Teaching in the parish

Teaching in the parish

This blog is to share the teaching within the parish

We are a parish who worship in four churches whilst being one worshipping community. Those who teach and preach within the parish wish to share what we believe God is sharing with us as we journey into the local communities and those in the wider areas.

Mary Williams - Transformers

Sunday 16th April 2017Posted by Yvonne Callaghan Mon, April 17, 2017 21:27:03

Transformer.


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