More of Christ

From “The Transfiguration,” Sermons Preached in Country Churches (1880)

Only three of the disciples were on the Mount. And only two or three, just at rare times, may feel as if they were carried into a brighter world, and as if they beheld things as they are, not hidden by the mists of our earth. I do not know to whom God grants such manifestations; but I have no doubt from what I have read that there are some, probably those who have some special work or suffering to go through — humble people, I dare to say, of whom the world takes no note.

But this also we should remember, these bright visions soon pass away. A cloud comes over those who have enjoyed them; and to them, too, there comes a voice out of the cloud, “This is my Son, hear Him.” That is to say, what you are to learn from the vision is to be more meek and gentle, as the Son of Man is ; to observe more what he is saying to you in all common things; to be more thoughtful about other people, because he is thoughtful about them. Hear his commandment to be true and faithful in all your transactions with your fellowmen; hear him warning you, when you are tempted to be vain and greedy; hear his voice checking you when you are exalted, and bidding you arise and be not afraid when you are downcast. You know it is the voice of the Son of God. And he tells you not to speak much of anything that merely concerns yourself, if you have ever so much reason to be thankful for it. Speak of his resurrection from the dead, which concerns all persons living as well as you.

And now you see how the remaining part of the story also belongs to us. Men who have had hours of quietness and peace and bright visions, do not like the noise and clatter of the crowd. They find it very distracting. They would rather forget that people are disputing, and that ministers of God are proving their weakness, and that men are tormented with all kinds of plagues and sorrows. But God does not let them forget it.

In this world they are to live and work. If they are Christ’s disciples, these are the sights they must witness continually, not those on the Mount. They must be continually taught, which is harder still, their own folly, and ignorance, and incapacity; and if they will get these lessons by heart, there are others and more cheering ones for them. Christ is in the crowd, as He was in the Mount. He is showing his power in the midst of noisy, disputatious men. He is doing what his disciples cannot do. He is at work to help fathers and children to whom no mortal can bring help. The disciples got at least a diviner teaching, they knew more of Christ, from what they saw below the mountain, than from what they saw upon it. They learnt more fully that Christ was the Son of Man, and that he cares for all men; they learnt more that he was the Son of God, and that he had come into the world to do His Father’s work. And so may all of us learn more of the Son of Man and the Son of God from our own sufferings and from the sufferings of others, than we could learn if we were carried out of the world and saw his countenance shining like the light, and Moses and Elias talking with Him.

But that vision was not granted to the disciples for nothing; and it is not for nothing that we are permitted to read of it in this distant land, so long after it has departed. It was to tell the disciples, and to tell us, that one day he who appeared on earth as a poor man, walking with poor men, and dying the death of a slave, would appear in the glory of his Father and of his holy angels; that Moses and Elijah, and every one of those who had done his work on earth, would be with him. It was to tell them, and to tell us, that every human creature shall see him when he is manifested in his glory; that all the mists which have hidden him from us shall be scattered ; that the quick and the dead shall alike hear his voice. It was to tell them and us that this glory will only confound us and overwhelm us if we are not listening to him now, living for him now; that if we are, if we are asking him to purge us from our sins and make us true men, we shall long for his appearing to end the conflict and anguish of the world, and to set all things right.

Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) was an Anglican priest and theologian, a prolific author who was professor of theology at Kings College, London, and Cambridge. A early leader of the Christian Socialist movement, he founded several educational institutions for working people. Sermons Preached in Country Churches, a collection of sermons Maurice preached during his summer travels, was published posthumously by his wife. He is commemorated on the Episcopal Church’ liturgical calendar on April 1. The text is slightly adapted for contemporary readers.

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