ago now that whilst on holiday with family and friends in Syria, and unbeknown to us, it was the days before smartphones, a volcano in Iceland erupted and ceased all air travel. It was a call from home that alerted us to the facts that we were not going to be flying home the next day as planned, and that we were stuck. We decided for some Madcap reason that we would walk.

Luckily, we were backpacking anyway. So with a combination of buses, trains, boats and our feet, we made our way home from Damascus through Turkey, to Greece, to Italy, to France, and finally to the UK, nearly 3000 miles. The journey certainly had its lows. We didn’t have much money. We couldn’t afford to stay in hotels, or travel in style. But there were high points to, and it was definitely something that the children will never forget. But it was only weeks later that the war in Syria became a reality. And suddenly, hundreds and then thousands, and then millions of people began that very same journey. Only they weren’t going home, but fleeing to an unknown and very uncertain future. It was a moment of transfiguration for both Andrew and I. For Andrew, it would take him back to Syria, and people and places we’d got to know and love. He would risk his life to study and to tell the true story of that country.

For me, it would deepen concern, to campaign to demonstrate work in any way for those people around the world who are displaced from their homes, and forced to flee mainly because of the greed and the pursuit of power and wealth of others. Last week, as some of you know, Andrew and I spent a few days in Calais with a charity that seeks to improve the lives of some of those people who had to flee their homeland.

It was an inspiring trip, and one which I’ll tell you more about over the weeks, and I’m sure I will be talking to Ian, and we’ll have something up on the website for you to watch fairly soon.

The people we met, were not vagrants, they were not the dregs of society, some were engineers or university graduates. One was even a Christian priest. These people have had to make a choice for themselves and their families. It’s a life or death choice. No one would choose to live in the condition we’ve seen if there was really no alternative. Care for Calais seeks to make life a little better. But nothing will change until governments do and governments won’t change until people do. And we as Christians must be that change. We have a commission and we have the power in Christ to make change. We must be informed and we must be willing to speak out when we hear others speak badly. We are to be that prophetic voice that we heard St. Peter talk about in our reading this morning countering the rhetoric and planting love

This lent I will be spending the whole six weeks barefoot not just here in church but everywhere. I hope it will elicit conversation in the supermarket, in the schools in the streets. I hope that when I tell people why I am barefoot, they might think just a little bit and judge a little bit less that they might realise how blessed we are just by an accident of birth to live in this country. And instead of demonising the foreigner, thinking for a moment what they would do for their family. For own children. There’s nothing wrong and seeking a better life, or having a better life, but everything wrong in not sharing it. You’re welcome to join me if you’d like.

Sometimes this Christian life can be like living in a fog. When all seems uncertain, when you’re not quite sure what the future holds, when life seems to be throwing more at you than you can cope with, when problems seem insurmountable. But sometimes like Moses, like the disciples, we have to spend some time in the fog. For the Transfiguration to happen. Sometimes we have to deliberately put ourselves there in order to transfigure Lent is such a moment for us all. And when after a process of patience and prayer, and the Lord has revealed himself and his way, then we are called to descend to the plain, to listen to him, to follow his path and to act every day, wherever it may lead. We are all called to moments of Transfiguration.

Who is Christ to you? And what is it that he calls you to? May you have a blessing and fog filled Lent and may Easter bring you brightness, joy and clarity.

2 thoughts on “The transfiguring fog”

  1. Thank you for a very informative and inspiring Sermon. Unfortunately I am in a dense fog myself. I hope the advice given in this semon will help me. But it’s not easy to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps – as I have tried to do so any times before!
    But your sermon has given me a glimmer of hope.
    Roger Barker

    Reply
    • Hi Roger, Glad that the sermon helped, but I’m sorry to hear you are having a rough time. I’ll patch this through to the ministry team.

      Reply

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