|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Storms about sex and gender increasingly rage around, and, importantly, within us. In the face of this, what stories are we telling ourselves, and living into? How are we negotiating the tempests of faith, fact and false news? Where are we headed and what hope do we have? Let us take time to consider. For the sea of faith of which we are a part is in much turmoil because of sex and gender waves. It is likely to remain so, and even grow more turbulent. What options are among us then, and, most vitally of all, where is God in all of this?
What is God’s work on earth and how do we participate in it? These seem to me questions that arise from our reading today - a reading that begins with Jesus appearance to his disciples, and ends with Him sending them out as witnesses to the work of repentance and forgiveness that is to be proclaimed to all nations...
‘Who do you say that I am?’ Jesus’ question to the disciples is one for all of us, isn’t it? Indeed, if you are like me, it is a question you will answer in different ways at different times. Sometimes that may feel like a growing and deepening sense of who Jesus Christ is. At other times it may feel like a peeling away, and even a painful deconstruction, of old or unsatisfying patterns of understanding. Either way, my own sense is that if we are not continually being transformed by a transfiguring understanding of God in Jesus Christ then we have largely missed the point of the journey of faith. That was Peter’s mistake, wasn’t it? Today we only hear about his great confession of Christ and of gifts Jesus bequeathes to him. This passage is immediately followed however by Jesus’ powerful rejection of Peter’s failure to understand him and his calling. ‘Get behind me Satan!’, Jesus cries out. For the Christ Peter had seen, and wonderfully declared, was not the full picture he needed to see. So it is in our own lives, in the church and world today…
I love being trans. How about you? No, I am not so much speaking about being transgender, as about simply being human, or at least a Christian variety thereof: in other words, about being a person who is transfiguring. That is each and every one of us. This is not to downplay the significance of someone being transgender, or otherwise. After all, we still have some way to go in working through that. The particularity of each of our human lives really matters. Each transgender life and story is also unique: a special creation in God’s love. Yet, the more I reflect upon it, in a powerful sense, in the divine economy, being transgender is also a way of helping us all recognise that each of us is continually invited to embrace transfiguration. For, as human beings, as Christians, we are never fixtures but loved works in process. What we shall be is not what we are now. All that is loving in our past and present is indeed taken up into what we shall be. In the glory of God however, we are, and will be, so much than we can ever imagine. This is part of the gift of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ which we celebrate today…
As we gather today at the foot of the cross I would like to invite you to consider the holding and the beholding that happens in the story we have just heard...
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...
“Follow me” - that is the challenge of today’s gospel. We need to understand what it means for us to hear those words for ourselves. Jesus was of course a most astute judge of personality and in this passage he actually provides an example of each of the main ways in which human beings can be drawn away from the commitment to follow. Each of us has, at the level of our ego, a key defence mechanism, adopted in early childhood that keeps us safe. It is not a bad thing. It gets us through our day. But in terms of the invitation to follow, to go more deeply, to become more fully alive, that defence mechanism can stand in our way. We see it at work in the conversations Jesus has in our reading today with three would-be followers.
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,