Sunday, 28 February 2021

Sermon: Hope, 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Mk 9:2-10
Today I’m going to speak to you about hope. 
Today, the second Sunday of Lent, is one of my favourite Sundays of the year. 
 I feel that in many ways it sums up the whole Christian life 
 -at least in this world. 
We pass through this world, as a vale of tears, Just as we are currently passing through Lent. 
We are given reasons to hope, as we live in their world, Just as the transfiguration is always given to us as a vision of hope this second Sunday of Lent. 
So, hope. 

 First, let’s note hope is something absent from our culture today,
 and absent from your generation. 
My parents’ generation, the people of the 1960s, they had hope. 
Admittedly, not real hope: it was Hippy-hope 
They sang of a better world to come. 
Their science fiction habitually pictured a happier future. 
The problem, is that world was poorly grounded: 
Hedonism, selfishness, rejection of discipline -this hasn’t built a better world. 
Today, science fiction is dystopian. We picture the future, and we picture something we fear will be awful. 
So, what we need is hope. 
2 questions: hope in WHAT? And hope with what BASIS? 

 The transfiguration, 
and the promise of the resurrection, 
and the awareness that this passes through the Cross, 
All this synthesises the Christian message of hope. 
But we can unpack it in more detail. 

 Two pivotal points: 

 (1) The REASON, the BASIS, for our hope? 
God is ACTIVE in our world. 
 The transfiguration was manifested at a pivotal moment: 
He had just predicted His death (Mk 8:31) 
He had just said that to be His follower you must “take up [your] cross”(Mk 8:34) 
AND He manifested His glory in precisely THAT context: 
The transfiguration is thus a testimony that God is ACTIVE through the suffering on the Cross; 
God is active through our sharing in it. 
And if He is active THERE on the Cross, If He is active in the greatest evil in human history -namely, God being killed, Then He is active through EVERYTHING. 
 This, surely, is half of the whole message of the Scriptures: 
It is a record of the deeds of God, 
It is record of how, again and again when we might mistakenly FEAR that He’s absent, Actually, He’s there, He’s doing stuff: 
Slavery in Egypt? The Exodus 
Exile in Babylon? Purifying His people and preparing to lead them home 
Both in the big picture, and in the small picture: He’s active, even amidst our suffering. 
The promise, the example, the testimony that this is so: 
This is the REASON to have hope. And the Transfiguration was given as pivotal promise and sign of this. 

 He’s active, but… 
(2) What is God active DOING? 
Remaking man. 
The transfiguration shows a vision of man remade. 
Looking glorious 
Looking “whiter than any earthly bleacher can make him” (Mk 9:3) 
Making him anew. 

 This goal, however, isn’t just about heaven. 
We are being remade upon earth. 
Man is CAPABLE of being remade, even now on earth -this is the message and promise of the Gospel. 
In Lent: 
 Our penances, our prayers, our almsgiving, are remaking us on earth, even now. 
The New Adam:
 Who was shown forth as Christ on the mountaintop,
 He is being remade, now, through our Lenten works. 

Back to our modern dystopian fears. 
We have hope, even in this world, 
 Because we have the promise of how man can be remade: 
Through the transforming power of His grace, 
Through sharing in the mystery of the Cross, 
To become new men, new men in Him. 

This gives us reason to have hope. 
There is something great in man, 
Something even more significant than the sin and suffering and concupiscence that weighs us down. 
This greatness was shown forth at the transfiguration, 
And it makes us look at fallen man with new eyes, eyes of hope.

To drawn that to a focus and conclusion: 
What does such hope do to my Lent? 
In Lent, possibly already in this second Sunday, 
It can be hard
The discipline, the hard work, the struggle of our penance 
The transfiguration gives us a vision to keep us going.
This failed flesh that I carry as my body, it CAN be transfigured like His.
It can be Pelagian
The heresy of doing it all by my own effort 
very English, also, very American.
The Transfiguration calls us to a change IN HIM 
As I struggle, I must look to HIM 
As I resolve, I must look to HIM 

Those 2 things again: 
(1) God is ACTIVE in this world, 
 as He was active through the Cross and leading to that glorification 
(2) God has a goal: 
 remaking man, remaking YOU.
Lent is long: 40 days is long.
Lent is hard.
  It’s a kind of sacrament of this whole ‘vale of tears’ 
It’s a sign 
But causing something: the bringing of a reality beyond: 
A share in the glorified Christ 
Manifested at the Transfiguration 
Achieved at the Resurrection 
Can be ours through our participation in Lent

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