I’m not sure whether to tell you the good news or the bad news first this morning. Actually, it’s the same piece of news; it just depends where you’re at.
Although the later congregation at the Family Service will be thinking about St Valentine’s Day, our allotted task in this act of worship is to focus on the Transfiguration – that event on the mountain top when Jesus visibly changed from being “just” Jesus to someone, we assume, more obviously divine and glorious.
The good news (small initials intentional) is that Jesus is glorious. In the midst of our mundane ordinariness, we have the most glorious saviour. In the midst of tragedy and suffering and sorrow and humanity, our God is still awesome. In the midst of anxiety and worry born out of human concern, our Lord is the bringer of peace and comfort. Many regular worshippers tell me than their presence here on Sunday is what gives them the strength for week ahead. This is the mountaintop (or maybe a little hill) which is precious to them. Others have a more frequent reminder in daily meditation and prayer and some less frequent.
This reflects the importance of regular and disciplined worship. You do not know when you will see something different. It could be when you least expect it, when you are feeling at your most human, your most cynical, your least believing. Peter and James were wrecked after climbing this mountain. They were possibly wondering why they had followed Jesus all the way there when they could have prayed just as effectively from the comfort of their beds. Yet it was on that mountain that they witnessed an event that would stay with them and be a pillar of their faith forever. In whatever situation they may find themselves, Jesus has the power to transform, to be the presence of the glory of God.
The bad news stems from the same event, the same realisation. Jesus is the Son of God, therefore the Son of God is Jesus! God became human and lived among us. He did not keep his distance from this awful world, he did not draw his followers out of this world, but he came to be with us in this world. We cannot hide away behind our worship in this place. We cannot separate ourselves from a suffering world. We are in it – in work, in family, in community – we live in a fallen world and God challenges us to be there, just as Jesus is there. Peter and James caught a glimpse, but they were not allowed to stay there. Jesus brought them down from the mountain, they faced the suffering that existed then, as now, and Jesus touched those broken lives.
I said this was bad news, it’s not really – it’s challenging news. It is bad news only to those who seek to use their faith as an excuse to hide away from the world.
We see in Jesus a glimpse of the Glory of God, we know that He is the Messiah, our Saviour, Emmanuel, God with us. This gives us hope in the midst of sorrow. It also turns us around to look at the world, to look at the suffering, the sin, the hopelessness. Indeed, not only to look, but to go back there and to carry with us the knowledge of the glory of God.