Homily – Sunday, the 19th February 2023 – Sunday Before Lent
Reading: 2 Peter 1: 16-21
What are our Lent Plans?
Amidst the festivities of the Carnival this is often a very important question. As winter gives way to spring, we always think of fresh beginnings and new sprouts.
For some Lent is a time of Seeking. A deeper search into the meaning and purpose of life. A deeper dive into the Scriptures, into Spirituality and Prayer.
For some Lent is a time of Self Denial. Some traditions have fasting by keeping away from meat, alcohol, chocolates or something else they like. Some people gather what they save and then sent it to some needy person somewhere as a Self Denial offering or gift.
Some take the version of Isaiah 58 on fasting seriously during this time- Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin.
What are our plans during this Lent season?
The Diocesan Lenten appeal covers Syria and Turkey but more so this time it is to establish a full fledged Chaplaincy in Rabat the capital of the Kingdom of Morroco. Successive chaplains from Casablanca held the fort but the people of Rabat think they need a more fuller pastoral presence.
Needs vary and the people’s response during Lent varies too.
Context of the text
Simon Peter is writing his second epistle addressed to those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. He greets them saying May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord..
Peter says His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. He has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.
Peter affirms the eight fold characteristics of Christian life- support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge,and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. These will keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful.
Thinking that he does not have much time left Peter is reminding the disciples so that after his departure they could ponder further on these matters.
It is after this that Peter writes of his experience with the transfiguration. As we prepare for another Lent and for meditations on the cross and resurrection here are some thoughts that would be helpful.
-1- The Christ Event is Not a Cleverly Devised Myth.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Myth is often referred to as a story made up in the past to justify religious beliefs and customs.
Across generations Christian faith has had to balance between this argument of myth and fact.
Is the Christ event or the Resurrection narrative a myth or a fact. When the Bible affirms that if there is no resurrection all that we believe is in vain how do you explain the supernatural and beyond the science experiences of dying and rising again.
To the early believers Peter writes that everything around Christ are experiences to which they were eye witnesses. They are not cleverly devised myths.
One of the challenges of Lent across the years was the de-mythification of the Passion narrative. That demands a very clear understanding of the cross, the suffering and the resurrection.
These forty days would be the time we ask these questions deeply.
Our prayer across these days would be
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You
-2- The Presence, Power, Promises of Christ was our Experience
For Jesus received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Let us look at what was the experience of Peter that he is writing about, One day Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
The Ordinary turns Extra-ordinary suddenly and that is the beauty of the Christ experience.
It is interesting to note that in Luke 9:31 we are told ‘They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. I love the word departure here. Jesus constantly told them about the cross and the rising again but he uses the word ‘departure’. Passion is all about understanding the essence of this “departure”.
The typical human nature follows Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ Staying up the mountain top is sometimes what we like but Jesus knew what was awaiting in the valley. Transfiguration was for Transformation.
The proposition of Peter was “Only Us” and Jesus was responding- Not Us But They- those down the valley.
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’
Whenever they tried to answer the question- Who is this Jesus? This experience always helped. The beloved Son of God in whom God is well pleased.
When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
The first words of the Transfigured Christ is also important for our mission. Get Up and then Do Not Be Afraid.
We need to get up and overcome our fears.
That’s what we sang as the gradual
I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’
Lent is a time we will look at this journey in the valley closely and try and understand what it means in our lives.
From the mountain top of exclusive company to the valleys of people in need.
-3- Prophesies will be fulfilled
All the Prophesies would be fulfilled because they came not from human imagination but by Divine Inspiration
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
Peter writes to the Jewish community affirming that Jesus was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies. The Messianic pointers are being fulfilled.
These are several more prophesies yet to be realised including Jesus coming back as Judge and that of the Kingdom of God finding its fulfilment.
Lent is a time of looking at the Prophesies that concerns you and me and the purposes behind our being in the here and now.
Two important questions are
Why am I here?
Why am I here at this particular point in time?
The search for the purposes would lead to God’s promises and purposes pertaining to us.
You go nowhere by accident.
Wherever you go, God is sending you.
Wherever you are, God has put you there.
God has a purpose in your being right where you are.
Christ, who indwells you by the power of his Spirit,
wants to do something in and through you.
Believe this and go in his grace, his love, his power.
Who is this Jesus for us
I am strength for all the despairing
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see, the lame will all run free
And all will know My name
I am the Word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name, embracing all your pain
Stand up, now, walk, and live
-4- The Revelation of Christ to each of us is a process
You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
How shall we then prepare for Lent this year.
Be attentive to the prodding of the Spirit
…as to a lamp shining in a dark place. The usage of the dark space is the word auchmeros which means a place dried up due to wind, dirty and hence figuratively dark.
Do not take your eyes from that light- however small that may be so that in the parching darkness around you do not get too tired and worn out
The light could also give you a direction when you are lost not knowing where to go
Lent is following that light. That’s why we sang
I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me
Be sure that the day will dawn
…when darkness will have no room
The promise that makes Christian life meaningful is that it talks of a future glory and it is not about a bleak future.
The memory of the future is full of hope and light
We live in a world where people easily give up,
We live in a world where people say the darkness is too much to bear
We live in a world where people are broken down by loneliness
We live in a world where several people grapple with disappointment and depression
Be sure that the Light will soon take over
Be assured that the morning star will one day rise in your hearts
The essence of the Christ event was there in our first hymn today
You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great Your love was greater
What could separate us now.
Who is this morning star that we are talking about
There is no night that has not seen a new dawn
There is no storm that has not kept us long in darkness
The morning star would indeed rise in our hearts
Lent is an opportunity to behold this Morning Star.
Yes, the morning star will rise in our hearts and it is this promise that makes us sing
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
February 19, 2023
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