February 14, 2010

Address for Family Communion + Baptism .Sunday before Lent Reading: The Transfiguration (Luke 9 28-36)

I have here a Russian soldier’s hat that my son brought back from a trip to Moscow many years ago.

Would anyone like to wear it?

Does this transform you  into a Russian soldier. No, you need to be born or live in Russia and to undergo years of training to be a Russian soldier.

Here is a small cassock and surplice, chorister’s robes. Anyone put them on? Are you now a chorister? No. Need to train and practice – wearing cassock & surplice doesn’t transform you into a chorister.

My blue scarf is sign of being a Reader. If I put it on someone else, will that transform them into a Reader? No; you need to have a call to be a Reader and train and be authorised by a Bishop to become one.

It is what is on the inside that makes a person what they are, not what they are wearing on the outside.

In our story today the disciples saw Jesus being changed on the outside. His clothes became shining white. We call it The Transfiguration. The disciples saw Jesus in his glory as the beloved Son of God.

What they saw wasn’t just on the outside. It wasn’t just a change of clothes. It reflected what Jesus was like on the inside. He was filled with the Holy Spirt and glowed with the love and the glory of God. The Transfiguration also showed what Jesus would become like after the Resurrection, when he was raised from death to be with God for ever.

On Wednesday Lent begins. The traditional name for this day is Ash Wednesday, because the ancient tradition of the church is that Christians are marked with ash in some way. In the Bible ash signifies  frailty, mourning, sorrow and repentence.  Ash Wednesday marks  a new start on the road of faith that leads to Passiontide and Easter. Here we will have a quiet service of prayer and reflection, and, if people wish, they can be marked with ash on their forehead or their hands. It is a good way to begin our Lenten devotions – but only if what is done on the outside is mirrored by a change of heart, a renewal of faith, and a determination to live better lives – a change on the inside.

In a few moments we are going to baptise Emma Louise. Some things will happen on the outside.

A cross will be made on her forehead with oil that has been blessed by the bishop; a small amount of water which has been blessed will be poured over her head. She will be handed a candle. And we will say prayers and ask God to send his Holy Spirit on her.

This will make her a Christian, a member of God’s Church and a child of our heavenly Father.

But Emma’s baptism, with its outward and visible signs, is only the beginning of the process. Over the years it will be the responsibility of her parents, her godparents, her family, and all of us as members of God’s Church, to help her to live as a  child of God; to learn to imitate and follow Christ; to shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.

We will pray that all these things are done to help Emma to be transformed ( on the inside) by God’s inward and spiritual grace into one of those people who are so full of faith and of the love of God that their whole being is transformed and transfigured by the light of our Saviour Jesus Christ.


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