Tonight’s scripture readings bring to mind the main thrust of the Transfiguration story that appears in each of the Synoptic gospels.
Both readings describe the power of the love of God to transfigure or transform the whole world.
They tell of God’s glory, radiance, and pervasive influence upon all it encounters. They speak of the capacity of God’s brilliant light to define in a new and lively way all it touches.
However, by pointing to the possibility of a world saturated by the glory of God, both bible passages invite us to choose between two visions of the world.
The one, a pitiful, upside-down world devoid of solemn purpose.
The other of a world that is good, benevolent and meaningful.
They ask us to choose which of these worlds we would strive for.
Paul sets the choice in stark terms. Here’s your choice, he says: A world crafted for and by Christ. Or A world apart from Christ?
Unsurprisingly, Paul asks that we prefer a world that promotes the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Today’s feast of Transfiguration confirms that ask, that preference.
The Transfiguration challenges us to pursue a good, benevolent, and meaningful world.
The current state of the world suggests this is a pressing task for God’s church.
There’s a palpable sense that the future is not bright. The informed guess is that the world as we know it is in the throes of a monumental crisis. There’s so much depressing news around us.
Tottenham, North London, the place where I have lived the longest in my life, is a place that often generates terrible press. It is often described as a pointless, pitiful, chaotic place.
Most of the time undeserved.
In the main, Tottenham is a place imbued with faith. It is full of vibrant, colourful cultural joy.
Eleven years ago today, some of us here tonight – from Tottenham – were caught up in the joys and delights of Tottenham’s diverse and loving community.
We were guests at the wedding of an aspirational professional couple who lived locally.
The groom was from West Africa, and the bride was from the Horn of Africa.
Their guests presented in a dazzling array of bright, colourful dresses, costumes, and attires.
We witnessed Tottenham as a vibrant, colourful community brimming with the bright possibilities of abundant life.
We all wore radiant faces.
We were all enchanted by the hopeful possibilities that the marriage we had come to witness represented for the happy couple.
We were wrapped up in an occasion that bore the essence of marriage as a symbol of God’s kingdom.
Nevertheless, that same night, 11 years ago, we were confronted with the other reality of Tottenham as a place of gripping darkness.
We were not long into the wedding reception when a fierce riot kicked off at the local police station. That riot was a launchpad for an episode of violence, looting and destruction across England.
So you see, on the same day, 11 years ago, we were treated to the best and worst of what a community could be.
Regrettably, it is the episode of violence that some people still use to define Tottenham. It is an outlook with which they limit the flourishing of a community and stymie the prospects of a generation of youths born and raised there.
Some people! Some. But not all. Thankfully not all.
And on this feast of Transfiguration, we must underscore that “Thankfulness.”
We must be grateful for those who choose to live in, deal with, and treat Tottenham by the reality of what we witnessed at that marriage 11 years ago.
We must be grateful to all who, with radiant faces, continue to hold out the hopeful possibilities of the kingdom of God for Tottenham.
We are grateful for their efforts to dispel the powers of darkness set against the flourishing of our young men and women.
We are thankful for all the ways they find to say: “fear, not to the destitute, the homeless, those who struggle to gain meaningful employment and all who get by on poverty wages among us.”
These are the people, and theirs is the attitude that Paul commends to us if we are to transform our messy, meaningless and beggared world.
Paul, we must remember, points us to the same path that Jesus directs us to follow in the transfiguration story. In it, Jesus explains that his dazzling brilliance is not meant for a hilltop tent.
Instead, all that Jesus embodies -the fullness of God’s grace and immeasurable love – must be imposed upon whatever crisis we encounter – so they can be recast for good!
The glory of God is to transform the valley of needs, hurts, disease, injustice, oppression, racism, corruption and indifference to God’s will.
The challenge for us remains as it was for Moses and Israel. Will we allow a glimpse of God’s glory to transform us into messengers (or, to use a trendy term: influencers) for the values of God’s kingdom? Will we choose to be agents of a world framed by joy, peace, love, justice and generosity? Will we, as God’s church, prefer a ministry of affirmation rather than condemnation?
©️ Fr Bùnmi Fágbèmí (2022).
The Rev’d Dr ‘Bunmi FagbemiVicar of Holy Trinity, Tottenham(A Community of Faith, Hope and Love)