S-1414 Transfiguration S/3A 3/23/2014 Hymns: (O) #414; (S) #415 LSB Choir/Congregations vs 4; (C) #416
Texts: Exodus 24:8-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
Theme: “Mountain Top Experience” (2 Peter 1:16-18)
Question: “Have you had a mountaintop experience?’” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the TRANSFIGURATION Sunday is from Epistle lesson “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I Am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain’” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? You know, one of those experiences in your life where your perspective on life gets changed? These experiences are uplifting, inspiring and life-changing. If you watched any of the recently completed Olympic competitions in Sochi, you got to see clear examples of these kinds of experiences through the television screen. As viewers, we were able to feel the glory as we watched athletes reach the pinnacle of their training as they stood upon the mountaintop of the podium basking in the glow of a gold medal! They had reached the mountaintop! And we take joy in watching this in others.
Today, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, we get to share in another’s “mountaintop experience.” I ask you, then, to put on your boots, backpack, water supply and come with me as we climb the mountain and see with our eyes a most beautiful sight. While there were no medals to be handed out on the podium that is the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John did have similar kind of mountaintop experience. And it was an experience that would train them for future glory.
Jesus led them on that mountain for a reason—to pray. As they prayed, two powerful leaders of their faith appeared with Jesus; His appearance changes; and a voice from heaven declare “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I Am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Mt. 17:5b). It was a powerful “mountaintop” religious experience that we call “The Transfiguration.” It was an illuminating experience for the disciples. Because of this experience, they saw Jesus in a whole new light. There in the presence of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, it was obviously inspiring and uplifting for these simple men. This was an event that changed their lives forever!
By the grace of God today we stand at a point in the Church Year that serves as a watershed moment. Here, we too, are called to a mountaintop experience. On This Sunday of the Transfiguration we stand on the pivot point between Epiphany and our Lenten journey to Golgotha. What we see this day through the eyes of the Three is the greatest Epiphany ever! This mountaintop experience moves these men to be exactly what the Lord calls them to be, followers of Jesus and witnesses of what they see and hear. That witness will even lead them to joyfully go to the point of death! That was some experience! PAUSE.
Today, we too, get to experience what moved Peter to say, “It’s good for us to be here.” Yes, indeed, it is good to be here. For here, you and I by the power of the Holy Spirit get a glimpse of God’s heaven-sent Savior—Jesus the Christ in all of His glory, majesty and power. Here in this place we hear the Words of the Father, “This is my beloved Son…Listen to Him.” Here in this place we see what many in this world don’t see. Here we see Christ for who He truly is, not a mere man, not a teacher, not a prophet, not a miracle worker but God in the flesh.
On that mountain the disciples saw something that moved them and changed their lives that Peter was inspired to write: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. And witnesses they became. They took the message from Jerusalem to the ends of the known world.
It is good for us to be here again on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is good because from this mountaintop vantage point we can look back to the manger cradle and see all the glory of God that led to this point. Today the Epiphany Sundays come to an end. Ash Wednesday is only four days away. What started with the amazing glory of the light of a star now culminates in the glory that shines from the face of Jesus the Christ, whom the Scriptures call the “Bright and Morning Star! “
Yet for Jesus, who is the Son of God, The view from this mountaintop also reveals a future that is fraught with frightening implications. The Transfiguration is a watershed in Jesus’ life. Like Moses standing on the edge of the Promised Land, Jesus can see both the Glory of Eternity and the agony of the Cross that He must face before He gets back there. Moses and Elijah, The Law and the Prophets personified, speak casually with Jesus about what is to come. From here He sets His face toward Jerusalem and everything it will cost Him. His ultimate glory will not be revealed on this mountain. No, there will be another mountain. This one called Calvary. There He will not shine. No there He will be beaten and bloodied. There He will not radiate. There He will die for us the sinners! PAUSE.
The Transfiguration reveals a glory that is only made possible through suffering and death. For Jesus there will be no short cuts. There will be no easy way. It will be a lonely desolate and arduous climb. He will return home by way of the cross. Peter was right to want to build shelters in an attempt to stay, but he was right for the wrong reasons. It is natural for us to want to bask in the glory of an event. It is wonderful to live in the glory of the moment. But when the moment fades, the glory is gone. For the Olympic athlete, as soon as the Anthem falls silent, there comes the training for the next event. This also comes with the reality that a moment like this may never come again. The same is true for the Transfiguration.
This fleeting glory is not the Glory of the Transfiguration or the Glory of Jesus. To hold Christ back from the cross by denying His deity, to tempt Him not to go to the cross like the devil did is to elevate ourselves above the wisdom and knowledge of God. We couldn’t and shouldn’t hold Jesus back by denying Him the honor of which He is God’s very own Son. We can’t only look at Him as a man, however great of a man He is. For a brief moment in time upon this earth, Peter, James and John saw a glimpse of heaven come down to earth—in the personhood of Christ.
By the Spirit’s power, we have been led up to the mountain top to witness with eyes of faith the One who is the Savior for our sins. On that mountain, with ears of faith, we hear the voice of the Father in exuberant joy telling us: “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I Am well pleased. Listen to Him!” By the grace of God we will listen attentively. We will take to heart what the Savior says and does. And we do come down from the mountain to the plains that we could be His witnesses to our neighbors, family, coworkers and friends. PAUSE.
When we meet Jesus like we do on the Mount of Transfiguration and see Him for who and what He is, we are “transfigured” through faith. Like the Mount of Transfiguration was a watershed event for Jesus, so it is with us as we begin our own journey to the throne—through costly discipleship. We know that as the Journey cost Jesus, it will also cost us. It may cost us friendships, wealth or honor. It may even cost us our lives. But we make the journey on account of Him.
While this place looks familiar to all of us, today is a mountaintop experience. Here in worship today and every week the Lord gives us a transfiguring experience. Here, gathered together with people you know and love we are centered on and in the presences of Christ. We rejoice as we see our Lord once again transfigured before us in Word and Sacrament. The sights and sounds, although easily mistaken as plain and ordinary, move us in a profound way. Here we sing the praises of Him who was transfigured for us so that we would be transfigured from death to life for eternity. His death and His Resurrection changes everything.
But like Peter, James and John, we can’t stay. There is work to do. We come to this mountaintop experience week in and week out to have our sins forgiven and our batteries recharged by the Grace of God. Here we once again hear the voice of the Father when He says, “Listen to Him!” Like those three Disciples, we are changed by our moments in this place so that we might leave here as confident and joyful witnesses.
And as witnesses, we seek out others who are still sitting in the darkness of sin. We seek them out not to glory in what we have seen, but to share that glory with them so that they too may know our joy.
Saints in Christ, let me challenge you beginning today. That for the next 40 days (the days of Lent) you would prayer for someone daily and invite them to come the Lord’s house. Fervently and prayerfully consider whom you may invite to join with us on this mountaintop on Easter Sunday morning as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. But like Peter, we won’t follow clever schemes. No, we will just invite them to come to the mountaintop with us so that they may hear the Lord’s voice, listen and joyfully follow!
It is good Lord to be here. It is good Lord for us to be here week in and week out. For it is here that we have the mountaintop experience of the Glory of God. A glory revealed to us in Jesus as He gleams on the Mount of Transfiguration, as He groans and gasps for air on Mount Calvary, and as we wait for Him to take us to the glory of Mount Zion in Eternity! We can see it all from here. But we can’t stay. There are many that the Lord is seeking through us. The journey might be difficult, frustrating and hard, but the journey will be worth it! By God’s grace, let’s get going! AMEN.
Now the peace of God…
SOLE DEO GLORIA