Summary: How do we understand Pauls words to the Church in Corinth, and the Transfiguration as we stand at the cusp of Lent. This sermon looks to focus our thoughts and actions as we enter this Holy season
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we stand on the cusp of Lent, in only three days’ time we will gather again as we receive our ashing and commit ourselves to living a Holy Lent.
But for some, perhaps even some who are joining us for worship this morning, there will be a question in their heads along the lines of why is lent such a big thing? Why do we bother?
To answer those questions we can turn to our epistle. St Paul, is not pulling his punches this morning, he is being blunt and reminding us that as Christians we have to take time to turn away from the temptations of the world, and keep ourselves fixed on the word, Christ.
Although the temptations in his day would have been very different to the ones we see now, they were still temptations. Now I could give a list of what temptations are here in society today, but I am sure that everyone here could easily compile a rather lengthy list if we gave it perhaps a couple of minutes of thought.
Paul is re-centering the Corinthians view of life, he is reminding them that they chose to follow Christ, and that for them and us, that following him meant that we have to put away our old selfish selves, and give Christ the glory.
This isn’t the first time he has had to do this, and we see it at the very beginning of his first letter to them, where the church was divided amongst itself because they each felt they owed something personally to the ones who baptised them.
They managed to work through these issues before, and now the issues are not the temptation of in-fighting, but rather the temptation of being pulled away from that which they have worked hard to build, by being tempted by the worldly, the things that will pass away. Sadly this still happens in the church today, and I’m sure for some listening today it will feel that it strikes a chord of uncomfortable truth.
Paul is reminding the reader that what we do and what we achieve, is not about us. They are not something for us to take a curtain call for, to use a theatrical term, but more simply put, the achievements that we have within our church, benefice, deanery, diocese and beyond are the work of God and given to us by his grace alone.
But still we may be thinking how can he use me, or perhaps we think about or look at someone else and say, well how can they use him or her! The latter of course is a far more dangerous assumption.
This is where we move onto our Gospel. We know this piece of scripture well, the moment where Christ is transformed in front of Peter, James and John, where they witness Him not only talking with Elijah and Moses, but also the second time God proclaims him as his son, the beloved.
It comes at a time when Peter has realised who he is, and he has just told them what is to happen to him, and how his followers must behave.
So this transfiguration isn’t just about what happened to Christ, but it’s also about our lives, what we must do to be faithful to him as his followers, as Christians.
This is where things get tricky, because if we are to live the Christian life, then we have to strive to live lives worthy of His call.
But what does that mean here and now for us? Well it means we have a choice, and it’s a simple one.
We can follow Christ through transfiguration, transformation, and seek to live to the fullness of his grace and blessing, being the people he calls us to be.
Or we can walk away and continue to be tempted by the trappings of the world, and fail to reach our full potential in Christ.
Some listening may be thinking what does it matter, what does it have to do with the here and now?
Well in one way it doesn’t, this single choice that we make today may not have a lasting effect on what we do, but the danger is that one choice becomes a pattern of negative choices, and then it does matter, because the further we walk away into the world and its temptations, the further we walk away from who we can be in Christ.
None of us know what God has in store for our lives, for some it may be a life devoted to prayer and petition for others, for someone else they may be a great encourager who walks alongside others to help them flourish in their abilities, another could have the gift of hospitality and be a great welcomer who sets people at ease as they enter the church. The list is endless and the possibilities are limitless.