I want to focus on the feast of the Transfiguration (6th August) in this double summer edition magazine. So far I haven’t come across many mountains in Weymouth, but there are some beautiful views. I have been blessed in my ministry to have had some experiences with a view. Perhaps not your conventional views. As a student I spent time on placement working for the inner London probation service and working at St Matthew’s Church at the Elephant and Castle.
This was thirty-five years ago. I lived in a flat on the 11th floor of one of the long blocks on the New Kent Road. The area has all been demolished now and a huge regeneration has taken place. You may not have been able to see all the nations of the earth from my flat, but from the kitchen window you did get a full view of the city panorama from the Houses of Parliament (if you leant out a bit), the Telecom Tower, the Barbican, past Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Behind that a new skyline was emerging the Nat West Tower, the Lloyds building and the definite shape of Canary Wharf. One was very aware of a skyline that proclaimed wealth and security while ministering in a deprived, fractured parish which lay in its shadow. Mountains are usually remote places of withdrawal.
A place where one gets life in perspective. The mountain we encounter in the story of the transfiguration, like other mountains in the Bible, is a place very much away from the places where the action takes place, away from the towns and villages of Galilee where Jesus had been teaching. Yet on that mountain all reality bursts in, priorities are decided, agendas are set – there is no getting away from the demands and the responsibilities in store for those who find themselves high on the mountainside. Jesus knows the responsibilities, the issues and tensions that lie below.
The glory those disciples glimpse defines the vocation of their master and the possibilities for themselves. In that moment they glimpsed the reality behind all Jesus said and did, and the possibility of their part in it. There is no discipleship without a master to listen and learn from, there is no discipleship without following Jesus and, as Jesus explains to them as they descend the mountain, that following leads to the cross. I think for us two millennia later our transfiguration can happen when our lives, our stories, our lives together as church, become joined in their deepest core to the gospel.
That will demand listening and discerning God’s vision for us. That will be worked out in reality, not on the mountain top but in our everyday lives, the places we live and work. Where we are called to seek God’s kingdom and its righteousness. What vision are we part of, that might help people see things differently? Christians should talk more about a transfigured community, a transfigured Weymouth – where justice and faithfulness matter, where values and vocation, are caught in a new vision, that affects the way we live. The church must be the first witness of what it proclaims to the world. We need structures for the future which will speak to church members and society of a gospel of self-worth, mutual trust, tenderness, openness, and a holistic balance between achieving and letting be – the integration of gentleness and strength. Our very practise of Christian discipleships, as church, must speak of the type of society we are willing to work for.
Canon Andrew – Vicar