Let’s do some ‘In Your Faith!’ science. Jesus’ transfiguration showed that he was far more than he appeared to be. We can illustrate this with some colourful science.
You will need:
- A small glass
- Kitchen paper towel or coffee filter
- Washable markers in various dark colours
Cut a circle of kitchen towel, big enough to sit on top of the glass then make a small slit in the middle. Cut a strip of kitchen towel about as tall as the glass.
Use the markers to make large dots in a ring, about half way between the centre and the edge of your circle of kitchen towel.
Thread the strip through the slit in the middle so that you have an umbrella shape. Pour a little water into the glass and balance the circle on top so that the strip dangles in the water.
Then wait … you will see there is a lot more to black ink than appears!
Here’s the science bit.
The colours are from the different inks that make up the ink in the pen – black is rarely just black, but a mixture of greens, blues, pinks etc. You have just done chromatography, (Greek for colour-writing) and it is used by real-life scientists for sorting out mixtures of liquids.
The water soaks through the paper by capillary action and carries the different inks with it. The smaller, lighter molecules of ink travel further than the bigger, heavier molecules, and so the colours separate out.
A few weeks ago, we reflected on the baptism of Christ. John the Baptist knew Jesus already; they were cousins. But Jesus – the ordinary bloke, the guy he played football with as a kid – was shown to be far from ordinary when a voice spoke, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Wow! There was clearly more going on here than first appeared!
And now we have three disciples strolling up a hillside with Jesus – the charismatic rabbi, the good healer – and again we hear a voice: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Wow! There was clearly more going on here than first appeared!
The transfiguration left no room for regarding Jesus as just a good teacher, or even a prophet. In the words of C. S. Lewis,
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. … You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
There are many today who would like to confine Jesus to the role of teacher, role-model, or inspirational figure from history like Gandhi or MLK. This is far more comfortable than a Jesus who demands total allegiance and a conforming of our will to his. It is so much safer the other way around – a Jesus who fits in with our agenda. Even Peter did this when Jesus talked of his impending death, “Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matt 16:22) and this just after Peter had confessed him as Messiah.
Many a regime throughout history has tried to conscript a version of God onto their side, claiming the Lord of Eternity as their mascot. But let us be quite clear, God does not join political parties. God does not trot along obediently at the heels of any earthy leader.
To quote Lincoln, our concern should not be whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side. I’m afraid I’m going to get political. If you think that faith and government should not ever meet, stop reading here.
If we take the claims of the Bible seriously, then Jesus as Good Teacher, Jesus as Inspiring Example, simply are not options. (And if we don’t take the Bible seriously, we need to ask ourselves if the God we worship is the one revealed by the word-made-flesh in the word-made-paper, or a more convenient one made in our own image.) The Bible is not there to be quoted when it suits us and ignored when inconvenient. Prayers are not for scoring points over other people.
Now I’m not backing any party here, I’m not passing judgement on the state of anyone’s soul, and I’m certainly not saying ‘Christians should all vote this way’. (That has been a major problem in the recent US election.) But I think it is instructive to examine the presidential comments at the National Prayer Breakfast. No matter what your political views, or none, just look at how two presidents address the Lord Almighty and draw your own conclusion.
These are from the White House website so they’re kosher, and I list below every occurrence of the president praying. Firstly from 2014:
To our men and women in uniform all around the world, we pray for them.
Senator Tom Coburn. Tom is going through some tough times right now but I love him dearly even though we’re from different parties … I’m keeping him and his family in my prayers all the time.
So each time we gather, it’s a chance to set aside the rush of our daily lives; to pause with humility before an Almighty God; to seek His grace; and, mindful of our own imperfections, to remember the admonition from the Book of Romans, which is especially fitting for those of us in Washington: “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”
We pray for Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary … we pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini … we pray for all prisoners of conscience, whatever their faiths.
I pray that His wisdom will give us the capacity to do right and to seek justice, and defend the oppressed wherever they may dwell.
And then from 2017:
But we had tremendous success on “The Apprentice.” And when I ran for President, I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger -– to take my place. And we know how that turned out. (Laughter.) The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster. And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay? (Laughter.)
Just like at Jesus’ transfiguration, one day his glory will be revealed to all humankind. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess his Lordship.
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” (Gal 6:7)
You command us to pray for those in authority;
teach us, Lord, to pray aright.
You command us to stand up for the oppressed and marginalised;
teach us, Lord, to resist with justice.
You command us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God;
teach us, Lord, to learn.
Matthew 17:1-9 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Lewis, C. S., Mere Christinaity, Geoffrey Bles, 1952