Today's Gospel (John 3.31-36) appears very abruptly in the text of John's Gospel. Indeed some commentators have even considered whether they are words of John the Baptist. For he has just been speaking and there is no change of speaker indicated. Yet they seem to me all of a part with the Johannine figure of Christ and its high christology Key themes of the Gospel are indeed included in it. Let me turn to them in a moment. Firstly however, as Penny observed, at yesterday's eucharist, about an earlier passage in this same chapter 3 of John, these words clearly come from a context of conflict...
It is said that the poet Alfred Tennyson was walking one day in a beautiful garden where many flowers were blooming. Someone stopped him and asked: ‘Mr. Tennyson, you speak so often of Jesus. Will you tell me what Christ really means to you?’ Tennyson thought for a moment, and then, pointing down to a beautiful flower, he said: ‘what the sun is to that flower, Jesus Christ is to my soul.’ That, my friends, is at the heart of the feast of Transfiguration...
There is a poignant little story about salt which you may have heard: a story with echoes perhaps of Shakespeare’s tale of King Lear. In this story, a king asks each of his three daughters how much they love him. The first two daughters reply with flowery words, and great exaggeration, declaring a professed deep and undying love and affection. In contrast, the third daughter, who in fact really loves him the best, replies very simply: ‘My father, I love you as much as meat loves salt.’ Well now, at first hearing, that doesn’t sound very impressive, does it?! So, thinking her disrespectful and hard-hearted, her father casts her out of his kingdom. Many years later however, when he has been disappointed by his other two daughters and their exaggerated words, the cook in the royal palace forgets to salt the food of the king’s favourite dish. When he tastes his his flavourless meal, the king suddenly realises his mistake, and the importance of his third daughter’s words. Repenting of his former anger, he welcomes her home with much rejoicing.
So what, I wonder, comes to mind when we hear the key word ‘salt’ in our Gospel reading today? What connections, and what importance do they have, for us?...
Just before Christmas last year, I was visiting Brisbane’s South Bank cultural precinct and stumbled into the end of year concert of the School of Hard Knocks. It was a wonderful occasion. Full of joy and humour, resounding song and moving poetry, it shared the lives and love of many of Brisbane’s homeless and disadvantaged people. This year’s concert is again at the State Library, at 2 pm on 16 December. Check it out if you are down that way. It will lift your spirits and encourage you. For in some ways it could be said to be an embodiment of the hope of the season of Advent which we begin today. In the face of the pain and struggle of our lives and world, all of us are encouraged by the promise of God’s coming salvation to start again. The invitation is there, in the closing words of our reading from Isaiah: ‘come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!’…
Goodness is stronger than evil; Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness; Life is stronger than death.
These are Archbishop Tutu's words, and they sum up the good news that Christians bring to the world in remembering Good Friday and celebrating Easter. They celebrate Christ's victory over death, and thus the possibility of resurrection for us and all creation. There is no darkness so deep, no grief so unbearable, no injustice so challenging that Christ cannot transform it.
Sometimes we forget that God is for us and not against us. When we are in trouble, and sometimes even when things are going well, we can turn our attention away from God. Easter is a time to turn back and re-connect.
On Easter Day the great Easter candle is lit and carried into churches with great ceremony. It stands as a reminder of the truth that God's love is stronger than death and anything we fear. So whatever pain or sorrow is happening in your life, remember Christ bears that hurt with you, and His love overcomes our fear, ultimately wiping our tears from our eyes.
Today we come to the climax of the Epiphany season - leaving all the little 'ephiphs', the mini revelations as it were in the foothills, we come to the very top of the mountain, to the big one, to the Transfiguration; to the moment when Jesus stands before his closest disciples in all His luminous glory. All too briefly the fullness of his divine nature is there to see. He shines with all the brilliance of a hundred thousand diamonds. And it is amazing! But not as amazing as what it implies for us and our world.
For the thing about diamonds, it is said, is that in chemical reality they are just chunks of coal that kept on doing their jobs. And that is helpful to us when we think about the fullness of humanity transfigured in Jesus Christ. We are like those lumps of coal. We have the potential to be diamonds, but mostly we don't and can't see the job through to the end. In the Transfiguration Jesus shows us what we would be if we did. This is the principle of theosis, or God-becoming that has been part of the Orthodox teaching of the church from the beginning. You and I and the whole created order have the potential to be transfigured, to reveal to the world the glory of God just as Jesus did, but it is a process that even in the best of us like Moses is fitful and incomplete this side of eternity...
What experiences have we had of the fabled Australian ‘Tall Poppy Sydrome’? ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is of course known in other countries by other names, yet it is true to say that it has had a particular strong place in our own national culture, and that of Aotearoa New Zealand. For it has been used, pejoratively, to describe the way in which people of sometimes outstanding merit can be resented, attacked, criticised, or cut down, because their talents or achievements distinguish them from their peers. Or, as a saying in Chinese and Japanese culture has it: ‘the nail that stands out gets hammered down’. Some have thus wondered recently whether ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is a factor in our remarkable turnover of Prime Ministers, something which has made us the puzzlement, and to some extent the laughing stock, of the rest of the world What do you think? I feel that there are other concerning factors too, including certain limitations and power structures of our political parties, the undoubted personality weaknesses of some politicians who have risen to power, and, not least, the unusually short gap between elections compared to other developed nations. Yet ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is surely a reality in our politics, as it is in many aspects of our national life. So, as we hear today the great Gospel story of Jesus and his community’s ‘Tall Poppy’ reaction, what are we to make of our gifts and talents?...
'We gather in the darkness of this Christmas night to celebrate - to celebrate that into the midst of darkness comes light and life born in the frailty of a human child. For darkness is where incarnation begins. The glorious prologue to John’s Gospel brings this into shimmering perspective - what has come to being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5). But, as the wonderful poet and artist Jan Richardson expresses it:
'the deepest darkness is the place where God comes to us. In the womb, in the night, in the dreaming; when we are lost, when our world has come undone, when we cannot see the next step on the path; in all the darkness that attends our life, whether hopeful darkness or horrendous, God meets us. God’s first priority is not to do away with the dark but to be present to us in it. I will give you the treasures of darkness, God says in Isaiah 45:3, and riches hidden in secret places. For the Christ who was born two millennia ago, for the Christ who seeks to be born in us this day, the darkness is where incarnation begins'...
Jon Inkpin for the Transfiguration – Last after Epiphany Yr B, Sunday 8 February 2015
In 1934 an American romantic comedy called Carolina was released. Based on the play, The House of Connelly, by Paul Green, the film starred Janet Gaynor, Lionel Barrymore, and Robert Young in a romanticised story about a post-Civil War family in the fading South. They regain their former life and prestige when a poor Northern girl appears among them, eventually charming, not just the young son of the house, but even his obdurate mother. The advertising summed up the poor Northern girl well: ‘bursting into our lives and world – like a flash of sunlight - upsetting traditions, injecting life where there was laziness, love where there was fear and hate.’ What an impact, eh? Much as we might sum up the impact, only more so, of Jesus whom we call the Christ: ‘bursting into our lives and world – like a flash of sunlight - upsetting traditions, injecting life where there was laziness, love where there was fear and hate.’ In many ways this is summed up in our Gospel reading this morning: which, if not a feature film, is a luminous, multi-splendoured picture, or living icon, of the love of God – a Northern Jewish boy lit up with God, lighting up our way to God, and making of us shared lights of God’s glory…
Our Gospel reading today helps us mark what our Christian tradition calls the Transfiguration. This is a fitting climax to the Epiphany: the church season we have been travelling through since Christmas. For Epiphany is a great Christian season of light. It begins with the story of the Baptism of Jesus: what some have called the ‘Great Epiphany’ or revelation of God’s light at the beginning of Jesus’ and all our Christian lives. Transfiguration complements this and rounds it off: being what some have called the “Small Epiphany’, revealing what is the ultimate purpose, or end of our Christian lives – sharing in the glory of God’s very own light. As we prepare to begin Lent, 40 days journeying through darkness to the greatest light of all, Easter, so we are given a vision of this ultimate purpose and goal of our lives...
by Jon Inkpin, for Epiphany 4B (and eve of Candlemas), Sunday 1 Feb 2015
Idols, unclean spirits, and prophets: our lectionary readings are full of them today. They are hardly the most usual Anglican subjects of conversation, are they? So what do we make of them in our holy scriptures? More importantly, in this season of light and revelation – in this time we call Epiphany – what difference do they make to our lives? How does understanding them help us to shine, like divine candles, in our world?
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,