Sunday 16th April 2017Posted by Yvonne Callaghan Mon, April 17, 2017 21:27:03
So called because it transforms from one thing into another. A bit like Superman, or the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and many other children's characters.
There's something of the satisfying fairy tale in something or someone being liberated from a former state into something better.
The Easter story is all about transformation. Transformation from despair to hope, from grief to joy, from death to everlasting life.
Jesus himself transformed from Good Friday's broken, lifeless body, to Easter Sunday's resurrected Lord.
However, if we look closer at the characters who play a part in the account of those three momentous days, we realise that transformation is beginning to take place within, in their lives as a result as the result of having been with Jesus.
Take Peter; at first as he and the other disciple (John) enter the tomb, we're told that it was John who 'saw and believed', not Peter. I wonder what Peter expected to find after Mary Magdalene ran to tell them that the tomb was empty? Might there have been a glimmer of hope, despite all the evidence, or would past failure have clouded his rational thinking? Did he perhaps hope that somehow Jesus was still alive? Or a ghost? Was he worried about an encounter with the one he had let down so dramatically? But Peter, being Peter, had to know and the mystery deepened as he entered the empty tomb.
Then we have Mary Magdalene. Misrepresented throughout history. Yet nowhere in the Bible does it state that she was anything other than a faithful disciple. I understand it was Pope Gregory I who claimed she was a prostitute in AD591. And because such juicy gossip was newsworthy even then, that reputation has stuck.
Three days earlier she was standing, helpless, near the cross with Jesus' mother, his aunt and Mary the wife of Clopas. Faithful women who, unlike the disciples, had not fled in the face of danger, and now she has the privilege of being the first person to meet the risen Christ.
A transformation of hope, of dawning reality, that had its roots in her past encounters with Jesus. As she had learned from his teaching, watched his miracles, witnessed his compassion and wondered at his integrity, even in the face of a painful death, she was being changed from the person she had been into the disciple she became.
And that transformation that had begun in her and Peter continued, through Pentecost to influence the early Church. Peter became one of the main leaders of the fledgling, 1st Century Church, and by the time we reach Acts chapter 10 we realise how much he had changed. Here we have a man, strong, not in his own human strength as in the past, but one who is open to what the Holy Spirit is saying, even though what he actually says at first appears contrary to the Church's teaching.
Kill and eat these unclean things, Peter is told three times in a vision, and while he's still trying to work out the significance of the vision, strangers arrive, asking for him by name and urging him to go to with them to a Gentile household.
Again he hears from the Holy Spirit, Don't hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.
And Peter, the one who so often seemed to get the wrong end of the stick, gets it right this time and realises that he is to go to those who are 'unclean' in the eyes of the Jews and preach the good news of the gospel to them.
It is his inner, spiritual transformation that is evident here. No doubt, a few months before he would have refused to go anywhere near a Gentile, and the liberating gospel of the Kingdom of God could have remained confined to the Jewish religion, a kind of sect within Judaism.
His thinking, attitude and openness to the Spirit were changing, his whole being was being transformed into the likeness of Christ. He has begun to think 'outside the box', so to speak, and to listen to what the Spirit is saying, rather than to rely on his own traditional ways of thinking.
We too can know that transformation today because Christ has risen. When he returned to his Father at the Ascension and promised his Spirit, it wasn't just for those who were physically on earth with him during those days. It was for every believer down the ages. It was for you, and me, and for those who came before us and for those who are yet to be born.
So great, so powerful, so earth-shattering is the fact that Jesus came back to life (proper life, not a ghostly shadow) that he was able to state that we, his followers would be able to do greater things than he did, because his power is present in us.
Not greater things for the sake of the miraculous,
not greater things to bring us individual glory or prestige,
not greater things so that we could do thing 'our way', and run ahead of God,
but so that the world might know that the one we follow is the Lord of heaven and earth. The One whom we are called to worship, love and obey. Our Lord, Redeemer, friend and brother. So where does that leave us today? Easter Day 2017?
Are we conscious of transformation in our lives? Are we willing to be transformed? If so, what does transformation look like today?
I think a clue is that it was through a deep encounter with Jesus that Peter and Mary's lives were transformed. They had sat under his teaching, listening to him, walked with him, watched his behaviour, his actions, and been impressed.
They must have been or otherwise they would not have continued with him. But transformation was more than that. It wasn't until the Holy Spirit was given full reign in their lives that things actually started to really change from the inside out.
We can be full of good intention, like the former Peter, and that is brilliant, as far as it goes. But it takes an inner, supernatural touch from God, something that comes from outside ourselves to cement and grow his life in us and move us from weakness to victory.
Only then will we be up to the challenge of our changing world, changes both within and outside the Church. And if we, like the early Church are going to move forward, we must make sure we are tuned in to what the Spirit is saying to us, right here, right now, for the present and for the future.
Let us pray
Sunday 16th April 2017Posted by Yvonne Callaghan Mon, April 17, 2017 21:21:45
Transformers, they are great toys. They are toys where when we move parts of it around and re aligning the parts, they are changed from one thing to another.
They are - Transformed
Sometimes what we transform is good, like our gardens when we clear out weeds, move them from where they are not wanted, that place then becomes, cleaned, transformed, free to grow the plants we want
Painting and decorating a room can make such a difference, putting our own stamp on a place, transforming a room into our space, often making a house a home.
Yet sometimes what we transform is not always good, we don't take account of why we are transforming something, we just plough on, or we hold on to what is familiar, the things which we like
Which is what we saw Peter doing in our first reading. God had plans for Peter. Remember he was named by Jesus as the rock. Peters name was changed from Simon the fisherman to Peter the Rock. The Rock on whom Jesus built his church.
Peter was transformed by name for a purpose, not just for the sake of it by Jesus.
Jesus didn't just think "Hey - you know what I think you look a lot like a Peter."
Jesus named Simon Peter - because the name means rock - Solid. The solid one on whom Jesus would build his Church.
And yes we know Peter denied Jesus three times, but Jesus already knew peter would deny him, he shared that with Peter prior to the crucifixion. Yet still Jesus called him the rock... Peter ..
He also gave Peter the opportunity again and again to say 'I'm sorry', I will change my ways of being, I will transform.
So in our first reading, just before the piece we read today, Peter had denied God, as God lowered three times a cloth with foods not allowed by the Jewish People, foods which would be a sin to eat. So each time the cloth dropped, Peter denied God, by saying things along the lines of: "You must be kidding God - I ain't eating that stuff - It's not legal for a start."
That denial of Peter gives me hope, hope that even when we deny our Lord, we can still be transformed and transform those whom we meet. If we look further on, we continue to see that God is transforming Peter, as he becomes the one who take the Good News to the Gentiles. Through lowering the cloth, Jesus is showing Peter that the grace, the love, the mercy he offers to Peter is not just for the Jews but for all people - Even the gentiles.
So whilst Peter was denying God - God never let him go - God held on to him - guided him and continued to transform Peters heart...
And then we have Mary - And what transformation has gone on in her life - Both when she was alive and since she has died
Mary the faithful disciple, who watched and waited at the foot of the cross, whilst many others had gone.
Mary misaligned as a prostitute in the 6th century by Pope Gregory The Great as he got confused with the many stories in the bible of many Mary’s..Mary the sister of Martha and the unnamed Mary - a sinner from Luke’s gospel, both of whom wash Jesus’ feet with their hair.
Yet Mary. Magdalene, this faithful disciple of Jesus - the first evangelist - the first person to share the Good News of our Lords resurrection with the disciples has been, misrepresented by the world, which in hindsight is harsh - But our God is in the business of transformation. He always has been and always will be - and even if it has taken theologians until more recently to recognise the error made by pope Gregory. They were able to do so by studying the text of the bible. Looking again and as they looked they saw there is no where within the text that once refers to Mary as a prostitute
Mary has been redeemed again, by the life of Jesus recorded for us in the bible.
We too can redeem people today, by understating, engaging with and sharing the stories of Jesus in the bible. Why? because Jesus is in the business of transformation
Never more so than at Easter, when through what was the finality of his earthly death he transformed for us our earthly death
as a gateway to life…. Life eternal with our Father, through all Jesus did on the cross and in his resurrection we have forgiveness of our sins always when we turn to him. As we look again and again at the life of Jesus and how he lived - how he died - we see the heart of Jesus is to transform our own heart - and whilst the account of Peter and of Mary are personal human transformations - Jesus does something amazing with them - Jesus transforms his Church.
Jesus is showing us even today - again and again - how to transform his church. How to share the gospel in each generation - And I'm sure we are all aware of all he is transforming among us in our Parish. I'm sure we are being shown cloths with new ways being opened before us and our attitude of no!
"No I have always done this"
"I have always cared for this"
"I have always given this"
"I have always …. "
All of those no's will be transformed - are being transformed
I hear those transformations again and again as I have conversations with others
I also hear the no’s.. not always directly - but I do hear the no’s
"the I don't want to do this,"
"I have always done this and will continue to do so."
But… But.. among our no’s and our yes's
We are being called again and again
Just as Peter was
Just as Mary was
When she went looking for the body of Jesus
We are being called again to look for life where we may not expect it.
Remember the voice of God will always say no
When we ignore his desire.
Yet when we follow the sound of his voice guiding us - like Mary, we will recognise him when he calls our name. We will recognise when he says No ... not that way - Or - Yes .. this is the way.
And we have to listen again and again to God, as individuals and as church - most especially in the immediate future as we discern how to be Church - not just now but into the future as far as 2030 and beyond.
And just as Peter was called to eat differently - to go into homes he would not traditionally have done - we too must do the things our Lord reveals to us calls us to.
So that we who know ourselves to be beloved and known called by name - to be his body - His church - may be both transformed - and transforming - meeting others who do not yet know they are beloved - known and called by name.
When we listen - When we experience God doing something -
when we recognise a God moment - a Kairos moment
A time when God is doing something among us
and we respond - then we through Jesus transform lives - Ours and those of whom we are shown we are to minister among - Then just as the first disciples heard the voice of Mary passing on the news of Jesus resurrection - Just as Cornelius heard the voice of Peter speaking to the Gentiles - Passing on the truth of the teaching, the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
We too will be the voice of hope
The voice of change
The voice of transformation
Of his Church
Of our lives
By his guiding
Now and in the future. Amen