Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sermon -- Last Sunday after Epiphany: Transfiguration (March 3, 2019)

LUKE 9:28-36


In the name + of Jesus.

     If there is one thing that people find disappointing about the Christian faith, it is that it is not more glorious than it is.  Unbelievers are not really that impressed by us.  They don't see that there's really anything to be gained by being a Christian.  We do not appear to be anything special, important, or sometimes even good.  We also get disappointed that there are not visible gains for holding to the Christian faith.  We still struggle with paying bills, with disciplining children, with ailing health, with car repairs, and with crabgrass on our lawns.  We would like to think that being a Christian spares us from problems, temptations, and sorrows.  We also think that more people would be attracted to the Christian faith if they saw continual prosperity among us.  Some preachers promise that, if you are really a child of God, you will get that.  Sadly, some have abandoned the Christian faith because they did not acquire such promised glory.  Do not be deceived; Jesus did not promise you worldly glory and prosperity.
     But for a moment, it looked like the disciples might get it.  Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up to a mountain top to pray.  The disciples fell asleep as the night wore on.  But when they woke up, they saw Jesus in glory.  The appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.  And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:29-30) 
     Finally, the Son of God looked like the Son of God should look!  Peter was convinced that the kingdom of God had finally come to earth, and that this is what it should look like.  Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here.” (Luke 9:33)  He finally saw the glory he was hoping for, and he longed to keep it.  So, he proposed his plan:  “Master, it is good that we are here.”  It is useful that we are here.  There are three of us; each of us can get to work.  “Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33)  Each disciple could build a little shrine so that this moment of glory could continue.  But, as the Scripture records, Peter did not know what he was talking about.
     Like Peter, we crave this glory, too.  Our sinful flesh wants life to be easy.  We want a life of straight A's, bumper crops, bull markets, and championship seasons.  We want everything in our life to be so meaningful and important that the whole world knows we are here.  Even though our Lord gives us forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation, we are more enamored with worldly goods and gains.  We want glory here and now.  When Peter saw Jesus' glory, he was considering what benefit he would get from it.  Likewise, we don't want money, fame, praise, and ease so that we can serve God and others better; we want them for us.  Am I overstating it?  Maybe.  But when you daydream, do you dream about your honor or God's?  Do you think about benefits for others or yourself? 
     We dream of a better life now, even though everything in this world is fleeting.  We yearn for our world to be lavish, lush, and lucrative, even though this world will perish.  Repent.  Whoever loves this world will perish with it.  It is true that Jesus has promised glory, but not in this world.  Jesus wants you to have blessing which is far greater than a moment of glory or 15 minutes of fame. 
     As Peter was speaking, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:34-35)  God appeared in the cloud to keep Peter and us properly focused.  If you want to see his glory, listen to him.  It is easy to become distracted by what we see and feel—as if God's love can be measured by bank accounts and sunny days.  But that is not how God shows his goodness.  If you want to see his glory, you must listen to him.
     Our Gospel reading began with the words, “Now about eight days after these sayings...” (Luke 9:28)  This begs the question: What sayings?  Jesus had just told his disciples what his purpose was for coming into the world.  About eight days earlier, Jesus had told the disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)  This is what they needed to listen to.  Jesus had not come to dwell in a shrine on a mountain.  Jesus came to go to a different mountain.  He did not come to our world so that he would have it easy.  He came to suffer greatly so that we would be saved.  He would be arrested, beaten, spit upon, flogged, and finally executed.  Jesus would be crucified—bleeding, naked, and scorned by the crowds.  It would not appear glorious, but pathetic and grotesque.  It would fill the disciples with fear, grief, guilt, and disappointment.  But if they would listen to Jesus, they could anticipate great joy.  If you want to see his glory, listen to him.
     We recognize Jesus' crucifixion as glorious for one reason only—not based on how it looked, but on what Jesus said.  If you want to see his glory, you must listen to him.  Moses and Elijah spoke of it with Jesus.  The Scriptures had foretold it.  Jesus even spelled it out.  He came to suffer and die like this for you.  Jesus put himself under God's curse because he was bearing our curse.  He made himself a sin offering because he took on our sin.  He submitted to the wrath of God and died our death so that we would receive God's blessing and eternal life.  There is no doubt that Jesus died a wretched, awful, hideous death.  But that is the price he willingly paid to ransom us so that we would not face a wretched death, an awful judgment, and a horrendous eternity.  The sufferings and death of Jesus reveal God's glory since it is how God acts to save sinners.  The only way we can know this is by God revealing it to us in his word.  So, if you want to see his glory, listen to him.
     Jesus gave this glimpse to Peter, James, and John shortly before he went to the cross.  It reminded them of who Jesus is—he is God in the flesh.  He is glorious, although he had always kept that glory veiled.  They would keep this vision of Jesus and this word of God in mind as they saw Jesus in weakness, in anguish, and in death.  It is God who bleeds and dies for our salvation.  And this is God's glory—that he loves and saves sinners.  If you want to see his glory, listen to him.
     God's glory was on display for a moment at the Transfiguration.  But God's glory continues to shine forth in the brutal and bloody death of Jesus.  That is the message our Lord gave his church to proclaim, for that is the only message that saves.  And the way the Lord delivers his salvation to us probably does not appear any more glorious than Jesus himself did.  God has put his name upon you through water.  But listen to him when he promises, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)  God strengthens and keeps you in the one truth faith through bread and wine.  Listen to him when he promises, “This is my body, which is for you. ... This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)  By this proclamation and this partaking, you receive the body and blood of Jesus and the salvation his body and blood won for you.
     If you want to see his glory, listen to him.  And keep on listening to him.  For, your life is not going to be glorious or even easy.  You and I will still know our share of stress and sorrow, pain and problems, weaknesses and frustrations.  But your glory remains hidden in Jesus Christ.  If you want to see that glory, listen to him.  To the world, you may not look special or important or even that good.  But Jesus assures you that you are a child of the Most High God—redeemed and beloved by him.  When Jesus comes again, then you will appear in glory with him.  If you want to see that glory, then keep on listening to him.  For his word keeps you focused on what is truly glorious—the love of God revealed in a suffering Savior.  And that word reminds you of who you are—a saint who is precious to God and who will dwell in God's glory—not for a moment, but forever.

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

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