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Related Bible reading(s): Mark 9.2-9

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In touch: Love's demanding offer

Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

How can we respond well to the terror of the emotional moment (Mark 9.6)?

Context

Two stories, one from international news, and one from local news.

Ideas for sermons or interactive talks

  • The disciples had been with Jesus for some time before that moment of overwhelming certainty on the mountain, the moment that showed them that he was profoundly different from everyone they had met before and, at the same time as he was compelling, totally trustworthy. Think about Peter’s terror of Jesus in glory (v.6), and what sacrifice followed in the Gospel. Contrast the events at the Capitol where the mob were sent, not led, by the man who egged them on. And terror was rather inflicted than suffered.
  • Is that why the disciples were told not to tell (v.9)? Because those who had not been intimate with Jesus might catch the excitement without the terror, the respect, the awareness of personal danger and the willingness to embrace it that should always accompany that response to God’s truth?
  • Committed action can be catching, as some police officers in Myanmar found. The positive choice of a single bereaved person became a catalyst, bringing others together to fight the isolation of grief.
  • A mounting death toll on the one hand, and the triumph of a mass vaccination programme on the other, can make us feel as though the divine presence in the world, angry or benign, is only mediated through large attention-grabbing things. But God can be in small, quiet, moments. I have spent time recently ‘bubbled’ with my daughter and her two-month-old son. When she takes him out, she spreads joy, and peace. Her sleeping baby offers a bright spot in the day of many strangers, prompting smiles and pleasantries.
  • A sermon could focus on the need to be ready to drop one’s defences, scepticism, self-reliance, pride, in the face of a good prompting. We also need to cultivate discernment to respond rightly. It could develop into thinking about ways in which we can ensure that our sense of vulnerability in the pandemic can be turned to good, considering the equal vulnerability of others, and letting care for others win over private reservations e.g. about vaccination. Or it could continue with how we ensure that the disruption of normality caused by the pandemic is turned to good ends
    e.g. by capitalising on the reduction in air, noise and light pollution to the benefit of all!

 

Questions for discussion

  • Would you hesitate to be vaccinated?
  • Do you think the churches and other religious groupings have a role in persuading people to be vaccinated, or should they stand back from attempting to influence people?

Brenda Vance is a URC Elder and retired university teacher living in Sussex.

 

Check-in

Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

‘Wow!’ When I woke up on Monday morning, the world outside my window had been transfigured! Ok, so maybe not…I live in Oxford, where we experienced a light sprinkling of snow, but my WhatsApp family chat is full of pictures from relatives in the north of the country, where the hills have been reclothed in dazzling white.

The snow is a visual reminder of Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark’s gospel – where Jesus’ appearance is changed to a dazzling whiteness – and also causes us to consider the beauty of God’s natural world. To me, it is unsurprising that the transfiguration of Jesus took place in the great outdoors, where unexpected beauty may lurk around every corner. Have a look at these pictures of the snow on the BBC website. Do they offer you a glimpse of the creator? When have you seen the beauty of God in creation?

Cold weather and heavy snow may be beautiful, but it also causes problems for many people; walking and driving are more difficult and it is easy for people to become isolated, especially now, as COVID means fewer of us are leaving our homes.

The so-called ‘Beast from the East’ therefore also gives us the chance to experience God through unexpected acts of kindness, as neighbours are asked to look out for the vulnerable people around them. When have unexpected human actions transfigured the world and allowed you to see God more clearly? When do you think that your actions might have shown God to others?

Joel Denno is a Licensed Lay Minister at  St Nicholas in Oxford. This involves all kinds of jobs: from preaching and teaching, to running the youth group. During lockdown, it has also involved video-editing and posting church services online.

 

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