Transfiguration: To See the Glory of the Lord

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday*, when we recall the revelation of Jesus’ glory on the mountain in the days before his final journey to Jerusalem.

The disciples had seen Jesus heal (miraculously), cast out demons, calm storms, feed the multitude, teach with authority, forgive sins, bring lost sons and daughters of Abraham back home into the family of God. And he gave the twelve authority to do the same. That would have been incredible to experience. But despite the miraculous things Jesus did, and the miraculous things he empowered them to accomplish, it was their experience of Jesus’ glory on the mount of transfiguration that knocked the disciples off their feet.

It was also the experience of Jesus’ glory that empowered the early church for its ministry in the world. The early church was generous, compassionate and brave in the face of Caesar’s empire, and it adopted new members into its midst at an astonishing rate. But what kept it going was the experience of Jesus’ glorious presence in their midst. The Nicene faith developed not in abstract speculation, but because Christians knew that when they worshiped Jesus they were in the presence of light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. They faced the lions and the executioners not because they had a great attachment to social service, but because they experienced Jesus to be the Son of God, beloved of the Father.

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On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!

Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.

We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.

All praise to you, eternal Son,
whose advent has our freedom won,
whom with the Father we adore,
and Holy Spirit, evermore.

Charles Coffin

An excellent choice for the “John the Baptist” Sundays in Advent, this hymn was written in the early 18th century by Charles Coffin, Catholic rector of the University of Paris. The lyrics were originally composed in Latin.

For those interested such things, elements in the Catholic Church at the time suspected Coffin of belonging to a heretical movement known as Jansenism. The Jansenist controversy  mirrored some of the same theological issues in dispute between Calvinists and Arminians in the Reformed branch of Protestantism. Issues included free will and the power of grace, the human ability to keep God’s commands, and the scope of Christ’s redemptive act. The controversy persisted for decades in France, where it was as much a  matter of popular piety as it was one of theology.

Coffin resisted complying with papal decrees on the Jansenist controversy, and his enemies saw Jansenist themes in his hymns.  At his death, the church denied Coffin last rights because he could not produce documentation proving that he had rejected Jansenism. Riots ensued.

Jansenist or not – Coffin’s hymn is a beautiful expression of Christian truth, one which this Wesleyan-Arminian can fully affirm.

Charles Wesley Hymn for Advent

Lo! He comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of His train.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.

Ev’ry eye shall now behold Him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at naught and sold Him,
pierced, and nailed Him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Every island, sea, and mountain,
heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
all who hate Him must, confounded,
hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment, come away!

Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear!
And His saints, by men rejected,
coming with Him in the air.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Yea, amen! Let all adore Thee,
high on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the pow’r and glory,
claim the kingdom for Thine own:
O come quickly, O come quickly,
Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

The General Rules are Living Prayer

There is only one condition previously required of those who desire admission into these societies: “a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins.” But wherever this is really fixed in the soul it will be shown by its fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, ….

  *  *  *

In their original form, the General Rules of the Methodist Church were a kind of living prayer. Conforming to the Rules was not a means to earn God’s favor. Neither were Rules a prescription for virtuous and praiseworthy living in general. They were not even a roadmap for living gratefully and joyfully in response to what God had done. Rather, they were a way for people “deeply convinced of sin, and earnestly groaning for redemption” to wait actively and expectantly before God.

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How Wesley Organized for Transformation

After retiring last month from military service as an Army chaplain, I was able to attend my first district preachers meeting in 27 years last week. The district superintendent spent most of the meeting reminding us of Methodism’s earliest means of making disciples. John Wesley, he recalled, organized Methodists into societies, classes and bands.

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