Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is a constant temptation to make faith into something all about ourselves, to measure and calculate it by what we get out of it. Does it make me feel good? Am I living a good enough life? Do I really love the Lord enough? Do I have enough faith? Do I tell enough people about Jesus? Does God love me because I try hard to be a good person? When we lose interest in church because we don't seem to get something out of it—because it doesn't strike an emotional chord, or because we just think it's boring—we have made religion and faith about us instead of what it really is about: Jesus. That is why the Transfiguration is so important in our time. Today we see Jesus shining in all His glory, and it reminds us that it's all about Him: who He is and what He has done for us.
When Jesus is transfigured, He talks with Moses and Elijah. Moses is the giver of the Law; Elijah is one of the great prophets. Moses and Elijah in their ministries pointed ahead to the coming Savior. To see Jesus with Moses and Elijah means that He is the One who is to fulfill all of Scriptures. And He will fulfill them by going all the way to the Jerusalem and the cross. Here on the mountain, Jesus is strengthened in His purpose of dying to save sinners. It's all in the balance. If Jesus doesn't go to Jerusalem, we're doomed. If He doesn't go to suffer and die, we have no hope. We can't hope in ourselves. Our hope and trust must be in the Son of God. If He doesn't fulfill what He came to do, there is nothing for us but to remain in our sins. But Jesus is strengthened for His mission. He is reminded once again by the Father's voice that He has come to do the will of the Father. It will be hard. It will kill Him. But He does it because He perfectly loves and obeys the Father. And He does it to rescue you from sin and death because He perfectly loves you, as well.
The Father’s voice says, “Hear Him!” Peter, ever the example of the kind of religion we like to have, wants to stay there with the shiny, happy Jesus. “Lord, let us make some shelters.” Peter wants to be where God's glory is evident and easy to see. Peter doesn't want the God who is dead on the cross; He wants the glorious one. So it is with so many Christians who worship by trying to have some feeling and somehow touch or experience God's “glory.” In many churches, worship is designed to bring about a powerful emotional experience and response. But in doing that, we've made religion about us, about how we can praise Him just a little bit better if we just feel it. But the Father corrects all that with these words: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” Hear Him, because faith isn't about our emotions but about Jesus and His saving Word that gives life. So what does Jesus say? The Father says to listen to Him; and the very next words out of Jesus' mouth to the frightened disciples are, “Do not be afraid!”
When we make religion about ourselves, we're constantly trying to find a way to make ourselves feel good, worthy. But when faith is centered in Christ, His Word says, “Don't be afraid.” There is true comfort because it is the Lord who says it. He is the One who brings true peace to us by the forgiveness of sins that He accomplished for us on Calvary. This “don't be afraid” extends to the font, where the Word and water rescue us from death and the devil. It is heard in the Absolution, which tells us not to be afraid of our sins. It is spoken with the Words of Institution so that we don't fear death, for the body and blood of Jesus overcome death. It is no longer about what we can do and how we live and how we feel. It is about the promises of God Himself to be our God and defend us from all evil, even unto eternal life. The big deal isn't that we can feel good about Jesus but that Jesus saves us from sin, the world, death, and the devil’s power.
Now, after they come down from the mountain, Jesus tells His disciples not to tell anyone what they've seen until after He's been raised from the dead. But after that, Peter tells us that, because He was an eyewitness of the glory of Christ, the Word He preaches is sure. To hear St. Peter preach is to hear Christ. To hear called and ordained pastors preach is to hear Christ. The Transfiguration of Jesus means that, now that He has been raised from the dead, the Word that is preached has all of God Himself standing behind it. Peter's words in His epistle remind us that, unlike what the world would have us think, the Word we hear preached is not made up. Jesus was seen by eyewitnesses, and they have passed down His Word faithfully. “Hear Him” means to hear Jesus. And that's what the Bible is all about. That's what the Word preached in His church delivers to us.
When Jesus speaks to them, the disciples look up and see Jesus only. What a picture of our faith! Jesus only. The Transfiguration is written down for us to rescue us from a religion that is all about ourselves, to turn our hearts in faith to “see Jesus only.” Only in Him do we have the truest comfort and the voice of God Himself telling us not to be afraid. With such a Savior who is God and man, we have the unshakable promise that now, in Christ, we too are God's beloved sons. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.