Can the Church be Transfigured?
For the story read Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 17 verses 1 - 8
This is written on a day the Church remembers a transformative event in the life of Jesus: the Transfiguration. He and his closest friends have taken a trip away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem to a high mountain spot. There in the quieter cooler surroundings Jesus’ friends witness a mysterious change in his appearance. His face shines like the sun and his clothes are dazzling white: here, human and divine ‘con-spire’; ’breathe-together’ to transform the world. The disciples also hear a voice from heaven: ‘This is my Son the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ Similar words of affirmation had previously been given at Jesus’ baptism, but now as he turns towards the culmination of his life’s work, we are reminded to ‘Listen to him’. The disciples had experienced something of the divine presence, but they didn’t know what to make of it; it baffled and confused them. Many of the events in Jesus life only began to make sense to the disciples in hindsight, sometimes years later, from the perspective of his death and resurrection. We are trying to make sense of them still! As I have been reflecting on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, I have wondered whether and how it, too, might be a transformative event in the life of the Church and what opportunities will open up, to help re-shape our common life. We have already glimpsed this, through the many acts of kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness and selfless loving service experienced in this village and in our global village. Perhaps, amidst our bafflement and confusion, we need that reminder to ‘Listen to him’; a voice, a perspective, that calms, settles and creates stability within us.
Over the last year and particularly in the last few months I have been struck by how often the passages of scripture set for the day remind us to live life trusting in God and placing our hope in his steadfast love. Well this is the message that greets me each day and I can honestly say that at no other time in my life has it been more welcome. The disruption to normal life as a result of the pandemic has been traumatic for everyone. Most of us have had to learn to live quieter, slower lives at walking pace, as those activities that have hitherto occupied our time have been closed. We have been forced to reassess life, to turn our attentions elsewhere and in the quietness listen to that deep inner voice.
Which thought brings me to reflect on how we might be Church and to wonder how it might now be transfigured to be a transforming force once again in people’s lives. We were all, of course, saddened and disturbed that church buildings had to close. They are, in times of trouble, a place of refuge and stability. Many who visit experience solace, peace and consolation; visitors return to the rest of their day refreshed and renewed, often with a new perspective and an answer to prayer. Church buildings in many communities are closed most of the time, but ours had been open every day; thanks to the many volunteers in the village. The need to address pragmatic as well as spiritual matters prompts me to ask (I would really like to know) how you have been affected by the closure of your church building, how you have experienced the Church during this time and what you would like to see from the Church in the future. As you know there are limited times when the building is open again for private prayer, and our public worship will resume in early September. One of the things to celebrate is the weekly on-line services which many have appreciated: virtual attendance has been very encouraging. God works in mysterious ways! How we act now, out of this crisis, might seem transformative and new, but our perspective should always reflect how we are to shine as the transfigured body of Christ, and that over-riding instruction: ‘listen to him’. If we listen to him, we will need to recall what he actually said, and how often he answered a question with a question, and how often for the poor and the sick and the rich young men, that question was ‘what do you want? How can I help?: He listened to them, and we must listen to each other.
Rector to the Benefice of Sarratt and Chipperfield.
6th August 2020
VJ 75 passed Sarratt by with barely a murmur, but we do have an acknowledgement of the sacrifice made by two of "our" soldiers whose names are inscribed upon our memorial.
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