- The Revd Camellia Flanagan
200223 Last Sunday after Epiphany. Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter 1:16-21 Matthew 17: 1-9
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Warnings have many forms, flashing lights, sirens, feelings and written words. With varied focus, their purpose is the same – to advise alertness and caution because of something is about to happen. Responses to these warnings will vary: from disregard and neglect to evasive or corrective action. How a person reacts to a warning is usually determined by the situation and the source. An impending storm is treated differently to an onrushing vehicle, and the counsel of a trusted friend is heeded much more than the flippant remark by a stranger.
The second letter attributed to Peter is a letter of warning – from a courageous, experienced, and faithful apostle. It is the last communication from this great warrior of Christ, as soon after he would die, martyred for the faith.
Previously Peter had written to comfort and encourage believers in the midst of suffering and persecution – an external onslaught. But three years later, in this letter containing his last words, he wrote to warn them of an internal attack – complacency and heresy. He spoke of holding fast to the non-negotiable facts of the faith, of growing and maturing in the faith, and of rejecting all who would distort the truth. To follow this advice would ensure the growth of Christ-honouring individuals and Christ-centred churches. After a brief greeting at the beginning of chapter one, Peter gives the antidote for stagnancy and short-sightedness in the Christian life.
Then he explains that his days are numbered and that the believers should listen to his messages and the words of Scripture.
Psalm 2 with the theme of the coronation of Christ, prophetically reminds us that to serve and obey God, to listen to the all powerful creator, is to find freedom.
In the synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke we have descriptions of the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, but in the second letter of Peter written to Christians everywhere, we have Peter’s own description of the revelation of Jesus’ identity he had experienced. Peter’s statement on the inspiration of Scripture affirms that the Old Testament prophets wrote God’s messages. He puts himself and the other apostles in the same category, because all proclaim God’s truth. The books of the law and the prophets are not a collection of fables or human ideas about God. It is God’s words, given through people to people. Peter emphasised his authority as an eyewitness to the event of the transfiguration of Christ, as well as the God-inspired authority of Scripture to prepare the way for his warnings about behaviour for the future. He is reminding us that if our faith is real, it will be evident in our faithful behaviour. If people are diligent in Christian growth, they won’t backslide or be deceived by false teachers. Peters words could have been written especially for our communities of faith today as we face the negligence of the past, the fact that many who call themselves Anglicans. and even those who call themselves Christians everywhere, do not see it necessary to gather together with others for worship in these times. The lifestyles of our communities have changed, and interests are not village based but are widespread and our interests span the network reached by our mobile devices. This means that small country churches are increasingly becoming obsolete and not relevant to the now generations.
When we go up to a high place, or the top of a mountain we have a better view and we can see more. Jesus took Peter, James and John high up to pray. Jesus did the praying and the disciples enjoyed the view and slept. When they awoke they were eyewitnesses to the soul searing event of the transfiguration and the radiant glory of Jesus. They were overshadowed by God’s holy cloud. They witnessed the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and they discovered a special spiritual experience that was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges that would come later. They learned that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and the living word of God, hearing with their own ears the voice of God saying “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him” They see the power and majesty of the kingdom of God that is coming in Christ, with Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the great prophets pointing forward to the Messiah. They were covered with God’s holy cloud and they were afraid. Jesus had been speaking of his death and resurrection and they had much more to learn about Jesus, this holy one they were following.
The transfiguration of Christ was a privileged spiritual experience which helped to strengthen the apostles’ faith and trust in Jesus. It was a temporary event and was not meant to be permanent.
In the same way, at certain times in this life, God gives various members of his church special experiences of his grace that strengthen their faith.
It was only this past week that Our Families Minister, Leanne Harvey and I shared two separate experiences of God working within a series of events to show his grace to members of our school and Cathedral community. We can welcome these experiences for the graces they are, but we cannot expect them to continue indefinitely nor should we be afraid when they cease. They may have been meant only as a momentary glimpse of the joy of heaven to sustain us as we face the challenges of new beginnings, to help strengthen us on the road that will ultimately bring us into the infinite and endless joy of heaven.
As we face the Diocesan restructure plans for the future, on this day of our Annual General Meeting of the Parish, can we remember, we all carry within us the mystery of the Spirit of God?
The Reverend Camellia Flanagan tssf