Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Transfiguration of Our Lord


The Transfiguration of Our Lord (C)
February 10, 2013
Text: Luke 9:28-36

            Your heavenly Father underscores the point for you in no uncertain terms: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35; ESV).  Jesus of Nazareth, born of the Virgin Mary, is the Son of God, begotten from all eternity.  He is the One anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit at His Baptism in the Jordan to undertake the divine mission of salvation.  Jesus alone is your Savior.  Jesus alone is your righteousness.  Jesus alone is your eternal life, your death and resurrection.  He is your God.  And to Him alone you shall listen.  For faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).  And you are saved through faith alone in Christ alone.  It is by grace alone.  The Father makes sure you don’t miss it.  He glorifies His Son there on the mountain, the divinity radiantly shining through the humanity and the voice from the cloud.  This is it.  This man is your salvation, your God.  Look nowhere else.  Listen nowhere else.  Listen to Him.
            The trouble is two-fold: There are so many voices that are not Jesus competing for your ear.  And your sinful flesh is willing and eager to hear any and every voice that is not Jesus.  What are some of these voices vying for your attention?  Well, if you’re anything like me, it is at this point in the sermon that you start to wonder what’s for lunch.  Tuning out Jesus, in your mind you go over the menu and your plans for the afternoon.  Who is that sitting three pews ahead, and what is she wearing?  I wonder what this week will bring at work or school.  Your mind wanders, and before you know it, you hear, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”  And it’s all over.  (For those of you who weren’t listening, that wasn’t really the end.)  But there are even more sinister voices vying for your attention.  The information age is a blessing in so many ways, but the constant barrage of media that relentlessly assaults you on screens and over speakers and through the phone in your pocket has you distracted and hypnotized.  And hopefully you already know this, but if you don’t, take careful note: The media’s agenda is that of the unbelieving world.  Most of the content is ungodly.  This is not the voice of Jesus.  To be sure, the Church can use various media to proclaim Christ to the world, and we should.  But in general, what is the message with which we’re saturated day-in and day-out, morning, noon, and night?  Lust.  Greed.  Covetousness.  Selfishness of every stripe. You deserve it.  You can’t live without it.  It’s actually the voice of the old serpent from the Garden.  God is holding out on you.  He doesn’t want you to have any fun.  Be your own determiner of right and wrong.  Decide for yourself what you want and need.  Be like God.  Worship self.  Just look at that fruit: Pleasing to the eye and good for food.  Before you know it, you’ve taken and eaten.  And you’re naked.  And you’re dying.  You are, in fact, dead.
            Jesus takes three men in your same condition, Peter, John, and James up on the mountain to pray.  As is their custom, while Jesus is praying, these three fall asleep.  We’ll see them do the same thing on the night Jesus is betrayed.  Just like you and me.  A three hour football game or a movie can rivet our attention, but a few minutes with Jesus (you know, the living God who saves us from death and hell) and our eyes get heavy and our heads start to nod.  It’s a defense mechanism against God’s Word.  We tune Him out.  Still, Jesus takes these three with Him for this occasion, just as He takes you and me with Him here, for this occasion, to meet Him in His Church.  There are the three, snoring away, failing to watch and pray, only to wake up to a glorious sight.  God the Son is shining His glory through His flesh and even His clothing so that there’s no mistaking it: This man is the Son of God.  This man is the Savior.  Two other men appear with Him, to bear witness to this truth, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, representatives of the whole Old Testament.  The Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus.  They talk with Jesus.  And here we find out why it’s so important for us to listen to Jesus.  The whole content of their discussion is about Jesus’ departure.  That’s the word our English translation uses, but it’s difficult to get true sense of the word in English.  The word really is “exodus.”  They talk with Him about His exodus, His journey.  Here we call to mind Israel’s exodus from slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness, to the Promised Land.  Jesus is leading us in exodus from our slavery to sin, death, and the devil, through the wilderness of this fallen world (and the valley of the shadow of death), to the Promised Land of eternal life and resurrection.  His exodus is the journey to the cross to make atonement for our sins, his burial in the grave, His resurrection on the Third Day, and His ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  That’s what they’re discussing.  That’s what the Scriptures are about from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.  We preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23).  That’s the Word to listen to.  Because in that Word there is life for the dead.  There is life for you. 
            And just so you and Peter, John, and James don’t miss it, the Father envelopes the whole crowd in a cloud (God is always appearing in clouds throughout the Scriptures) and He speaks: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!  And then all at once it’s over… “when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone” (Luke 9:36).  Because He’s all you need.  Having Jesus, you have the Father.  Having Jesus, you have the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and all the Scriptures.  Having Jesus, you have the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life.  Listen to Him and you have Him, and having Him, you have all you need.
            If only we could see what Peter, John, and James were given to see.  And yet, glorious visions have a limited shelf-life.  As we mentioned, these three would fall asleep again on another mountain, the Mount of Olives, very shortly.  They would fail again and again to listen to Jesus.  They would all desert Him.  Peter would even deny Him.  In fact, they really didn’t understand this whole event at the time.  Remember, Peter wants to stay on the mountain and build three tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  Luke tells us He didn’t even know what he was saying (v. 33).  When they came down the mountain, they kept silent about the whole affair.  It was just too strange.  It wasn’t until later, after the resurrection, after Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, that the three began to speak of what they witnessed.  God had given them this experience to strengthen them for the events of Holy Week, and to strengthen us through their witness to bear up under our wilderness wanderings, trusting in Christ who will lead us home to God in heaven.  It is tempting to think we want a glorious experience like the apostles.  But Peter, much later in life, when reflecting on this experience writes that we have all we need in the Holy Scriptures.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.  And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:17-19).  Do you hear what Peter is saying?  You have the same benefits he received witnessing the Transfiguration, even more sure and certain, in the Holy Scriptures, which enlighten you as a lamp shining in a dark place.  You have not been given to see the glory of Jesus with your physical eyes, as the three apostles were.  But you have been given ears to hear.  You can hear Jesus in His Word.  Listen to Him.
            The fact is, glorious experience or not, you can’t stay on the mountain.  Jesus has a cross to bear for us men and for our salvation, and you and all the disciples of Jesus have crosses to bear in your life, because this is, after all, the wilderness portion of the exodus, life in this fallen world, in your fallen flesh, which gets sleepy and distracted by other voices vying for your attention.  Repent.  That fallen flesh must be crucified.  You must die so that God can raise you from the dead by the Word of the living Lord Jesus.  By grace, the Lord Jesus brings you here to His Church, sleepy as you are, to pray and to see something amazing.  This place, the Church, is your Mount of Transfiguration.  By faith you hear the living voice of Jesus in His Word, and hearing Jesus, you hear the Father.  By faith you see the Divine Nature shining through the Body and Blood of the Savior under the bread and wine of the Supper.  The Father says to you, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!  And by God’s grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you do.
            Lent is a time for listening to Jesus.  On this last Sunday before Lent, we’ve been given a glimpse of Jesus’ glory to strengthen us for this holy time.  It’s a time for deep meditation on our Lord’s Word and His Passion, for repentance and confession of sins, for disciplining the body and the soul and putting the old sinful flesh to death.  We put our alleluias away for a time, to help us focus, only to take them up again forty-some days later at the Easter Feast.  Christ is risen, but first the cross and our Lord’s suffering for our sins.  Receive your Lord’s gifts this Lententide.  Be here, beloved.  God wake you from your sleepiness.  There is no other place more important for you to be.  There is no other voice more important for you to heed.  There is no other voice that can give you life.  The Father has called you to faith in His Son.  He’s given you His Word in the flesh.  Listen to Him.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                

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