What do you see?

This sermon was delivered at Saint Mark’s, Newtownards on 11th February 2018 (Transfiguration Sunday).

I had a problem recently that I’m sure many of my fellow glasses wearers out there will be able to relate to. I went to work without my glasses. Cue a day of getting children mixed up, getting the dinner numbers wrong (this is a big crime in a primary school), using a permanent marker on the whiteboard (this is an even bigger crime) and using the wrong coffee cup in the staff room (this is the biggest crime of all).

To say we have a reliance on our eyes is an understatement.

I did a bit of research on eyes and, apparently, they are composed of over 2 million working parts and they’re the second most complex organ after the brain. But what really interested me is that experts say that 80% of our memories are determined by what we see.  The same percentage of what we learn is through our eyes. What we see forms a central basis for how we make sense of the world around us and how we then relate to it.

This morning, we will all have an opportunity to begin seeing the world, the situations we find ourselves in and our lives in general in a whole new light.

Over 2000 years ago, the disciples Peter, James and John saw something rather unusual. In the event we now know as the Transfiguration, these men saw Jesus transformed before them on a high mountain. The Bible tells us that ‘his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them’ (Mark 9:3). As this happened they witnessed Jesus talking to Elijah and Moses. We’re also told that ‘a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” (Mark 9:7). As you can imagine they were terrified by this. Peter obviously didn’t know what to say because he offered to build three tents for glowing figures. It’s clear that, at that time, the disciples couldn’t make sense of what they were seeing and it would be a while until they would.

The saying goes that hindsight is 20/20 and as Peter, James and John reflected on this event after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ they would have seen it with new eyes. They would have, as we see all throughout scripture, recognised the setting of the mountain as a place where humanity meets God, where the temporal meets the eternal. As they looked back upon the cloud and the voice from heaven saying ‘” This is my beloved son,’” they would have been reminded that Jesus wasn’t just a man but was, in fact, the very Son of God, the true and only connection between humanity and the Father. A connection broken and marred by sin. They would have realised that the radiance around Christ, the intense whiteness was, in fact, a manifestation of His glory. The glory of the one true God in the form of God the Son. The one who comes to seek and save the lost. The one who comes to restore humanity back into a right relationship with the Father. The one who comes to undo the works of darkness and release all who accept Him back into their true destiny as people who know and are known by God as loving members of His family.

But the fact is, as we look around the world today and even examine our own hearts, many people do not know and accept this truth. This is a difficult truth to listen to but the opposite of sight is blindness and our passage today states that ‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:4). ‘God of this world’ could be more accurately translated as god of this present age or god of this world system. It is a clear reference to the Satan. As we look around our world it is clear that all is not what it ought to be. We see pain and sickness and death. We see poverty and war and famine. We see human trafficking and greed and murder. These things are all a result of the nature of fallen and sinful men alongside the schemes of the devil. Our mistake here would be to claim that the devil orchestrates these things for the sake of themselves but, as destructive and damaging as they are they are not the devil’s primary aim. The primary aim of the devil is to blind us to the truth of who God is and who we can be in Him. I’ll say that again, the primary aim of the devil is to blind us to the truth of who God is and who we can be in Him. He wants to drive us further and further into the darkness and therefore further and further away from the glory and light of Christ. Sadly, we don’t need to look for very long to see the impact of this. Some of you may remember a recent interview with Stephen Fry where, in response to the suffering he sees around him, he states, and I warn you it’s difficult to listen to, ‘How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?’

It’s not right. It’s not right at all. But in Christ, in Christ, we don’t see the cause we see the resolution. We see the solution. A God who is so utterly in love with His creation, with you and with me, that He leaves the perfection of heaven and He enters this world with all its misery and sorrow brought about by the rebellion of humanity and the schemes of Satan and he dies. He dies. And in doing so He takes onto Himself the consequences of it all so that we can be rescued from it all and be truly free in a relationship with Him.

It’s all a matter of perspective. We can look at the misery in the world around us and the issues in our own lives and we can succumb to the darkness and blame it all on God or just simply ignore Him altogether. Or we can see the truth. The truth that this isn’t how it’s meant to be and there is a solution and that solution is Christ. On the cross, Christ has accomplished a total victory over the darkness. He has paid the price in full for all the wrongdoing in our lives past, present and future. And he longs to rescue us from the consequences of this dark and fallen world. He is offering us a new way of life, full of true purpose, true belonging and true hope. He is offering us the comfort and hope, that when our time in this world draws to a close, that we have assurance of spending eternity in perfection with Him. We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it. We can only achieve it through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith that He is the son of God, that He died for our sins, that He rose again, that He ascended into heaven, that He now sits at the right hand of the Father, holding all authority in heaven and on earth, and that He will return again. We need to come before Him in prayer, repent of our sin and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour. That is our faith. Jesus said ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). He offers all of this to us freely and all we have to do is grasp it through the hand of faith.

In our passage today, we read ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). This echoes back to the words of the creator God at the very beginning of creation when He commanded, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3). John tells us that this same ‘light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5). The Gospel is about God bringing new life and light to His world and undoing the works of darkness. In the same way, when we allow that light to shine in our hearts through faith, the faith that Jesus was the son of God who died for our sins, we become a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come and we come to know Christ on a personal level and become members of His eternal family. This light, however, goes beyond just shining into our hearts but is, in fact, illuminating all of creation and remaking it in the way it was originally intended prior to the entry of sin. This is illustrated beautifully in Revelation 21, where we’re given a glimpse of how things will be.

‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5).

The light of Christ is making all things new. The lives of all who believe Him alongside every corner of creation. ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ What an amazing truth, what an amazing God.

The challenge for us now then as we go about our daily lives is to allow that same light to illuminate the situations we find ourselves in so we can see them with fresh eyes. In the darkness, we want to be shining beacons of Christ’s light. People who stand against hatred and bring love. People who stand against despair and bring hope. People who stand against discord and bring peace. People who stand against unbelief and bring faith. But most of all, people who don’t succumb to the darkness but instead stand firm in the victory and power of Christ.

The fact is we all know pain and hardship. We all know what it is to face stress in work, the pain of our loved ones falling ill, the worries of making ends meet, the heartbreak of relationships breaking down. That is when we cling to Jesus our rescuer. Jesus who sets us free. Jesus who lightens our path. Jesus who never leaves us. Jesus who loves us. And as we see the world through his light, we can know that whatever we face we can say with confidence, buoyed up by the hope that only He can bring, that He is making all things new, all things right, all things perfect.