Readings: 2 Kings 2.1-12; Psalm 50.1-6; 2 Corinthians 4.3-6; Mark 9.2-9 (view all)
It’s so good to be together today to celebrate 40 years of St David’s Church!
Celebrations are fantastic aren’t they? I can particularly remember my 22nd birthday celebrations. ‘Why?’ you might ask, ‘Isn’t your 21st birthday supposed to be the most significant?’ Well, my 22nd birthday was also the day that Amy, my wife, and I got engaged.
I managed to persuade her — although she claims she wasn’t entirely convinced — that it was a family tradition to get up early and watch the sunrise every year on my birthday. So I woke her up at about 5am and dragged her up Twm Barlwm, a not-quite-mountain outside of Newport. It was a bit of a misty day, but as we watched the sun rise I asked her to marry me, she said yes and the rest, as they say, is history.
In today’s gospel reading we encounter another mountaintop, as Jesus, Peter, James and John travel up the mount of transfiguration. In our lives, we often have these mountaintop experiences, but life is also full of plenty of troughs and valleys. We all live though good times and hard times, high points and low points.
So, I wonder, at this high point in the life of St David’s, how can we live passionately and faithfully not just at the high points in our lives, but also in the low points — and the just-plain-ordinary points — in our lives?
The Transfiguration is one of the most extraordinary experiences in the gospels. As Jesus and his closest disciples reach the top of the mountain, we read that, ‘[Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white… And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.’
As we read, we are caught up in the incredible glory of the event, as is Peter, who without really thinking blurts out, ‘[Jesus], it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’
Peter would love to stay in that place forever — to camp out and enjoy this incredible encounter — but they can’t. There is one final incredible moment, as the Father speaks once again revealing Jesus’ identity to the world. But then they all must head back down the mountain and back to reality. A reality that, for Jesus and his disciples, means beginning on the path which leads to the cross.
And it will be on that very different mountain – the mount of crucifixion – that Jesus’ glory will be most fully and gloriously revealed once and for all.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can really easily get on board with the idea of glorious, transfigured Christ. But, as the gospels make clear to us, it is through the suffering Christ that God’s glory is most fully revealed.
God calls us to offer our whole lives to those around us, at the high points and especially the low points, in order that his glory might be revealed through us. As Paul puts it to the Corinthians, ‘We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’.
And so as we give thanks here at St David’s, on this very special day of celebration: Let’s look back, giving thanks to God for the good times, and giving thanks for getting through the hard times. Let’s enjoy this celebration, in light of the hard work and perseverance it’s taken to get here. But let’s also look forward, and commit ourselves to serve God, to serve this school community and the wider community of Pentwyn, so we can celebrate with great joy in another 40 years (and when that come I will expect an invite!)
There’s a fantastic ancient letter, written early on in the life of the Christian Church, and potentially during a very difficult period. We don’t know who it was written by, but we know who it was written to — it’s known as the ‘Letter to Diognetus’. It describes in wonderful detail how the early Christian lived lives of holiness and hopefulness, that made them stand out so completely from the people around them.
And then, there is this fantastic phrase:
To sum up all in one word— what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world.Letter to Diognetus, Ch 6
May we, here at St David’s, be the soul of this school community, the soul of the Pentwyn community, and, along with the whole body of Christ, make up the soul of this world. In the good times and the bad, in order that in all we do God might be glorified through us.
Jesus’ glory is revealed in the glory of the transfiguration, but also in his suffering and sacrifice. In the same way, he calls us to serve him, both in the highs and lows of life.
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.