Sunday before Lent

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Readings: 

Sermon: 

My name is Andrew Sillis, and I’m the vicar of St Thomas’ Church in Stourbridge.

Just a couple weeks ago, we finished celebrating the great season of Epiphany with the Feast of Candlemas, when we remember Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

Epiphany is the season of revelation, when Jesus’ full identity is revealed. It is revealed to Gentiles through the prophetic guiding of a star, as the Wise Men from the East come to worship; It is revealed by divine command at Jesus’ Baptism in the River Jordan, when God says ‘You are my Son the beloved’; And it is revealed through the miracles of Jesus’ ministry, and we heard of water turned into wine at a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee.

Candlemas acts as a kind of pivot point between Jesus’ birth and his passion. Roughly half-way between Christmas and Easter, we gradually turn our attention from recognising who Jesus is, to reflecting on what Jesus has done.

But today stands as a kind of last gasp of Epiphany with stories which cry out in a revealing of God’s power and glory.

Today’s rather perfunctory title, “The Sunday next before Lent” doesn’t exactly cry out ‘God’s power and glory’, but nevertheless that is what we find in today’s Bible readings.

You may not have heard all these stories during worship today, but if you have read them all: you will have heard of Elijah being taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, surrounded by chariots of fire and horses of fire; you will have heard the psalmist proclaim that God has revealed himself on Mount Zion, calling out judgement surrounded by raging storm and consuming flame; you will have heard St Paul speaking tenderly to the Corinthian Christians who were struggling to understand his message, of how God’s glory in Jesus, is revealed in the hearts of believers just as a light shines in the darkness; and you will have heard of Jesus on a high mountain surrounded by his closest friends being transfigured, appearing in glory with Moses and Elijah the epitome of the Law and the Prophets.

It’s all revelation and glory!

Now at some point in your life, God was revealed to you. It might not have been fire chariots and blinding glory, though I never rule it out; it’s actually more likely to be something quite personal.

That in itself is remarkable - God chose to reveal himself to you in a way that is particular to you, all because of God’s unique love for the totally individual creation that is you. You have a personal experience, of a unique story, about a never-to-be-repeated moment, when God’s glory was revealed and God’s true identity was made known. You’ve got that, and no one else has.

Some people might think your story utter codswallop, but that’s because their minds are blinded to the evidence of your eyes, as St Paul put it. Others might be able to relate to it, but it’s your story, because God loves you enough for you to have a story of his revealed glory all of your very own.

As Jesus and the disciples come down from the mountain, he tells them not to say anything about what they had seen until after he had risen from the dead - can you imagine what it must have been like to keep that story secret? They must have been bursting with the news.

Well, that’s not our problem. Jesus has risen from the dead - weren’t you just speaking with him earlier? It doesn’t have to be a secret any longer.

Your story, of how Jesus has revealed to you the fullness of the glory of God, is unique to you and so it is a precious thing. Take good care of it. Nurture it. Think of the best ways to tell your story. Practice it and rehearse it; and when God prompts you to tell it, tell it confidently, as did those who stood with Jesus on the mountain.

John the Evangelist wrote…

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

You know it, you’ve heard it, you’ve seen it, so tell of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

If you are listening to this in a small group, perhaps you might like to share your story with each other.

And if you don’t think you’ve had the kind of experience I’ve described, no sense of even a hint of a word from God. It’s no matter. Simply ask for God to make himself known when you pray. Jesus said, ‘Ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened for you’. So pray now and ask him to reveal himself to you, just don’t be too fixed on your idea about what it will be like. God will choose everything about how and when it happens.

I hope very much that this week, there are no raging storms or fiery chariots for you to contend with; yet that the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ will give you joy and peace.

 


Page last updated: 16th February 2021 4:58 PM
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