Collect and Readings for The Sunday next before Lent – 2 Kings 2.1-12, Psalm 50.1-6, 2 Corinthians 4.3-6, Mark 9.2-9

The Prayer for today

Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross: give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

It is easy to understand why, since ancient times, people have worshipped the sun. Quite apart from its dazzling beauty, and its faithfulness in appearing each morning, all living things seem to sense that they depend on the sun for survival. Plants grow their first sensitive shoots towards it and adjust their flowering according to the length of daylight. Many flowers turn their heads to follow the sun’s progress through the day, and all the complexities of animal and plant activity are locked into their relationship with our nearest star. Earth and the other planets in the solar system owe their very development to it.

So it is not surprising that sunlike images of fire and light are frequently used to describe the presence of the living God – images which speak of power, essence of life, sustaining support, faithfulness and beauty that hurts when we look at it directly. Or when we look at it from the other direction and see how God inevitably displays his nature in his creation, and it says a lot about him that the very first word of creation was ‘Let there be light!’ Creating the sunlight, and a teeming planet’s life depending on it, was providing us with clues about the energising Creator, and our dependence on him.

It certainly feels entirely appropriate that God’s glory, being seen in Jesus as he is transfigured, shows him being lit up, bright and seemingly pure. The people of Israel had in their communal history many stories of fiery encounters with God, such as Moses’ burning bush, the pillar of fire guiding and protecting them on their escape from Egypt, the extra person seen in the burning fiery furnace, and the heavenly chariots of fire as Elijah is taken from Elisha’s sight. This week’s Psalm is one of many expressing God as a consuming fire.

Mark’s account of the transfiguration comes immediately after Jesus has been telling his disciples about his necessary suffering and death before he comes into glory. To help them cope with what is ahead they are allowed a fleeting glimpse of the holistic truth, where the glory is evident, so that when it is hidden in the horror of the cross, they may begin to understand what real glory involves.

Some things to think about:

1. Are we wary of God showing his glory, preferring to ‘tone him down’?

2. How do you think the transfiguration helped the disciples who witnessed it?

God bless

Rev’d Fiona Robinson