11th February 2024 10.30am – Sunday next before Lent – Eucharist


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The Readings

2 Corinthians 4.3-6

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9.2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings.

Some years ago, I remember watching an interview on Channel 4 television
which moved me very much.

The interviewer was Melvyn Bragg, the broadcaster. The person being
interviewed was Dennis Potter, a writer, well-known at that time for his
television plays. Those among us of a certain age may recall ‘The Singing

Melvyn Bragg – whose daughter, by the way, is an Anglican priest – knew
that when he interviewed Dennis Potter it would be the last interview Potter
would give, because he was dying. He had an incurable pancreatic cancer
and died a few weeks later.

Bragg asked Potter how he was doing which prompted him to say how, when
you only have limited time left, you learn to live, as he put it, in the Now.
He sits, he said, at his desk and writes, looking out of the window into his
garden. Then he spoke about how recently, as he looked out, he saw a tree:
“...at this season, the blossom is out in full bloom … It’s a plum tree. It looks
like apple blossom, but its white, and looking at it, instead of saying, ‘Oh,
that’s nice blossom’.... last week, looking at it through the window... I see it is
the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be … The
nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that,
you know. There’s no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the
glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance.”

When I first heard him speak like this about the plum tree in blossom – the
whitest, the frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be - I thought
immediately of today’s gospel.

Potter sees his plum tree transfigured. It’s the same old plum tree as it ever
was, but having but a short time to live, living therefore in the Now, he had
this remarkable experience: ‘...the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that
ever could be ...’

All because his illness caused him to focus absolutely on the Now of the
present moment.

I think something like this happens to the disciples with Jesus on the
mountain. They have put aside the everyday concerns and for a little while
they live in what Dennis Potter called the Now. Their focus is on the one who
has brought them there, and as they look towards him his garments became
glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

The blossom of the plum tree became the whitest, the frothiest, blossomest
blossom that ever could be.

And as Jesus is transfigured before them, the disciples are transported to
another level of understanding. Jesus is not just another teacher, another
rabbi, but one who embodies in his own person the authority of the moral law,
the Torah, which Moses brought to the Jews, and the authority of the
prophets, who taught what the Torah meant for everyday living, as Elijah did,
the greatest of the prophets.

Potter spoke about how wondrous his experience was, and the glory of it, and
the comfort and reassurance.

I think the disciples experienced all of that on the mountain: the
wondrousness; the glory; and the comfort. And it was all a great reassurance
– a reassurance that they were right to put their trust in Jesus. That he was
the one who was to come.

And there was something else that Dennis Potter showed to me in that
interview. It was this: that these moments of transfiguration are not
experiences of a religious past, but experiences that any of us might have at
any time. When something happens that absolutely holds our attention and
we are for the moment living in the moment, in the Now, we too can know
these experiences of transfiguration.

His garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could
bleach them. The blossom was the whitest, the frothiest, blossomest blossom
that ever could be.

I don’t know whether we can make these moments of transfiguration happen
– by taking ourselves off to somewhere quiet, perhaps. In this church. When
we sing or pray. I don’t know whether we can make them happen or whether
they just happen, catch us out perhaps. But when they do happen let us
recognise them for what they are and be glad in them: the wondrousness; the
glory; the comfort.

Moments of transfiguration that reassure us that this is God’s world and it is

We need those moments of reassurance when we come down from the
mountain and return to business as usual in the plain.


The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

Oh God, as we prepare for Lent and think of Good Friday to come, we ask for your grace that we
may observe Lent dutifully. May we keep to any disciplines we have decided to maintain, and also
reach out to help those in need of support.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the peace of the world, especially in those places where there is currently war. We pray
especially for the Holy Land, that Israelis and Palestinians and surrounding countries may learn to
accommodate each other, rather than try to dominate. We pray also for Ukraine, that Putin may
accept that country’s right to decide for itself how it wants to be ruled.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray that humankind may learn to cherish your earth before it is too late, and that the richer
countries of the world will take measures to protect poorer areas in tropical zones to relieve global
warming, by switching to more environmentally sources of energy.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the City of Sheffield, and all who are working to make it an even better place to live. We
give you thanks for our suburb of Walkley, and all its organisations working together to improve it
still further.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We ask your blessing on all who are ill at this time, and also all who are caring for them, both family
and professional health workers. We remember the king at this time, and all other sufferers of
cancer. In a moment of quiet we think of those known to us…………
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who have died recently, whether from advanced age, illness or warfare. We entrust
them all, and all who mourn to your tender care…………….
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark and John and all your saints, we commend ourselves and
all your creation to your unfailing love.

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers for the sake of your only Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright (c) 2010 The Archbishops' Council