Monday, February 06, 2017

Sermon for 2/5/17: Transfiguration of Our Lord

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Light in the Darkness

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

Being a disciple of Jesus is not necessarily pleasant. It’s not because He makes it hard. And it’s not because Jesus designed it so that only the strongest or the most dedicated make it to the heavenly goal. Being a disciple of Jesus is not pleasant because it means that you must live amid the various assaults of the devil who finds ready accomplices with the world and our sinful, unbelieving desires. These assaults are numerous, and they are different for each of you: a persistent sin or addiction; pride and self-serving ambition; disease; mental torment; spiritual anguish. But in whatever way the devil assaults or entices you, whatever method he employs specifically and personally against you, his goal is always the same—to mislead you into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. And when he accomplishes that, then the devil has achieved his goal. Because he has been excommunicated from God, he wants to break your communion in God.
Yet from the beginning, you were created in God's image and according to His likeness so that you might live not for yourself, but in Him, so your life in Christ might continually grow and mature. Imagine a relationship that never ends; a love that constantly deepens and intensifies; and intimacy that becomes more and more intimate. And imagine living so closely with someone that he or she not only knows what you're thinking, not only dotes on your every desire, but also betters and improves you, and gives you the undying desire to live only and completely and self-sacrificially for him. That is what Our Lord God had in mind when He created you, and that is what He still has in mind for you in spite of your unshakeable refusal to trust Him, to leave everything in His hands, and to live for Him by doing unquestionably for others.
To restore this goal, and to restore in you the joy of His salvation, the Father sent His Son into the world to live in your flesh. He came to destroy death and the devil. Resisting a temptation or two would not do that. The Son of Man would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be  killed, and be raised again on the third day.
When Peter first heard Jesus announce this, the devil took hold of him so that Peter rebuked his Lord and Savior. “This shall not happen to You.” And Jesus responded, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Sinners are well acquainted with the things of men: living in constant fear of death; fear of being cheated and used; fear of failure. Sinners live as if life is what you make of it. And ultimately, we live as if we matter most, as if heaven can wait. But the things of God we do not instinctively know, nor do we readily seek them. He must reveal them to us. And He does that, not so we are wowed and amazed, but so that we might yearn for them—so that we might seek the Life He is, the Life He gives, the Life He so earnestly desires to live in us while we live in Him.
Certainly, we can see the things of God in the simple miracles of life. And we've heard from the Scriptures many descriptions of the heavenly life—the life of this ongoing, undying, unquenchable relationship and communion in God. But the Lord has actually given a glimpse of the fullness of heavenly glory: when He hid Moses in a cleft of the rock and let Moses see the backside of His glory; when Elisha saw Elijah ascend up to heaven in a fiery chariot; and when Jesus led Peter, James, and John on a high mountain and was transfigured before them, His face shining like the sun, His clothes as white as the light.
But what good does that do us? They beheld His glory face to face, but we see Our Lord Jesus dimly, hidden in the Blessed Sacrament and apparent only in the voice of the pastor. But what the three disciples saw was a promise: the promise that the Lord's transfiguration was merely a glimpse of what would always be, the promise that, by hearing the beloved Son of God, we might one day live within the transfiguration that never fades. So we do not dismiss this Gospel as just another Jesus story. In faith, we hear of our Lord's transfiguration, and we are given both courage and hope—the courage to live the Christian life, and the hope that fully expects to see Our Lord Jesus as they did.
For now, we walk through temptation and suffering, through heartache and grief, to death and the grave. Yet we do not lose heart. For we have Peter's word that soon, and very soon, we will not only see but also live fully and forever within the transfigured body of Our Lord. Now we have a glimpse of it at every Holy Supper. But the day is coming when we will no longer imagine, but will truly experience that relationship, that union and that intimacy in God that He first created us for, and that He sent His Son to restore in us. For Our Lord has made this promise: “Surely, I am coming soon.” And we await that day saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” 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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