Sermons

15/02/20152

Kings 2: 1-12 & Mark 9: 2-9

Going into the light, coming out of the light;
The presence of God, the source of the light.

Transfiguration

Once upon a time, there was a rabbit by the name of Mr. Hopewell. Mr. Hopewell had the unfortunate experience of being born in Manchester during the winter. That is, it was very cold, and very grey and very wet. Mr. Hopewell, the rabbit, had never seen anything but the grey of rain.

When Mr Hopewell the rabbit talked to other rabbits, the others always talked about spring. How magnificent and beautiful spring was. So Mr. Hopewell, our rabbit, was really looking forward to meeting Spring. Mr. Hopewell thought that spring was a person, and so he said to the other rabbits that he was really looking forward to meeting Mr. Spring. All the other rabbits laughed and laughed at Mr. Hopewell and his foolishness to think of such a thing. Mr. Hopewell did not dare to ask the rabbits any more about this Mr. Spring character because he did not want to make a fool of himself.

Time passed and soon it got warmer in Manchester. As it got warmer, all the grey started to get brighter. So Mr. Hopewell went out and said that it was time to go looking for Mr. Spring. He was dying to meet Mr. Spring, so off he hopped.

Soon he came up to a daffodil and he said, “Are you spring?” The daffodil laughed and said, “Of course I am not spring. But I wouldn’t have come out if spring wasn’t here.”  Hmmm.

Mr. Hopewell went hopping along, being rather embarrassed that he did not know what spring was, and he came upon a hedgehog crossing the road and he asked, “Are you Mr. Spring?” The hedgehog laughed and said, “Of course I am not spring. But I wouldn’t have woken up if spring was not here.” Hmmm. What a puzzle.

This rabbit could not find Mr. Spring anyplace. Mr. Spring started to cry and cry, his tears running down his rabbit face. About that time a robin came by and the robin said, “What is wrong with you?” Mr. Hopewell replied, “Well, I have been looking for spring. Are you Mr. Spring?” The robin, being a kinder soul, said, “O no, spring is all around you. You are living in the middle of spring.” Hmmmmm.

At the same time living in Manchester was a human Mr Hopewell. Mr. Hopewell was looking for the presence and glory of God.  Mr. Hopewell did not know who God really was or where to find God. Mr. Hopewell went walking through Heaton Park one day, and he came to this large clump of old trees. These trees had giant limbs like arms and they pointed right up at the heavens. Mr. Hopewell said to the trees, “Are you God? Are you the presence of God?” And the giant trees in nature’s majestic cathedral smiled and said, “O no, we are not God. But we wouldn’t be alive if God was not here.” Hmmm.

Mr. Hopewell was confused and he went and sat down on the banks of the river Irwell. It was beautiful that day and the sun was just setting. The water was like glass and the reflections of the clouds were perfectly silhouetted in the water. The sun went down and made a sunbeam as golden as the clouds that gleamed in the sky. It was incredibly gorgeous and Mr. Hopewell said to the sun as it went down to set behind the city skyline, “Sun, are you God?” The sun smiled as it dropped behind the buildings and said, “O no, I am not God. But God is here and all around you, in the beauty of my golden rays.”  Hmmm.

Mr. Hopewell was perplexed. He thought to himself, “Where can I go to find God, to find the presence of God, the glory of God?”

Mr. Hopewell finally came to a church. It was a majestic church with a double steeple, and there were some beautiful stained glass windows in this church, full of pictures to the glory of God. Music filled the rafters of this church with the sounds of the magnificent choir and organ. The music cast a majestic spell over his soul. Then it all stopped. The organ stopped. The choir stopped. The movement of the bodies stopped. It was perfectly silent, and the silence was even more powerful than the music. Mr. Hopewell broke the silence when he whispered, “Are you God? Are you the presence, the glory, the majesty of God?” The words reverberated, echoing in the perfectly harmonious sanctuary.  “Are you God? Are you the presence? The majesty? The glory?”

Mr. Hopewell went to the front of the sanctuary, and there was a Bible on a table. Mr. Hopewell, becoming somewhat desperate, asked the Bible, “Are you the presence of God?” And before there was an answer the rector started to preach and told the congregation of the wonderful, glorious presence of God in Jesus Christ, that God was all around them on every side. Mr. Hopewell came up to the rector and foolishly asked her, “Are you God?” The rector laughed and said, “I have been called lots of things, but I have never been called God before.”

Mr. Hopewell finally left, heavily discouraged, trying to find the glory of God, and trying to find the Presence of God. Mr. Hopewell went out to a bus stop, and there was a man sitting at the bus stop. Mr. Hopewell, exhausted by his journey, finally approached the man and asked, “Sir, I have been looking for God. I have been looking for the glory of God, for the glorious Presence of God. Do you know where I could find God?” The man said, “Why you are living in the middle of God. God is all around you … if you have the eyes to see.”  Hmmmmm.

Today I would like to think about Christ, about the Presence of God and Glory of God being all around us…….if one has the eyes to see. I would like you to think about God being in the mountaintops, down in the valleys, and in the plains of life. That the glory of God, the Presence of Christ, the goodness of the Spirit is found in the mountaintops, down at the bottom of the valleys, and in the plains of ordinary living.

First, Christ is present with us in the mountaintop experiences of life. God is present in the magnificent times of life, those special moments when you know for sure that there is a God. When you know for sure that Christ has been talking with you. In the Old Testament, these experiences are called theophanies. Theo meaning God, epiphany meaning revelation. The revelation of God.

We all know the story about Moses. Moses was walking along in the Sinai peninsula and there was a burning bush. As Moses stood before this burning bush, he heard the voice of God say, “Moses, take off your shoes for you are on holy ground.” Moses knew. Moses knew that God had spoken to him in that moment. Moses knew that there was God and that God was real. It happened to him again a short time later. Moses had gone up to the top of Mount Sinai. For six days and nights, Moses had been up at the top of Mount Sinai. Suddenly, there was a swirling cloud that surrounded the mountain. Moses knew that it was the Presence of God and God spoke to him and gave him the Ten Commandments. Moses spoke with God. Moses knew that God had spoken with him. He knew for sure that God was with him, that God was real. The Israelites knew, too because he was shining with reflected glory.

The gospel lesson for today is a similar kind of story Peter, James, and John were up on a mountain, Mount Tabor, an 1800 feet high, not far from the village of Nazareth. They were up on the top of that mountain, and they too had been on the top of that mountain for six days and six nights. Then, as with Moses, a cloud came around them and in that moment, in that supreme moment, in that theophany, in that special and sacred moment in their life, they heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son, Jesus. Listen to him.” And they knew it was a rare moment; not only did they believe that God had spoken. They knew it for sure.

I would like to suggest this morning that God comes to all of us in those rare and heightened moments. Those times when you know for sure that God has been with you. When you know and feel the intervention of God in your life.

Yes, God forever is coming to us, in those fantastic mountaintop moments where we feel the Presence of God, when we know for sure that God is with us, that God has spoken to us. We sleep better and more comfortably that night.

God comes to us in those special moments, and those special moments may be in the form of a healing. It may be in that exotic moment that we have been convinced that we have been healed by God or our child has been healed or our grandchild has been healed. And our hearts are convinced that God has given us healing.

Do you have any idea how many people I talk to in this parish who are absolutely convinced that God has healed them? Loads of you. So many of you report that you are absolutely convinced that you have experience a medical miracle from God, that you know for sure that the healing is a gift from God.

Sometimes it happens on a mountaintop and sometimes it happens at a healing and sometimes it happens at a worship service. Any adult or child who has been to camp or to Spring Harvest will remember those special worship services. I know that everybody who has been on those God centred holidays will remember those special times on the beach, by the camp fire or in the Big Top. They will remember the Presence of God, that God was there.

You see, God comes to us on the mountaintop. God comes to us through healings. God comes to us in those special worship services that touch us deeply. Sometimes God comes to us in a special way when we feel like we have been sent some place for something special or heard what was said that was perfect for our ears and heart to hear. It is as if God wanted us to be in that place that day and to hear God’s Word for us. So many people have said things to me like– I shouldn’t have been there, or –  I just got a feeling to go to such and such a place, or –  then I switched on the radio and heard a message which was just for me.

Theophanies are those moments in life in which God clearly speaks to us. On a mountaintop. In a healing. In a worship service. Over a radio broadcast. In the birth of a child.  In those moments, God speaks to you and you know, you know there is God.

“Mr. Hopewell, where is God?” God is all around. You are living in the middle of God.

But God never meant us to live on the mountaintop. I wish the gospel story told you the next Biblical story after the Transfiguration. This next Biblical story is never included in the lectionary series, and I feel badly about that. Because the next story is the key to the transfiguration story. The disciples and Jesus came off the mountain, and they came right down to the bottom of the valley. They came off the mountain and they came down into the valley and they found a boy who was having epileptic seizures. The mother and father were enormously upset and worried about the desperately sick boy, and the little boy fell into a fire and burned himself. In other words, the disciples came down off that mountaintop right into the problems of real life. Home from a mountaintop vacation and into the real world at home. And the disciples discovered that God is also down in the valley and does not live only or even primarily on the mountaintop.

I like the quotation by Henry Drummond, the Scottish theologian when he said, “God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops…… We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don’t live there. We don’t tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below.” The streams start in the mountaintops, but they come down to the valleys below.

You and I experience the valleys of life. You and I both know what happens the next day coming down from the mountain. It is the real world and the real life. After Sundays of life, there are always Mondays. You know, the tough ones of life – and God is with us there, too.

I believe that God is with us, not only on the mountaintops, but God is with us the next day at the very bottom of the mountain. You know what it is like down at the bottom of the mountain. You know what it means to experience the severe illness and death of children.  You know what it means to have trauma in your marriage. You know what it means to have one of your friends die much too early and much too painfully. You know what it is like to be down at the bottom of the mountain. And you know that God is with you and you know that God speaks to you there and gives you the words of hope and strength for that time.  For God is with us both on the mountaintops and in the valleys.

And God is with us in the plains, in the ordinariness of life. Being honest, we don’t spend much time on the mountaintops nor do we spend a lot of time down in the valley. Where we spend most of our time is living plain, ordinary days. What I have found is that God is in the plain ordinariness of life as well. Such as driving to work. Having breakfast. Making a cup of tea, Listening to the telephone as it rings. Talking to a friend. Sitting at the kitchen table. Reading the newspaper. Listening to television. Tuning in the stereo. Opening the refrigerator door. Feeding the dog. Going for a walk. You know, life – everyday life. You stand underneath the flowering cherry tree in the spring time and you look up and see a million miracles, a million flower blossoms. We all know the ordinariness of life. And God is there with us as well.

Mr. Hopewell was born in Manchester and he was born when it was very cold. He asked the question: “Where is spring?” He found a daffodil and asked, “Are you Mr. Spring?” “No, but I always bloom when spring is here.” Then Mr. Hopewell found a hedgehog and asked, “Are you Mr. Spring?” “No, but I always come out when spring is here.” Mr. Hopewell was sad until a robin came by and Mr. Hopewell asked, “Are you spring?” “O no. Spring is all around you. You are living in the middle of spring.”                                                   Amen