WOW! The Holy Spirit is alive and well in Johannesburg!! Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!
That is how I felt at the Cathedral on 30 January at the Ordination Service, a day I will never forget. It was indeed a mountain-top experience that transformed me forever. Thank you to all of you at St Michael’s for your prayers and support, which demonstrated great faith, as most of you did not yet even know me!
At the Cathedral, friends and family said how radiant and dazzling the 10 of us new deacons and priests looked, after Bishop Steve laid his hands on us, one by one, filling us with the Holy Spirit.
Shining, glowing, happy and glorious, they said.
Isn’t it amazing that these words are found in today’s readings for Transfiguration Sunday (31 January – Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36).
In our Old Testament reading, Moses has just undergone one of God’s biggest tasks in religious history – “presenting the covenant to Israel in the form of the Ten Commandments written on stones.”(NIV DSB 1988:1476) Moses had been in the desert talking with God – or praying – for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating food or drinking water. Imagine how he feels (apart from hungry, thirsty and tired!), carrying those tablets down the mountain, with such an important message for his people. He is so radiant, that at first the Israelites are afraid of him. But he calls them and explains how God wants them to live. They were amazed that whenever Moses prayed to God – his face lit up. That is the power of prayer, something we vowed to do many times a day.
Now Paul takes the idea of a covenant a huge step further. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about the new covenant being about the Holy Spirit written, not on stone tablets, but on our hearts, giving us life and freedom. Paul says the more we believe in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the more we are transformed to be like Christ. Our example as Christians gives hope to others.
So the 10 of us being touched by the Holy Spirit in such a profound way, has lit a fire in us that will hopefully spread and inspire others to be transformed, and more like Jesus Christ.
Today’s Psalm 99 is about praising God’s mighty power over all the universe. God is also a just and forgiving God who responded to Moses. We are nothing without God. Ëxalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain for the Lord our God is holy.”(Ps 99:9 NIV) As a symbol of humility and complete submission to God, we prostrated ourselves on the floor of the Cathedral. (pic above) To all our vows regarding our role as your humble servants, we replied “With God’s help, I will.”Over and over. What a powerful line. Imagine if every request we receive, we reply “with God’s Help I will.”How do we get God’s help? Prayer.
Our gospel reading is one of the most dramatic stories in the New Testament, with Jesus going up a mountain to pray with his three closest disciples and being transfigured from human to divine in what looks like a flash of lightning. The time of the this story is important as Jesus has discussed with his 12 disciples eight days earlier that he is the Christ and that he would be killed in Jerusalem. The three of Peter, James and John heard a voice saying that Jesus was his chosen son and that they must listen to him. Time was running out for Jesus to teach his disciples how to spread the truth after his departure. The three had a good lesson on the power of prayer, because Jesus could only be transformed through prayer.
The ordination was the culmination of many years of ministry, training, studying – and praying, all by the grace of God. The week before was spent in prayer on retreat. This service was not the beginning or the end – it was part of our journey of becoming stronger agents of transformation and reconciliation for God. The fact that we glowed was not from us – the radiance was merely a reflection of God’s glory combined with the love from all our communities.
The state of our country and the world begs all of us to be prayerful agents of God’s transforming love as we “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. I look forward to serving God and all of you in the parish of St Michael’s and hope to witness the power of the Holy Spirit continue to transform us into dazzling, radiant, shining and glorious beings —– with God’s help.