Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sermon for 1/17/16: Transfiguration of Our Lord

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Leaving One Mountain for Another

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen

At first, Peter, James, and John wanted to stay on the mountain. Then they were afraid. And then, at last, they saw no one but Jesus only, and they followed where He went. But trouble was still to come. Their journey was not yet done. They saw Jesus only. They were focused. But the flesh was still weak. They followed to the garden and could not stay awake. And when that fateful betraying kiss was done, Peter grew angry and lashed out with violence. John followed at a distance, took advantage of his connections, but was too afraid to speak. And James simply ran away.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, with Moses and Elijah and a glorified Jesus, the favored disciples would have stayed. But they wanted no part of Mount Calvary, where God was revealed and seen not in glory but in His humble, bloody, dying mercy. To their shame, they did not want that. Yet Moses and Elijah came to the Mount of Transfiguration in the only way that men do: by means of death. There is no other way. You either die to this life and ascend, or you die in eternal death and descend. In this all are the same: all die. Even those still living at the return of Our Lord will have either died in Baptism and therefore go to Life, or they will die eternal death.

Peter eventually learned a hard lesson. He wept bitter tears of shame and of sorrow. The muscles built on the Sea of Galilee, the brawn and street smarts, the plans and schemes and ways with men, all fell away to nothing when faced with God’s glory. Peter was afraid. They fell away again when faced with Our Lord’s willingness to suffer and to die for men who hated Him. Peter’s courage left in the face of God’s faithfulness and loyalty to betrayers and rebels. It was too much, too great, too incomprehensible, too wonderful to behold, and thus did Peter weep. For in the face of that great love and loyalty Peter knew just how far he’d sunk, how awful were the things he’d done, how disgusting were the things he’d said and thought, how terrible were the lies that he had told, how false and shameful was his bravado and pretending piety. The eyes of the Lord fell upon Him. The rooster crowed. Peter wept.

Before you condemn Peter, look at yourself. How cheaply will you sell your soul? Do you not even have the decency of Peter to be afraid? Are you so confident in your sins? Do you think that you can fool God as you fool men, as easily as you fool yourself? Do you dare to challenge God and risk His wrath and the Law? Why should God put up with you? You are as disobedient as Peter, as quick to betray your Lord when you are put to the test, as quick to deny Him when the world demands an answer of you. Repent. Weep bitter tears. Turn from your self. Turn to Christ.

Then arise and do not be afraid. God does not merely put up with you. He saves you, and He does so because He is good and His mercy endures forever; because He promised to be your God and to love you; because He, unlike men, does not lie. Arise and see Jesus only. Your own transfiguration is coming. Do not focus upon yourself but upon His unfailing love and promise. He went to death like a Lamb to the slaughter: without complaint. But He did not go without knowledge or against His will. He went in perfect love, in consummate obedience, with nothing more than the desire to make you His. For He knew this was the cost. He knew what it took to bring Peter and James and John, Moses and Elijah, David and Nathan, and to bring even you to Himself and His Father in heaven. He was always willing to pay that price. He did not flinch or hesitate. He endured all of Hell’s fury to wipe away both Peter’s tears and yours. It is worth it to Him. You are worth it to Him. And He has no regrets. His love for you is pure and undefiled. Hell cannot stop it. Death cannot hold Him. It will not hold you. He leads you out of death’s shadow and slavery and into the promised land that Abraham now enjoys.

So arise. Do not be afraid. He has provided the Lamb for the sacrifice. There is nothing more to pay, no sins left to forgive, nothing so bad or painful that He cannot overcome. He has placed His Name upon you. He is well-pleased with you. And He provides for your nourishment and strength, for your courage and your loyalty, giving you His Body and His Blood. Do not be afraid. Eat. Drink. Rejoice. Rest. He knows what He is doing. He is loving you, and He will never stop loving you. 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.  

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