Tag: Mark 9:2-9

Lifting the Veil

Transfiguration Sunday
February 18th 2015.
St Petri

2 Corinthians 4:3-6
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Mark 9:2-9
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

There is something quite special about being “on top of the world”.

The view from the airplane window, Mount Lofty summit, recently for me – The Empire State Building in NYC and etc…takes you to another perspective on the day, or even on life.
Surely Peter, James and John never forgot their mountain top view with Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

There they really did experience the presence of God in such and “unveiled” way; such a visible, touchable way. This mountain top view would be theirs forever – it would sustain them.
Is that the problem we have? Not enough “unveiled” experience of God? I often wonder why it is that so many people we know do not, will not or say they cannot believe in Jesus as Saviour of the world or themselves.

Do you ever wonder why they all don’t just believe like you do and live accordingly? I do.

So, what about people who don’t believe the gospel and the Saviour we trust and love?

We believe the Bible says that nobody can come to a saving faith by themselves. Remember that third part of the Apostle’s Creed and Luther’s understanding from the Bible of it:

I cannot by my own understanding or my own effort come to Jesus.

But it is the Holy Spirit who has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and made me holy and pleasing through faith in Jesus….

So if faith in Jesus is a gift given by him in the power of the Word and the Spirit, then what about our friends, family members, school and work mates that simply don’t believe?

Are they without the Holy Spirit? Are they too bad for the Spirit to reach – or too good (trusting their own goodness)?

Are they left by God to muddle through their work, family, study, relationships, marriages, parenting, university life on their own – spiritless, punchless, faithless? Or worse – are they suffering being afflicted by some evil spirit or curse?

Paul says that if the gospel is veiled to a person – it is only veiled to a person who has been blinded by “the god of this world”.

This is a bit troubling to me. Naming Satan this way seems to give Satan a grand title! Paul is not alone.

John also names Satan similarly: “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Elsewhere Paul names Satan “the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:19). He says people “follow the course of this world” which is laid out by a spirit that urges disobedience to God’s will (Ephesians 2:2).

So, is this world really a battle ground between two God’s after all; with you and I and our family and friends caught in the middle?
Is it all on us to choose the right God to back? But the Bible says we are unable to make that choice anyway.

And can the gospel, which Paul says is the very resurrection power of God be veiled anyway (Romans 1:16)?

Isn’t the good news of the grace of God in the life, death and resurrection from death of Jesus of Nazareth THE life-line for anyone of any sin of any pride of any place? (1Corinthians 1:18)?

Doesn’t the gospel of Jesus shield gospel people from Satan and his minions bent on further destruction (1 Peter 1:5)?

On this day when the veil of Jesus’ glory is lifted off for the three disciples in a once-off show of God’s grand majesty up there on the mountain what is Paul driving at here?

One thing Paul is saying is that the “god of this world” has the ongoing intent to blind people with a dark veil so that they cannot see the dazzling light of Jesus like Peter, James and John were allowed to see.

But having said that, Paul launches straight into our role in all of this light and darkness. He says we are the difference between the two – or more fully, the gospel in our words and actions are the things that pull back the veil now.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his
light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge
of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Just as God said, “Let there be light” and there was light, right at the beginning, so he says by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit now at work in us who have received the light of the gospel,
“Let the veil be raised” and the veil is raised.

This veil Satan pulls over people’s eyes is no match for the light of God’s grace.

This gospel we carry is indeed the power for a person to be saved from endless idol making and chasing, endless trust in things and people that cannot deliver what only Jesus can give.

Jesus says to us today:

“…. have no fear of them; for nothing is veiled that will not be unveiled, and nothing secret that will not become known” (Matthew 10:26); and

“No one after lighting a lamp veils it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lamp stand, so that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16).

Friends, people can’t or won’t receive the grace of God in Jesus for a lot of reasons. Satan is at work trying to cast a veil of blindness over my friends and my family members. That is the truth of it.

But Jesus, the light of the world, is also at work among these same people. As we hear here and as we are then called to trust with all of our heart,

5 … what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord,
and we are your servants for Jesus’ sake.

The stunning thing here is that his light, his resurrection power, his plan to draw all people into his love is at work in all of us who believe.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

In every breath we take, every move we make, every word we speak every servant hearted kind-hearted thing we do, is Jesus Christ at work lifting the veil – bit-by-bit in another person.

His light penetrates any veil of darkness, any shadowland, any satanic power or oppression.

And here is the other thing I find remarkable and so hopeful; the glory of God in the face of Jesus shining bright is still ours.

The veil of our own trivial concerns, our own self-righteousness, our own lack of understanding, our own spiritual laziness, our own lack of forgiveness, bad behaviour, self-reliance is peeled back weekly around the world.

Every time we call to mind what Jesus did for us in that gift of baptism where we died for the first time and were resurrected for the first time;
Every time we hear those precious words of forgiveness of sin from Jesus himself;

Every time we taste, touch, smell, hear and see the living Jesus in bread and wine together around the new meal of life he has given us, we see his glory – the glory of the forgiveness of Jesus for all sinners at work in the here and now.

As it was for the three stunned Apostles, so it is for us.

This moment of glory was not just for them.

Eventually they would live their lives in response to what they saw and heard that day and other days with Jesus.

What we receive in this new holy mountain of light called Christian worship is not for us to keep.

But unlike the command Jesus gave to them to keep it quiet for time being until the future plans of God came to pass – there is no such command on us.

The plan of God has been revealed in full in Jesus and in the church and now we are sent.

Now we just go. Now we live and we speak and we tell and we invite and we love in Jesus’ name for all our worth –

And friends, this is church; this is what happens in a local church; this is St Petri week-in, week-out:

“…when a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).


Reaching the Heights

Sermon, Transfiguration Day

Sunday February 19, 2012.

St Petri.

 Mark 9: 1-10

Reaching the heights

Friends, being on top of the hill is a great place to be. It always amazes me how those mountain climbers go to such great lengths and put themselves in such dangerous places to experience the joy of being high on “the roof of the world”, as they call Mt Everest.

I have never been anywhere near Mt Everest, but I have enjoyed that great view on various high places. I remember being on top of Uluru on a fine sunny spring morning. I remember the view of that beautiful city of Paris that Leanne and I shared in the Montparnasse Tower. I remember viewing the patchwork quilt of paddocks in southern wheat belt in WA from the top of Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges with our whole family and some friends.

Somehow being at the top of a mountain and taking in that sweeping view is exhilarating. I guess that is why we bother to get up so high.

Peter, James and John were led up a high mountain (probably Mt Tabor) in Israel. They were led up there by Jesus. They may have been thinking that this might be the time that Jesus was going to teach them the way he prays? They had often seen him disappear up a nearby hill at sunset and not come back until morning, and when they asked him what he had been doing, he said he had been “praying to my Father”.

Well, they got more than they could have ever bargained for. We heard the account Mark tells. Jesus changes. His clothes become whiter than white; whiter than any bleach could make them. This is “other worldly” white.

In this blinding array, two human figures appear. Surely they cannot believe their eyes. They are good Jewish boys. All their lives they have told and had re-told the stories of these two “greats” of the Jewish faith – and there they are. Instead of having Adelaide Crows or Power players on their bedroom walls, they would have had Moses and Elijah there!

We might liken this moment to being in the presence of a West Coast Eagles ‘legend’ like Guy MacKenna or Peter Matera! (maybe not here, hey?).

Leanne tells me that when the Queen visited Perth last year, it was this kind of moment. Tens of thousands of people lined the Perth streets and they were almost silent as Elizabeth II passed by and when she addressed the great throng.

The three men are dazzled by this supernatural show of light. Amazingly, Mark says that these two towering figures of the Biblical story are “talking with Jesus”. They have come to talk with Jesus. They seem the lesser and he seems the greater.

After the initial terror that filled these men, Peter has to say something. Even though it seems that the words he says are spoken in his dazed state.

“Jesus, it is good to be here!” he blurts out. Then he suggests to Jesus that he and his two friends should be allowed to put up the three tents. Most people seem to take this as meaning that Peter wanted this inspiring experience to keep going for a little longer. Why not? After all, as he says, “It is good to be here”.

Peter’s very limited human understanding of Jesus and of how God works to hide his glory, lest we take it for ourselves and give ourselves the credit is on show here. His idea comes to naught. Even as he finishes speaking, God is already doing something else. God is in control of this rare event and he is the one who determines the mountain top experiences, not Peter.

The “cloud” descends. Ah. “The cloud”. We have heard about this cloud before. This is the “glory cloud”, the Shekinah” of God’s glorious presence with his people in that desert wandering time. The cloud descended on the newly build tabernacle as Moses and Aaron had prayed way back in Numbers. The pillar of cloud appeared in the great event of the Red Sea crossing as God freed his people, Israel. The cloud of God led them by day and the pillar of fire led them by night in that Exodus journey.

Now the cloud of God’s glory envelops them all. And in the misty great came that Voice. The voice that only Jesus had heard before – the voice saying almost the same word down by the Jordan when John the Baptiser baptised Jesus as his ministry began that day (Mark 1).

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him”.  This time it seems that not only Jesus hears these precious and powerful words from Parent to child.

The sense of the words suggests that everyone heard this stamp of love and approval and this command – this imperative word, “Listen to him”. Actually, the word means, “Keep on listening to him”.

And then, as quickly as they had been dazzled, it is all gone – except one thing. They are looking around for more or others and there is no more and no other – other than Jesus.

Jesus is all they can see and surely all they need to see and hear. The law, the prophets, Moses, Elijah, the OT Exodus events, all wrapped up in and fulfilled in this Rabbi from up north – Jesus of Nazareth who they believe to be God’s dearly loved Son and Saviour of the world – “Christ”, “Messiah”, “New King David”.

We get the sense that there is much more to come for Jesus and for his three companions. There is more to come and Jesus will need to draw on these precious words of affirmation and the three (and the other 9) will also need to stay very close – within earshot of Jesus for what is about to happen.

And then a great thing: Jesus not only leads them up to this great “life-shifting” experience and gives them a glimpse of what is to be part of their experience in their future, he also willingly and definitely now, goes down the mountain from this great moment. (Mark 9:9). He is resolute now. The moment is passed. It was important to experience it and hear the word in it – not just for itself, but for what is now to unfold.

Friends, Jesus is all we need. He is all that God leaves for us to know, see and hear. So, no need to look around for others, friend. You have him right in front of you – hidden yes, but revealed too; revealed in ways of his choosing: the preached Word, the shared word, the enacted Word of Baptism, Absolution for sin and Holy Meal; in the community of Jesus – the Church.

It is good to be here at St Petri for these things and for Him. Here we receive him and his gifts of affirmation and love. Here, we the Baptised hear those words spoken over us as we gather in Jesus’ name, “Son, Daughter of God, I love you and very pleased with you”. Listen to Jesus. Hear each other”.

Worship in the name of Jesus is powered by his voice – his word. It is our regular mountain top, even though to the senses it may not exactly “feel” that way at times!! But He is here. His word is here. The Law and Prophets and the great cloud of witnesses gather with us and all who have gone before us in the Faith and have entered the rest. Worship is cosmic in proportion!

But friends, how good it is that Jesus is not only here! How good is it that he goes with us into our way of the cross? He comes with us down from the high points and stays with us in the low. He goes to the end of our suffering and pain and triumphs for us!

Friends, we will begin this intentional focus on the Via Dolorosa, the way of the suffering as Lent begins this Wednesday. The Lord is calling you to enjoy the mountain today and marvel in your Saviour with all his glory and brightness, and then follow him down to the 40 day journey called Lent. I believe that as we pay attention to his voice in some time and tested ways, we will reach that other even higher event for us who are in need of such forgiveness, triumph and life – Easter Day: Resurrection Day.

Look to him. Listen to him. Follow him. He will lead you and stay with you through it all and bring you to end of it all in his light and life.

All praise be to Jesus, the suffering and triumphant Saviour of us all.