Sermon at St Mary’s Church Hadlow
8 a. m.– Sunday next before Lent – 27th February 2022 Transfiguration
Exodus 34 vv 29 – End Moses’ transfiguration; Luke 9 vv 28 – 36 Jesus’ transfiguration
1. Introduction. About a week ago I came across the term ‘metaverse’, but had no idea what a metaverse is. Last week the BBC News enlightened me to the meaning of this other digital universe, because children are able with a specially programmed headset to see content of the behaviour of puppet-like people in, as-it-were, a parallel universe of a digital world, with some of the content quite inappropriate for their age and personally I would not wish myself nor consider it appropriate for any adult to view. I am grateful to The Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Church, Piccadilly, writing in a diary article in the Church Times, relating a discussion she had with a young adult entrepreneur whose company is in “deep tech” developing AI, Artificial Intelligence, and other aspects of aspect of meta technology. She rightly says that the Church should have something to say about meta technology, especially the moral issues involved. Both our readings today introduce us a very different metaverse with its touching points between the natural and the spiritual, between the earthly and the heavenly.
2. Moses. Prior to our first reading today, Moses had met with God on Mount Sinai and for the second time received from God two stone tablets, on which were written the Ten Commandments. He had been entirely on his own and was quite unaware that his face was radiant until he came back down the mountain, to Aaron and all the Israelites. The radiance was so strong that he had to put a veil on his face. This radiance was evidence of his meeting with God and therefore that the Ten Commandments were not just his idea, but God’s idea of good moral behaviour, of how to live in relationship with God and with people. His meeting with God confirmed his leadership, which was to continue for the rest of the 40 years that the Israelites were to spend in the wilderness before crossing the River Jordan and entering the Promised Land.
3. Jesus. When John the Baptist baptised Jesus, God the Father had confirmed and encouraged Jesus in the presence of the crowd of people at the River Jordan, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to him” (Matt 3 v 17). Now at his Transfiguration, similar confirming and encouraging words come from God the Father, “This is my Son whom I have chosen; listen to him.” No crowd this time, just the inner group of three disciples, Peter, James and John, with, in the background, Moses and Elijah. What is it that these two discussed with Jesus? ‘His departure’ (Luke 9 v 31). The English translation loses some of the significance. The Greek word, translated ‘departure’, is ‘exodov’. God’s great saving act of the old covenant, established through Moses, was the exodus from Egypt. Jesus was about to inaugurate the New Covenant, something the prophets had looked forward to and predicted, in the final day of his earthly life, in Jerusalem. The presence of Moses and Elijah shows us the continuity between old and new covenants. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “I have not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfil them” (Matt 5 v 17).
4. Our situation. Both Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai and Jesus’ Transfiguration were touching points between earth and heaven, true Christian Metaverse occasions. A few days before Jesus’ Transfiguration, he had spoken to the twelve, about his forthcoming suffering and death and Peter had rebuked him. The Transfiguration assured this inner group of disciples that Jesus had spoken correctly and helped them not only to accept what was about to happen but prepare them for leadership in the early Church. There must be Christians in many places but especially in the Ukraine who feel like Peter, they want to rebuke God for allowing Russia to invade their country. How could God allow such an awful tragedy?
There is no easy answer either to that or to those people who ruin people’s lives especially children’s lives with their squalid metaverses. We must point people to a truer Metaverse, a Christian Metaverse, based on morality, and inviting people into a living experience of the divine presence. Meanwhile we pray for an end to the conflict in the Ukraine.