• The Rector

Sermon for the Last Sunday before Lent

“And all of us…are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

We are now on the very doorstep of the season of Lent, which begins this coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, and is begun by having ashen crosses placed upon our foreheads – ancient signs of penitence that mark us as pilgrims on the Lenten journey.

Lent is a good time for us to take stock of our lives – it’s a time to ask the difficult questions of ourselves like, “is there anybody I need to forgive?” or “is there anything I am holding onto that I need to let go?” “How can I make God a more prominent part of my life?” It is a time of repentance and spiritual growth, a time to seek to be forgiven, and a time to forgive.

And so, I urge you to think about what you need spiritually this Lent, and how you might use the time to repent and to grow, a question I’ve been putting to you for the last few weeks. What will you do to prepare yourself for Jesus’ death and resurrection?

Some people fast from or give up something they enjoy for 40 days, maybe dessert or snacking, or sugar in your coffee. Others take up new practices and commit to spending more time in prayer each day, attending a bible study, or serving others more intentionally.

We don’t do these things to punish ourselves but we do them to strip away a bit of our daily comfort, to make some new space within ourselves that we can fill not with comforts and distractions, but with a renewed focus on God.

But the point of it all is to be changed, so that when we wake up on Easter Morning, that great and glorious day, we can look into the empty tomb of Jesus as new people filled with a renewed hope in His promises of salvation.

This is why today, the last Sunday before we begin our Lenten journey together, is the day we hear in our readings of the Transfiguration, that wonderful and strange event we hear in our Gospel.

Jesus has taken three of the disciples and gone up a mountain with them. Once they were on the mountain the Gospels describe a blinding white and pure light shining before them, “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” In Matthew’s account of this event he says that Jesus was “transfigured before them”, not just changed, but changed into something glorious.

And with Jesus the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, of the Old Testament. Moses who was the servant of God, who received the covenant and delivered it to Israel — And Elijah, the prophet who was expected to come again and herald in the end of the ages when Israel would be finally find rest and received what God has promised them.

This strange appearance of Moses and Elijah showed the Disciples and shows us that Jesus is the Messiah that Israel was waiting for. Jesus is the one that the scriptures had long been foretelling would come into the world as a Saviour, and the presence of Moses and Elijah, two figures long dead, testify to this fact.

But this event of Transfiguration on the mountain—of Jesus shining with glory and light—tells us so much more.

It tells us that there is so much more than what we see or sense. That the everlasting life that Jesus came to give us is so much greater and more glorious than we can imagine or see.

There on the mountain the disciples saw their friend, dressed at first as they were dressed, taken up into indescribable light and changed from human form into something heavenly and overwhelming, so overwhelming that all they could do was fall on their faces.

When it was all over it says the disciples didn’t tell anyone about it, which seems strange, but think about your life. Have you ever had a beautiful experience – maybe it was love, or a beautiful dream, or a vision, or an encounter with the Holy Spirit – that was so moving and wonderful to you that you couldn’t really describe it, maybe it even changed your life in a moment. It’s hard to explain those experiences to others, isn’t it?

Words seem to fall short and we are afraid we might seem a bit silly if we tell them. But we are changed by that experience even if we can’t explain it to someone else. We are not the same people after that we were before.

I think this is what the Disciples experienced on the mountain that day. An event so moving and beautiful, so life-defining: a vision of heaven, a vision of the changed people that God calls us to be, that they couldn’t put it into words for others, and so they didn’t.

Just like the disciples, our encounters with Jesus throughout our lives cause us to change. To change into people who are more loving, more charitable, more forgiving, more faithful.

This is why Paul says in today’s epistle, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

This kind of transformation we may sense is needed in our own lives, but I think we have a greater sense of how it is needed when we look outside our windows, our province, and our country. We can look out to the Ukraine, for example, and the horrendous things happening there, and know how badly the transformative love of Christ is needed in human hearts.

But as Ned suggested in his sermon last week, these acts of repentance that are needed, the peace we want for the whole world and for all people must begin with us in our own hearts. The transformation of the world begins with the transformation of your heart and my heart.

If we really are the body of Christ, together with all His faithful, then our hearts are connected to all others. We share in the joys of others, the suffering of others (why we pray for Ukraine), and we share in the sin of others as well, but this means that the transformation the world needs and the transformation our own hearts need, the transformation that can only come from Christ, is shared.

In Lent we will work to shape our hearts by greater penitence and humility not just for our sake, but for the sake of each other.

If we want to see the world become more and more shaped after Christ’s gentle and lowly heart, then the transformation must start in us.

As we prepare our hearts to enter into this journey that is Lent, may we be open to the transformation that the world so desperately needs, and may we all joyfully offer our own hearts first as the ground in which those seeds of penitence, peace, and love are sown, seeking to repent of our sins, desiring the new life that Jesus offers, and trusting that we do it all not just for our sake, but for all others whom Jesus loves.

“And all of us…are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

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