Sunday next before Lent

What happens next?
Mark 9:2-10

One of the joys of broadcasting live services is that sometimes unexpected things happen…just a few weeks ago, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed a fire going on in the background. I think Toby appearing with a fire extinguisher might have given it away!

And last week, the prayer of consecration complete, and the Lord’s prayer said and…the internet connection went down.

So…what happened next?

Well…in church, the service carried on as normal but what about those of you watching online? Did you complete the service? The break in the service was literally just three words short of the Spiritual communion prayer being displayed on screen.

Being in lockdown means that we don’t really get the chance to talk about deep meaningful things…one of which is how you feel about Spiritual Communion.  I know that in the early days of the pandemic when we were allowed back into our church buildings, taking Communion of one kind only, that is, just the bread, it was a great loss to many.

And now we are offering a Spiritual Communion online, so in other words, you still share in the communion of Jesus Christ just without the physical bread and the wine. It would be good to know how you are doing. To the non-believer, it must all seem quite bizarre. It may even feel that way to you too? Being a follower of Jesus Christ and believing what the Bible tells us stands us in good stead.

The story from our gospel reading from Mark is one such story. We are told that Jesus led Peter, James and John up the mountain. Makes it sound so easy, doesn’t it but the reality is that it would have taken a lot of effort to get up the mountain.

A few years ago I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and one of the places that we visited was Mount Tabor. It is believed that it was at the top of Mount Tabor where the story from our gospel reading took place.

 This is Mount Tabor today. It is 575 m high or 1,886 ft, in old money! It’s not an easy ride up the mountain and the road to the top is fairly narrow with lots of hair bends in it. We went to the small town at the bottom of the mountain by coach but had to transfer into taxis or small mini buses to go to the top.

It doesn’t look all that high from a distance but when you are there it looks huge. This is a photograph that I took from near the top.

Here’s a picture of an engraving that I found on the internet from the year 1837. It gives us an idea of what it looked like before there were any roads or taxis to help get to the top. It would have been a good, long hike over difficult terrain. A lot of effort.

So, there they were, Peter, James and John, with Jesus at the top of the mountain. They had been on quite a journey up to that point. They’d left family, friends, and their lively hood to follow Jesus, someone who had the promise of being a great leader.

They’d seen him do some great things;

  • They’d been witness to him healing people,
  • he’d calmed a storm,
  • fed thousands of people with just five loaves and a couple of fish
  • they’d even seen him walking on water

Jesus was surpassing all their expectations and was proving to be a great leader and they hadn’t been disappointed so far. But then he had told them something that had really thrown them. He told them that  he was going to suffer and die and said some strange things about following him and carrying crosses……really confusing.

But, not to worry. He was here now and not only that, he’d chosen the three of them to be with him at the top of that mountain. And it was worth all the effort because it was there, at the top of the mountain when Jesus prayed and his face and clothes became a dazzling white and the disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking to him.

It’s a strange story but it’s an important one. It marks a turning point in Jesus’ life as he turns towards Jerusalem and faces his imminent death and resurrection. It was all part of God’s bigger plan.

I believe that God has plans for us here in our own parishes. I must admit that I’m not sure exactly what that plan is but what I do know is that he has chosen each one of us to travel with him and to grow his kingdom here in Settle…and Giggleswick and Rathmell and Wigglesworth. Yes, that’s you and me, complete with all of our faults – can you believe that?

Just like Peter, James and John, Jesus wants to open our eyes and hearts and minds to see his divinity, not just in the world around us but in ways that sometimes is beyond all understanding. What those disciples saw that day was a moment of true recognition. They saw past Jesus’ predicted suffering and death, past their own fears and saw a vision that would change them forever. They were told to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead’.

Just imagine that you were one of those disciples. I mean – what did he mean? I bet they had a good old natter about it all between themselves when Jesus wasn’t looking. I know I would. I mean, it’s not the sort of thing you could just put to the back of your mind, is it? It would, of course make sense to them in light of his death and resurrection but I imagine that they were reeling with a mixture of elation and confusion as they made their way down the mountain that day.

Unlike Peter, James and John, we get to tell people what we’ve seen and heard and believe about the Good News of God’s love. We are his voice in this part of the world and he is relying on us to continue what generations have done before us and that is to tell others about him. We’re not getting that bit quite right because, if we were, our churches would be full to over-flowing with people wanting to worship our great and glorious God.

Sharing our faith is a daunting task if we give it too much thought and the easy option is to keep quiet and just hope that perhaps, just perhaps, that people will figure it out for themselves and that our actions speak louder than words.

Ash Wednesday is just a few days away. The ashes are a sign of repentance and remind us of our need to make changes in our lives. It marks the beginning of a new Lenten journey on our way to Easter.  That is, six weeks to give God our full attention… a full 46 days to build up to experience the true death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now…that’s something to shout about. It might take a bit of effort on our part but give it a go sometime and see what happens next!

Rev Julie Clarkson

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