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Transfiguration of Our Lord–“Mountains” (Luke 9:28-36)

C-29 Transfiguration (Lu 9.28-36)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Mountains. Have you ever noticed the number of times mountains appear in the Scriptures? At a quick glance in a concordance, the words mountain or mountains appears 335 times. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights that take place on a mountain. Moses received the 10 Commandments on a mountain. Jesus, on several occasions, took His disciples and taught from a mountain. The people would come to a mountain to see or hear Jesus. And today, Jesus is once again on a mountain, this time with three of His disciples to pray. The experience that the three disciples had was a changing experience. The lesson: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

Verses before our text for today, Jesus told His disciples what was to come: “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.” Hearing news like that would be quite unsettling to say the least. Imagine if a loved one were to share that type of news with us. What would our reaction be to such news? News like this would be hard to comprehend. When Jesus went up to the mountain, He took these three disciples with Him, maybe for that very reason, to help further explain what He had previously said.

While there on the mountain, something extraordinary happened: And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” That must have been a sight to behold. They had walked from their last place, up on a hill in the dust and dirt. They were probably dust-covered, sweaty, and just all around dirty, much like we are. In our present state, we are covered in sin and death and all that keeps us from God. We can’t make ourselves clean, we can’t remove our sin, regardless of how hard we try.

The only way to remove all that hinders us from God is to be a part of Christ. This is what God desperately wants of creation, for it to be connected to Him. That is the whole point of Jesus. The only way for you to be connected to God is by Jesus, not by you. That is why God the Father’s words are so important in our text: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

So it is that as we start today’s reading from the account of Luke, we learn that Jesus led a very confused and bewildered Peter, John, and James up on the mountain to pray. Peter, John, and James did what they usually do when they are alone with Jesus while He prayed: they went to sleep. What they saw when they woke up blew them away. Jesus was shining like the sun. Not only was Jesus lighting up the mountaintop, but He was also having a conversation with Moses and Elijah. This conversation was pretty amazing for the simple fact that Moses and Elijah had been dead for centuries. We have an account of Moses’ death and burial in today’s Old Testament lesson.

But as it stood, here was God’s Word present, from start to finish. You had Moses, the representation of the old covenant and the promise of salvation, God’s ever-present Law. There also stood Elijah, one of the great prophets, taken to heaven. Moses and Elijah together equaled what Christ is: the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The topic at hand: Christ’s upcoming exodus, for you, for me, and for all of creation. His exodus, His death, marked not a defeat as Satan had hoped, but instead was a triumph, one that would set all of creation free from sin and death.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him, they were unsure of what they were seeing and hearing. Maybe it was because they were still sleepy. Maybe it was because they were not meant to understand just yet. Regardless, there they were on the mountain, with the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel.

When they finally awoke from their slumber and saw what was going on around them, it must have been remarkable. A simple visit to a mountain to pray had turned into a visit between Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Maybe Peter, James, and John happened to be in the right place at the right time. That would explain why Peter exclaimed that it was good for them to be there. And in the event they were going to be there for a while, Peter suggested putting up shelters for them. It was very likely that Peter wanted this moment in time to continue indefinitely, especially after hearing of Jesus’ impending death. It was far better to stay there on the mountain than to leave and face Jesus’ prediction of His death.

Just as Peter declared to Jesus that it was good for them to be there, so it is good for us to be here today. We come today to where God has said He will be found. We come together so that we may hear the words of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. We come here today to receive from the Lord’s bounty forgiveness of sins that have been won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. We come here today to receive the very body and blood of Jesus. We do not come merely because God commands it but we come because He invites us. He invites us to come before Him, to confess our sins and to hear that word of absolution pronounced upon us. We come because Jesus Himself invites us to His Table, feeding us with the bread of life.

A moment like the Transfiguration would not be complete without God Himself being present. He comes with His almighty voice, speaking to the disciples: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Hearing the voice of God was usually reserved for those of great stature, such as Moses, Abraham, David and other prominent leaders of the Old Testament. Yet God saw fit to come to Peter, James, and John to tell them to cast aside any fears, any doubts that they may have, both today and in the future.

Just as He did at the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father addresses mankind. This man Jesus is the beloved and chosen Son of God. At that point, God establishes for mankind who they should listen to; not the things of this world, but to the Son of God. How easy it is for us to give in and listen to what the world says because it’s what our itching ears want to hear. We don’t always focus our attention on the things of God, the promised salvation that comes through His Son, the love shown by Christ for the Father, a love willing to be put to death so that creation would once again belong to the Father. But the words that Jesus speaks to us are the words that we need to hear. Today, we boldly say, Master, it is good that we are here.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Sermons, Transfiguration

 

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Transfiguration of Our Lord–“’Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here” (Mark 9:2-9)

B-28 Transfiguration (Mk 9.2-9)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

“’Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here.” Those are more than just words in a hymn. Those are words which Peter speaks to Jesus but are words that are unfathomable to us. For most of us, we never have that “mountain-top experience.” For Peter, James, and John, they did have the true “mountain-top experience,” literally, with Jesus. These three disciples were His chosen witnesses when He had raised Jairus’ daughter, and they would be with Him in Gethsemane. In Jairus’ home, Jesus had revealed Himself as having the power of God over death, for He is the very Son of God. In the garden, He would address God as His Father. The transfiguration would reveal His divine nature in a visible way and also support the truthfulness of all He had told the disciples in predicting His passion, which they were not ready to accept.

What happened on the mountain was startling to say the least. These three men, Jesus’ chosen disciples, had experienced something which they could not understand, but they knew that something extraordinary was taking place. Mark records, “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” In looking at the other Gospel writers accounts, we see similar descriptions: Matthew says “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Luke reports, “The appearance of his face was changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” This was a spectacle to see if there was ever a spectacle. We see the human nature of Christ and even His clothing was completely immersed with the brilliance of the divine nature. For most of the 33 years Jesus lived visibly in our world, He emptied Himself of the use of that divine glory. He masked His divine nature behind His human nature. On this occasion the Father permitted His Son’s divine nature to shine through the human shell.

As Mark tells it, there had been little rest for the disciples. They’d been chasing Jesus from town to town all around Galilee and beyond, find the reality of faith in unlikely people and fury from His enemies. They knew that Jesus was someone special, but they didn’t fully understand how special He was.

Just six days prior to the transfiguration, Jesus and His disciples had been scrambling around Caesarea Philippi. They had talked about who the people thought Jesus was. Then, Jesus asked them the question point-blank: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter famously replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Just shortly after that, Peter pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him because Jesus began to talk about His coming death and resurrection.

Now you have Jesus, James, Peter and John up to the mountain, probably to pray. They had probably done this time and time again; this was nothing new. It wasn’t unusual. It was ordinary. And for a while, it was.

Just like that, everything changed, in a twinkling of an eye. Things would forever be different for these three disciples. Looking up, they see Jesus transfigured, changed before their very eyes. What a sight that must have been to be in the full presence of the glory and majesty of God, to see the Shekinah, the very glory and dwelling of God.

But if that wasn’t enough of a “mountain-top experience,” we see standing and talking to Jesus both Elijah and Moses. What was interesting for the disciples is that they knew who Elijah and Moses were. These two men lived hundreds of years before the disciples and yet they recognized them. There was no Facebook fan page or Greats of the Old Testament trading cards which helped to identify them and yet they knew that standing before them were Elijah and Moses. Moses, the great representative of the Law, was God’s messenger for the Israelites. He led them to the Promised Land, though he himself was not permitted to enter. Moses died at Moab and was buried by the LORD Himself. Elijah, the great representative of prophecy, also appeared. Elijah was taken up to heaven bodily without experiencing death. Now they both stood before the three disciples talking with Jesus.

Look and see what is present on the mountain. You have the Bible. You have the Law represented in Moses, the Prophets represented in Elijah, and you have the Gospel represented in Jesus Christ. The Law was fulfilled in Christ. The Prophets pointed to Christ. Their presence and words assured the disciples that God’s purpose was being fulfilled in Christ, in exactly the way Christ had told them.

And now we return to Peter’s words: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter wanted to keep this moment frozen in history forever. He wanted to put on hold the coming work of Christ and keep this moment as glorious as it was. And why wouldn’t Peter want to preserve this memory? If everything that Jesus had said regarding His upcoming passion was true, then those events would start to play out very soon. Seeing Moses and Elijah here was all the proof that Peter needed to confirm that what Jesus had said was true. This glimpse of Jesus’ glory was meant to remind the three disciples—and it reminds us—that Jesus was, is, and ever will be the eternal Son of God.

To put the cherry on top, so to speak, there is one more occurrence that makes this event truly one to remember. Mark says, “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”” What a statement of bold proclamation, but what an earnest warning as well. This voice which can only be that of God identifies Jesus as His beloved Son but gives to them a message as well – to listen to Him. These were Jesus’ disciples. Of course they heard what Jesus said, what He had preached and taught the people. But God doesn’t tell them to hear, but to listen. There is a distinction to be made between the two. Yes, the disciples had heard Jesus, but were they truly listening to Jesus? All too often we hear Jesus and His Word, but do we listen to Jesus and His Word? Do we listen when He says that salvation only lies in Him and in no one or nothing else? Do we listen to the words Jesus speaks on the cross at His death, “It is finished,” indicating that by His death, He has defeated death on our behalf?

“’Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here,” to be here where God is, to receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Unlike on the mountain, we need not worry about the glory of the Lord leaving us, for we have Jesus’ very words, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Transfiguration of Our Lord – “Changing Lives” (Matt. 17:1-9)

A-26 Transfiguration (Mt 17.1-9)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? From the celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord to today, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, we have experienced something that we won’t experience again for another 27 years, or until 2038: we celebrate the entire season of Epiphany. That means we have heard some texts from Scripture that share more of what the Church was like at the time of Christ and shortly there-after: it was rough. It was ugly. It was not what we would think of the Church as being. During the time of Christ, there were groups who sought to put our Lord to death because He made what they thought to be heretical claims, such as being the Son of God and dying and rising from the dead three days later. For Paul, some 25 or so years later, we hear how the Church of Corinth was slowly tearing itself apart from the inside out, setting up faction against faction. Some of the other churches which Paul either visited or formed began to throw out the teachings of Christ and reverting to their previous ways, or accepting the worship of idols and the like as part of their worship. This was the Church, in all of its glory. Praise be to God that this was not a picture of the entire Christian Church, but it was a picture of what can happen when the Church moves away from Christ. But when the Church is firmly rooted in Christ, then it is life-changing.

Today in our Gospel reading, we experience an event that was life-changing. Our text begins: “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.”

Jesus had just begun to show His disciples that God’s plan for Him as the Christ will take Him to Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise to eternal life. Instead of taking all of the disciples with Him, Jesus chose to take with Him Peter, James, and John. Sometimes referred to as the Three because they were present with Jesus on special occasions, such as this and again in the Garden of Gethsemane, these men were present when a life-changing event took place. They saw the transfigured Jesus, that is, the Jesus who shone with glory “like the sun.” His clothes became white as light. What occurred to Jesus’ appearance and form was as drastic a change as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a tadpole becoming a frog. Here, in this moment, Jesus was allowing some of the splendor of His divine nature to show through.

Indeed, Jesus had told His disciples repeatedly that He was God, and He had demonstrated that fact through the performance of miracles. Yet, here He is making a very visible statement about His divinity. There, Peter, James and John stood before Christ in all of His divine glory. If the Three had any doubts before of who Jesus was, this was all the convincing they needed. But it didn’t stop there. Before their eyes stood Moses and Elijah: Moses, the man of God through whom the Law was delivered on stone tablets. And with him was Elijah, representing the prophets who foretold of the coming Savior, and who endured the worst of times among God’s people. And finally, to top it off, they were overshadowed in a cloud and heard the voice of God. Jesus’ disciples were not dreaming. They actually saw two individuals who had died centuries before this time. How Peter, James, and John were able to correctly identify these two people as Moses and Elijah we are not told. But these disciples were experiencing a little glimpse of heaven. Their lives were changing right before their eyes.

Peter, experiencing this life-changing event wanted to build shelters there on the mountain because he didn’t want the experience to end. Maybe he had the idea that eventually Israel and even the whole world could come to this mountain top and worship the Lord.  Peter did not understand that there was an even greater mountain top experience waiting in the future.

But that wasn’t the only life being changed on the mountain. The life of Jesus was being changed as well.

Within about nine months, Jesus would enter into the depths of His humiliation by being arrested, mocked, tortured, cruelly executed on a cross, and buried in a tomb. Above all this, He had told his disciples that He would triumph by rising from the dead. His transfiguration certainly authenticated that claim. His life would forever be changed at His Transfiguration as He begins to set His eyes to Jerusalem, where lives would forever be changed, including yours and mine.

As Jesus sets His eyes to Jerusalem, lives are about to change. The disciples’ lives would be forever changed when their Friend, their Leader, would be led to the cross and die. The lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees would be changed because Public Enemy #1 was no longer interfering in their lives and their teachings and so they could go back to business as usual. Your life would be forever changed because of the sacrificial act of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

The Transfiguration on this mountain points God’s creation to another mountain-top experience: Calvary. There, we see the extent of the love of God for us: the sacrifice of His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. There, on the cross of Christ, your life was changed forever. At that moment, your sins became Christ’s sins and His righteousness became your righteousness. What should have damned us has been taken from us. That which is not deserved, that is, Christ’s holiness, was given to us.

Lives continue to be changed even today when we heed the words of God spoken to Peter, James, and John: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. Why is it so important to listen to the words of Jesus? There are many other words that we could listen to that sound just as good. But we listen to the words of Jesus because of the promises which He gives to us. He gives to us great words of comfort when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He gives to us the great promise following His resurrection: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Just as Jesus spoke to the Three, He speaks to us as well: “Rise, and have no fear.” There is no reason we should fear. We know that all of the promises made to us by God have been fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we prepare for our journey to Calvary, we make ready for another mountain-top experience. On that mountain Jesus will express the inner most being of God in sweat and blood, pain and suffering, and, ultimately death and burial.  It is through that suffering and death on the cross that Jesus earned our salvation.  It is through that suffering and death on the cross that Jesus took away our sin and replaced it with His righteousness.  It is Jesus working through the cross who offers us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  It is Jesus who takes away the burden of our sin and makes it possible for us to stand in the presence of God.  It is the glory of Christ on the cross that gives the glory of eternal life to us, glory manifested at His Transfiguration and fully shown to us on the cross where He won for us the forgiveness of our sins. In Jesus name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Epiphany, Sermons, Transfiguration

 

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Transfiguration of Our Lord

A-26 Transfiguration (Mt 17.1-9)

O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Exodus 24:8-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Church Year, Transfiguration

 

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