Since Ash Wednesday on 26 February we have been in the season of Lent. Lent is the six weeks or forty days (bar Sundays) that lead up to Holy Week and the Maundy Thursday Last Supper and arrest of Jesus, the Good Friday, trial and crucifixion of Jesus and the Holy Saturday burial of Jesus. Yet of course Lent leads into the discovery of the empty tomb and Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead on Easter Day!
This year across our five churches in the southern part of Borderlands Mission Area, we are journeying through Lent in two ways. On Monday evenings at 7pm, across Hope, Emmanuel and St Johns, we are hosting short Contemplative Prayer services that will include Lenten Meditations reflecting on the passion (the suffering) of Christ. On Thursday evenings, Gill will be leading a Lent Course on the Eucharist (Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper) in The Snug (think ‘Upper Room’!) in The Cross Keys Pub in Llanfynydd, that will end with a meal symbolic of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday 9 April. You are very welcome to attend Monday and or Thursday evenings, regardless of which church you consider your own.
Do you know the Transfiguration of Jesus story in the New Testament? We reflect on the Transfiguration story on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the Sunday before Lent.
Matthew’s account (verses 1-3, 5, 8 in chapter 17) reads:
Jesus took with him Peter, James and John… and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus.
A bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
[After this], they saw no one except Jesus.
The transfiguration of Jesus marks a significant turning point not just in the life of Jesus, but in the overall narrative of the Bible. In the Old Testament, God speaks through the law (represented here by Moses) and the prophets (represented here by Elijah). In the New Testament however, God now speaks through his Son Jesus.
Jesus is with the closest of his twelve disciples – Peter, James and John – the three which church tradition understands became the first leaders in the Christian Church. In this story, these three witness in part, the coming of God’s kingdom.
On the mountain top, Jesus prays. As he prays, his disciples notice a change in their master – Jesus ‘transfigures’ – his face changes – his clothes become bright – as bright as a flash of lightning Luke says.
Next Jesus is shown to be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is here to be the Messiah, the Saviour figure Israel and the world needs; a figure that is required by the law – because no one without God’s help can live up to God’s standards – and a figure foretold by the prophets – because it’s Jesus as God’s perfect and sinless Son who is able to forgive us our sins and then help us to live better lives.
Jesus is here – with the help of the Holy Spirit – to set us free to live by the law – or God given conscience – that by our inherent good we so often want or try to live by but by our inherent fallen-ness so often we can fail to achieve…
Next a cloud comes over Jesus, Moses and Elijah – the cloud – just as happens so often in the Old Testament – represents the presence of God. Out of the cloud, a voice is heard – the voice of God. God speaks words that are similar to that which he said at Jesus’ baptism – but this time not just ‘This is my Son with whom I am well pleased’ but also he adds, ‘Listen to Him’.
It is then no accident that Moses and Elijah are no longer seen from this point – because Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and prophets – and he is now the way that God speaks to us.
When Jesus speaks, God speaks. If we want to hear God’s voice today – then listen to the voice of Jesus as found in the Scriptures! The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus teaches us that whilst Jesus is human, he is also the divine Christ; and what Jesus says, we can trust is what God says.
I commend this is as a thought worth holding on to as we now listen to the voice of Jesus in the gospels through Lent and into Holy Week!
In Christ, Adam
Rev Adam Pawley