Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sermon -- Transfiguration (February 11, 2018)

MARK 9:2-9


In the name + of Jesus.

     You've probably had it happen to you before.  You walk into a room and step into the middle of someone's story.  The first thing you hear is your friend saying, “And then what happened....”  You want to know, “What happened first?!”  If you have children, you've seen it from the other side.  I recall when my wife and I were talking, a child came into the room only to hear the words, “...going to Disney World...”  Then the child ran out of the room excitedly to tell the other kids, “Mom and Dad said we're going to Disney World.”  They might have wished we had said that, but we didn't.  They did not hear the first part of the story.  Today's Gospel begins in a similar way.  St. Mark writes, “And after six days...” (Mark 9:2)  It begs the question, “What happened six days prior?!” 
     A week before this Gospel, Jesus was speaking to his apostles.  He asked them who the crowds thought he was.  After that, he asked the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29)  Peter answered on behalf of the apostles, “You are the Christ.”  And (Jesus) strictly charged them to tell no one about him. (Mark 8:29-30)  It's not that Peter's answer was wrong.  He was exactly right.  But most Jews had visions of what it meant that the Christ had come.  They expected to see Israel become a rich and powerful nation.  They expected the Christ to usher in a kingdom where they would bask in the glory and benefit from it.
     But Jesus informed the disciples that this expectation was wrong.  Jesus explained what it meant that he was the Christ.  If they wanted to see that glory, they would need to listen to him.  Jesus said that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, to suffer and be rejected by the religious leaders, be crucified, and then rise on the third day.  He went on to tell the disciples that some of them would not taste death before they saw the Christ establish his kingdom. 
     And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3)  The divinity of Jesus shone through the humanity of Jesus.  For once, the Son of God looked like the Son of God!  Peter thought, “Now this is what we were waiting for!  This is the glory we were expecting from the Christ.”  So Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.  It is useful for us to be here.  Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:5)  Peter saw this glory, and he wanted to bask in it and benefit from it.
     Peter had a worldly desire for glory.  We do too.  What do people consider glorious?  Power.  We envy those who are in control and get to decide the rules.  Or money.  Money gets things done and allows people to go wherever they want and to do whatever they want.  How about popularlity?  You get to have all kinds of people fawn all over you and are afraid of hurting your feeelings.  On a smaller scale, we consider it glorious to be able to manipulate or to use other people.  You may consider it deporable.  But tell your friends how you manipulated a salesman for a better deal or lied to get out of a ticket or jury duty.  Your friends will not rebuke you; they will congratulate you.  It is your moment of glory.  The Lord, however, offers no such praise.  He condemns us and the world for such a self-centered view of glory.  Repent.
     The glory of God is revealed only when you listen.  When the apostles were enveloped by a cloud and God the Father spoke to them, he did not tell the disciples to soak in the scene and gaze at Jesus' glory.  Instead, the voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)  These disciples were to remember the words of Jesus who told them that he was going to suffer and die.  If they had listened to the conversation between Jesus and Moses and Elijah, they would have heard the same thing.  St. Luke tells us that they were speaking of Jesus' departure from this world—in other words, his sufferings and death.  That is where God would reveal his glory in Jesus.  That is where God proclaims his love.  Because there, Jesus serves sinners by suffering and dying for them.
    Glory is revealed when you listen.  The glory that the Lord desires you to have is not a momentary thing.  The world might give people their moment in the sun.  Even if it lasts for a number of years, eventually, death brings it all to an end.  But the glory the Lord desires you to have is eternal.  Jesus secures that glory for you by walking away from the mountain of transfiguration to climb the hill of shame.  Jesus left his glory to go to Mt. Calvary where he would suffer for the sins of people who lust after glory, riches, power, and fame.  There, Jesus was crucified in shame and in weakness, rejected and reviled, beaten and bloodied, cursed and condemned.  All this Jesus endured for your benefit.  This is the payment for your sins.  This is where God's wrath was redirected so that his mercy rests upon you.  This is what secures your place in God's kingdom and opens to you the gates to God's glorious, heavenly dwelling.  Because of Jesus, you do not merely have a moment in the sun; you have everlasting glory in the presence of your gracious God.
     Glory is revealed when you listen.  As they were coming down the mountain, (Jesus) charged (Peter, James, and John) to tell no one what they had seen.... (Mark 9:9)  Jesus wanted people to listen to God's promises rather than to press him for images of glory.  This is what Jesus wants for you, too.  Do not gauge God's love on how popular or powerful or successful or healthy you are.  If your world falls apart, you may wonder if God really loves you.  If you are despised, you may wonder why God is not paying attention to you.  If your life is full of frustration or you are enduring low moments, you may convince yourself that God has let you down.  Do not trust what you see with your eyes or what you feel.  God's love is not gauged by what we see and feel.  If you want God's glory revealed, listen to him.  His word never lies to you.  His mercy never fails you.  His care is not revoked from you.  These are is only revealed and received by his promises.  Listen to him.
     (Jesus) charged (Peter, James, and John) to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:9)  Jesus' glory would remain hidden until after he rose from the dead.  And so it is with you.  The glory that we will receive when everything is finally right and good comes after the resurrection of the dead.  Then we will see God face to face and rejoice in his presence forever.
     Until that day, we continue to live and to serve in this world.  Until then, our glory is hidden in our service to our neighbor.  When you think of your mother in all her glory, you might imagine her in a beautiful dress and all dolled up.  That might be your mother at her prettiest, but your fondest memory is likely when she was weary and grubby and taking care of you when you were sick.  It may not have been her prettiest moment, but it is what benefited you the most.  Likewise, Jesus shows us what glory looks like.  It was certainly not pretty when Jesus hung from a cross; but it is what benefits you the most.  It is what secures your salvation and eternal glory. 
     This glory is not obvious, but to those who believe and are saved, it is the most precious image of Jesus we know.  That is because of the promise God has attached to Jesus' sufferings and death.  If you want to receive the everlasting glory that comes through Jesus, listen to him.  He alone has the words of eternal life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.