Event Name Sermon given at the Sung Eucharist on the Sunday next before Lent 2016
Start Date 7th Feb 2016 11:15am

The Reverend David Stanton, Canon Treasurer and Almoner

A couple of weeks ago The Archbishop of Canterbury, attended the World Economic Forum in Davos to join discussions on tackling violent extremism and how faith communities are adapting to the 21st century.

He argued that faith leaders have a responsibility to offer a theological narrative that is more attractive than that offered by IS. That the answer is to promote good religion, that our role is to present the faith of Christ in a way that is so clearly full of the love of God that its an effective counter-narrative in and of itself.

He said all this at the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps, and linked in, to a greater or lesser extent, with the main conference themes of terrorism and the migration crisis, market turmoil, cybercrime and civil liberties, and climate change. When Klaus Schwab founded the World Economic Forum in 1971, he chose Davos, in the Swiss Alps, because he was particularly attracted to its relative isolation. The cynical observer might say that the Forum, like many a middle-aged individual, has grown fatter and more comfortable in its 43 years of life.

But its vision and commitment remains the same: to improve the state of the world.
Indeed its been the place where some of the world changing ideas were born. Yet Klaus Schwab stresses two fundamental points: Firstly that one of the key benefits to Davos is that those attending can significantly develop their emotional intelligence and make a lasting impression for good. Secondly that while Western nations have distanced religion from public life in recent decades, the forum's new line is to embrace religion, understand its traditions and glean its wisdom. He re-iterates the fact that we can't really understand the world without engaging with faith communities, especially our rich Christian heritage.

On another mountain, the vision of the Transfiguration is integral to our Christian faith. It was an experience that made a lasting impression on the first disciples and later helped them to understand both the resurrection and the promise of the coming Kingdom of God. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they couldn't fully understand it.

Today's Gospel reading about the Transfiguration links the Epiphany, the season of the year that we've been in with Lent, which begins later this week on Ash Wednesday. The word 'transfiguration' means change or metamorphosis, so often pictured in terms of the ugly duckling that becomes the beautiful swan. And, of course, epiphany means a sudden realization, perhaps even an intuitive leap of understanding, or a manifestation of the divine.

The Epiphany season is all about light and revelation. It started with the celebration of the bright light, the star of the East guiding the Magi with their gifts to Jesus. It was reflected in the feast of the Baptism of Christ (that we kept a month ago). Indeed at both the baptism and at the Transfiguration a voice of God announces that Jesus is his beloved son.

But the Transfiguration also gives us a window into the heart of Lent. It occurs just after Jesus first predicts his coming suffering and death. It occurs at this crucial juncture, as a preview of Christ's resurrected glory. It shows that though this road leads to the cross, it ends in a gloriously transformed existence.

So we see the Transfiguration isn't just about something that happened to Jesus. It shows that our human destiny is to be radiant with the glory of God. This is the vision that underpinned the Archbishop's words at Davos when he said that our role is to present the faith of Christ in a way that's so clearly full of the love of God, that its an effective counter-narrative in and of itself.

In Davos a series of political leaders lined up to proclaim the gravity of the current situation in our world; the same theme that was very recently taken up in conference at the Queen Elizabeth Centre. But such international goodwill still only deals with the consequences of this crisis, not its causes. The mountainous visions of both heavenly Transfiguration and worldly deliberation, remain the same: to improve the state of the world.

In very practical terms that requires influential world powers putting the Syrian people ahead of geopolitical ambitions and bringing pressure to bear upon those who besiege, those who make a mockery of international humanitarian law, and working together to achieve a lasting solution to the conflict.

Also in a very practical way we are all individually called to help transform our world. Last century Martin Luther King took faith into the public square by placing the power of the cross at the centre of the civil rights movement, aiming to redeem the whole of society from the evil of segregation and racism. In facing up to injustice, it brought about a seismic shift, affecting moral, social, historical, economic, spiritual and legal dynamics in society.

In a similar way the French philosopher Alain Badiou in his book, In Praise of Love, says that the goal of politics is to discover what the collective is capable of achieving.

This Lent, with millions of refugees scattered around Europe and the Middle East, we too need to rediscover what the ethic of Christian love is capable of transforming.

Jesus' love embodied in his self-sacrificial giving sets high demands for us, upon our love, lifestyle and engagement with the world. We may ask: How does it inspire me today in my work, in my life? What does it mean to live with transforming truth? To what frontiers does God's word take me to improve the state of the world?

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