Tag: Transfiguration

Lifting the Veil

Sermon, Transfiguration Day

1 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

From <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+3%3A12-4%3A2&version=NIVUK>

Weddings have been on our mind. Last weekend our oldest Son got married. He is the first of the four kids to do so. It was a great day. Only one small thing went amiss – the bride’s veil! Somehow the veil got left on the table as bridal part left to get to the church on time. Not to worry. She looked stunning without the veil anyway.

I don’t know what it is like to be a bride walking down the aisle, arm in arm with a parent, looking through a veil. In one way it must feel safe – When everyone is looking at you, you are still hidden in part. No one can see you fully – your emotions – tears, joy or anxiousness….. There is a certain safety of being hidden behind the veil.

Moses was being safe when he wore his veil. His face would literally glow when came down from the mountain or out from the Tabernacle after speaking with the Lord ‘face-to-face”.  Moses put a veil over his face from people so they were not prone to mistrusting him as leader when the glory glow eventually faded. Maybe he wore the veil to just not ‘spook’ them too!

The glory of God can spook us. Just ask Peter, Andrew and John up on that Transfiguration mountain we heard about! Jesus’ glorious perfection, holiness, purity and light was too much for them. It is too much for us. His complete freedom, full life, extended joy and all-knowing heart and all-seeing eye when unveiled can rock us, overwhelm us, shake us.

This might be why we often prefer to keep the veil on. Like the Bride in that big moment when everyone staring at her, we often want to be safe, secure and in control of ourselves and others – and especially God’s stare. Like the Bride with the veil, the veil between us and God is a bit of safety in an unsure life.

But what is ‘the veil’? For Paul, the Old Testament Law is still God’s good Law, but it can be used by us as a veil that feels safe but hides the truth of what the Lord has done to allow is to live in his glorious freedom and light without any veil.

The Law is what we know. We can hide behind God’s good Law to the point that we will not allow the safety to be shattered by the more extensive, more complete, less controllable, understandable glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, who is God’s ultimate revealing of who God really is and what God is really doing in our lives.

And this is who we know already, according to Paul. Jesus is the new way in which God gets his glorious presence close to us without dazing us, overwhelming us, even killing us. Jesus is Glory hidden in human flesh and bones – tiredness, laughter, anger, joy in a real human person – but who he is really is – the Son of God – the glory of God, the Majestic King of Glory is revealed in a flash of brilliance that still dazes Peter, Andrew and John.

Like when the groom finally raises the veil of his lovely bride, her fullest beauty and presence is finally revealed to all gathered, so it is with Jesus up on the mountain stunning three people and stunning us – the fullest revealing of God’s gracious presence to us. Like the groom, we are stunned by his brilliant and complete love for us.

But it seems more natural to us to stick to the rules and the things we know like a bride keeping the veil on than let the Lord take the safety of the veil away and eye-ball us face-to-face with his overwhelming light that exposes our darkness, his calling that re-orders our work and family life, his forgiveness which renders our chasing after other safety and security outside of his promises useless.

Friend, here and now, the Spirit of freedom is lifting the veil of safety in things and self and even that misplaced confidence in our ability to earn his acceptance by the keeping of his holy and good Law.

You could choose to settle for walking down the aisle of life with that veil on.

You might want to keep the veil on because you don’t want him to expose you, know you or even love you – lest you have to let him interrupt you; cause you to re-evaluate what you are doing, who you are and where you’re headed. Many people will not let that veil go. They get to the Groom face to face and will not let him take that veil off.

But, by faith in this man up the mountain who would be that dead man on the Golgotha hill and that raised man ascending to rule this world in love, you could let him lift that veil again as you simply come to him in repentance and faith this morning – repenting of all your attempts to control your life, all your anxiety about the future of our country and our church and your life, the state of the world, the changing winds of our culture, your reluctance to trust that even that sin, that regret, that anger because you don’t understand why that terrible thing happened, that weakness that gets you in trouble can be restored, forgiven and freed. “….only in Christ is it taken away”.

And when you allow him to lift that veil, the path gets clearer, the steps bolder, the joy fuller as the Groom truly sees you and his community greet you. There comes a certain boldness about you and about us, no matter what is going on.

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

It is this hope of wonderful acceptance and love for limited, struggling, sometimes scared people – just like that Corinthian community – this hope of God’s preferred future for us in his world that brings a boldness to our words and ways. Boldness, freedom, transformation and ministry/serving – that is who we are and what we live in when the veil is lifted. A much better way to walk and relate!

And this is Holy Spirit given.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

With the Spirit’s words of hope, freedom, transformation into Jesus’ ever-increasing wisdom, knowledge, understanding of who he is, what love is and how to love, we ‘do not lose heart’.

You don’t need to give up, shut up or veil up anymore. Neither do we as a local mission outpost of Jesus’ kingdom. There is no need to hide you or your faith in Jesus.

There is a need to avoid things that are not from Jesus or approved by him.

          2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways;

There is no need to trick people.

“….we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

We have nothing to hide in or conversations, in our plans for our mission work here.  We certainly have no need to get side-tracked into that old Law again – telling people what they should do or don’t do for God to love them – that is back in the veil. He loves them before they are friends of his; before they know him, before they try to be good.

We do have the responsibility and the joy to keep it simple:

“On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God”.

Friend, the Groom raises the veil. Your motives, needs and directions are laid bare by his abiding gaze without the veil. How could you and we do anything but gladly reflect his acceptance, love, hope and freedom?

We are not like Moses. We have the veil off. We are being transformed by the Spirit. God is at work in this struggling man, this struggling church, this changing world.

‘…since we have such a hope, we are very bold”.

 

He Will Shine

Sermon, Transfiguration Sunday

February 11, 2018. St Petri.

Mark 9:2-13

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. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

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.’ (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

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. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.

11 And they asked him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’

12 Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.’

The Lord is always close to us. It is just that he is hidden in things we do not expect. Sometimes he has to simply open the curtain a little to let us in on his stunning presence; to let us know that he is right here with us as he promised. So Transfiguration Day comes…..

The curtain is drawn back in a special way for just a minute in time for three flabbergasted guys. The special man of God is revealed in the glory from which he came, and three blokes seeing it are tongue-tied and rather dazed by the brilliance of it. How long has it been since you were flabbergasted by the presence of the same Saviour man, Jesus?

These three have followed Jesus for a while now and they have followed him up this hill today. All the ‘bells and whistles’ of divine experience are coming their way.

It is an ancient experience reborn.

Moses and Elijah are there: two men of the Old Era who were taken to the Lord’s heaven without being dead and buried like the rest of us. Elijah went bodily into heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12) and Moses’ grave was never found (he was buried by God himself in Deuteronomy 34:4-7). As a result of their special departures, many Jewish people believed that these two could return to announce God’s new reign was at hand. And here that reign is, up on the hill – Jesus.

But what about those three tents or “booths” Peter asks about? People often say that Peter was stunned like a rabbit in the head lights and just blurting out some nonsensical stuff to try and make the moment last. Maybe. But maybe he is doing a lot more thoughtful thing as he says that the three amigos should built some booths to stay in.

According to some Jewish expectation of the day, and as stated in the book of Zechariah (see 14:16-21), God would usher in the “Day of the Lord,” during the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Booths was upon them. Surely Moses, Elijah, and Jesus need not construct their own booths for the celebration. The three other amigos will do it!

And what about blinding dazzling light? Remember Moses and his dazzling face transformed by being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:2, 29-35). After Moses has been in conversation with God about the future life of God’s people, he descends from the mountain so reflecting the light of God’s glory that he must cover his face lest he frighten the children – not to mention his wife!

Similar in Daniel. In Daniel the “Son of Man” is also dazzling white. The mysterious messianic figure who will bring about God’s will and God’s justice, is a supernaturally stunning figure (Daniel 7:9-14).

And what about all in the cloud? The Shekinah. The ‘glory cloud’ that was there when it really counted – The Red sea crossing (Exodus 14). Every day of the desert journey (Exodus 13:21). The day the Tabernacle was dedicated as God’s dwelling place (Numbers 9:15), on Mt Sinai at the giving of the 10 Commandments and the feast of the Elders in God’s presence (Deuteronomy 5), the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon (1 Kings 8).

With all these bells and whistles, it was easy to remember. The gospel writers record it in their proclaiming of Jesus. Peter obviously never forgot it because he reflects on it later in his second letter (1 Peter 2:16-18).

16 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 eye-witnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honour 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.’[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

How Peter remembers it later on, and how Mark tells it now gives us the clue as to what this mysterious spiritual experience is really all pointing to.

It is the clear Word of God that makes sense of this dazzling experience. Without this Word, it would just be a nice experience. Without this clear Word of God speaking, this would just be bells and whistles without any clear substance or meaning or sure promise.

God speaks into this experience and makes it clear and good and truth.

‘This is my Son, whom I love’.

It is all about the Son and the Father’s love for the Son. Like a lover on Valentine’s Day, she declares her love and loyalty to her man.

Mark has reported this same stunning affirmation of Jesus before this day. He will do it one more time after this day. The first was at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11). These words will echo at Jesus’ death (15:39).

All three times God says to a world in waiting, Jesus is unique, a one-in-a-million person, divine, chosen, anointed and sent by me. He is the difference between mere human imagination and divine promise and power. He is light. He is glory. He is hope.

“This is my Son, the Beloved” (Mark 9:7). What a title! Especially when the one saying this is the God of Creation! (see also Deuteronomy 4:36; 2 Samuel 22:14; John 12:28; Acts 11:9).

No one else gets this title; “God’s Son.” Not Moses. Not Elijah. Not John the baptizer. None of Galilee’s other preachers or demon casting exorcists (Mark 6:7, 12-13; 9:38). Only Jesus is the beloved Son. He is “unique,” “one-of-a-kind.” A father’s love for such a son is fathomless, because there is no other.

What are supposed to do with this cloud, this dazzling white, this mountain, this Son of God, this man of all men? Only one thing is needed. Listen.

‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’

“Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). This is the first and only time in Mark, the voice from heaven orders Jesus’ disciples. The only way to glimpse his giftedness and receive his light and hope is by the ears.

And what should we be listening for especially. Well that is clear here too. The crucial stuff to hear is everything to do with Jesus’ suffering and victory over evil and death stated in Mark 8:31.

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

It is when he rises that the curtain will be torn in two for all time and heaven will be open to all believers in a new and close way. That is us and that is now.

But do we value him as we could? Or does he blend into the background of voices we hear?

I wonder whether I have often lost any deeper appreciation of Jesus’ uniqueness and his high place and transforming presence in my life. How about you?

It is easy to lose true appreciation and love for him in all the long-held things we do and say in this rather comfortable life (for a lot of us but not all).

It is just so easy to reduce Jesus to be like others and miss his uniqueness and his divine presence and transforming word. It is so easy to just never peer through the curtain as we whizz by doing all the things we believe we must.

And so, for many, Jesus can only then be our sage, our hero, or even just a tragically betrayed and naïve fool. He can and is often reduced to an historical person you learn about on some history show. We can lock him in that closet and stay with him there and never come out.

But come out he will, as he did here on this mountain! Here he is uncaged. Like a mountaineer finally summiting the mountain and dropping off the heavy pack to enjoy the moment of light sun, the Jesus we try and cage is uncaged and we feel his hope and light.

Thank him for that. I need that tiger loose in my life! So do you, for he is light and sun and life. He is grace. In our attempts to make our own light and draw our curtains on Christianity and the church, he speaks and the curtain is drawn open again and there is hope and life and love again.

Whatever happens in my life, he is in it. Jesus will be heard, and his kingdom will continue to come close to me. Whatever happens to us as a church, he will speak and some people somewhere sometimes will catch a glimpse of his love and his light and his grace and be lit up themselves.

I pray that is you today

Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read the text out loud again pausing to  try and  picture this scene Mark paints.

What words, phrases, images catch your ear? What questions come to mind?

Someone said recently that it not as if God is in another space and has to travel to come close to us. He is always close to us but unseen. But now and again he draws back the curtain of his presence and our day is transformed! This is what is happening here on this Transfiguration hill.

Where else does God draw back the curtains so you can know his presence for you?

How long has it been since you experience this kind of presence of the Lord in your life?

I suggested that this was a word totally founded in and rich with Old Testament themes and images. Go through those and the reference texts to enjoy that rich texture. Note your conclusions/learning points.

I suggested that the thing that makes this overwhelming experience of God’s presence gracious and clear is the Word that is heard in it.

“This is my Son whom I love. Listen to him”. Do you agree/disagree and why?

It is one thing to have an extraordinary experience of the Divine, but quite another to have an experience of closeness and power of God, Father, Son ad Holy Spirit. The way God lets us know it is him is by his Word. Has this happened to you – where you have heard God’s speak to you or found that a bible text has met you in a moment of spiritual experience? Real that experience and the Ord that God gave….. Is this still current for you now?

I suggested that for long term church people or for people who have largely given up on a personal relationship with Jesus, Jesus quickly can become so much less than who he really is – Saviour, Brother, Friend, Lord…. How have you sometimes forgot his uniqueness and his transforming power? What distracts you from his presence at the moment? Is the Lord calling you to look beyond the curtain of everyday life to see and hear his promises?

 

We believe that the curtain separating us from the Lord’s glory has been ripped in two by the resurrection of Jesus. We believe that even though it may not feel like it, worship in God’s presence with God’s people is a meeting of heaven and earth and a moment of open access to Jesus as we hear him speak and receive his gifts of grace. What hinders you from trusting this? What does the Lord need to do for you to help you hear him and see his light and love in your life up close?

 

Pray to him for the things you need and ask him to show you what you need to have the curtain pulled away and his light and love more present in your job, your school, your family, your life.

 

 

 

 

 

Piercing the Clouds

Sermon, Transfiguration Sunday, February 26, 2017, St Petri, Pastor Adrian Kitson

 Piercing the Clouds

Matthew 17:1-9 (2 Peter 1:16-21, )

  After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

I was recently in Sydney. It was a cloudy day; a grey day with crazy traffic and the constant time pressure to get here and there for meetings. It was a busy and stressy kind of day. To get through the day, I had to have a pretty focussed and small view of the world.

But the plane finally took off for home. And within those first few minutes, the whole sense of the day changed. It changed when we pierced the grey clouds into that bright clear summer sun that had been there all day – we just could not see it. The day got bigger and brighter through the clouds closer to the sun.

The necessary and narrow concerns seemed to melt away as I marvelled at God’s creation of clouds, sun, blue space – the things hidden to me all day. I was happy to spend the next 2 hours in this sunny bright cloudy place. Maybe I would have pitched a tent with Peter if left to it……

Somehow I needed this hidden grander space to make sense of the visible smaller space of the day just lived. I wonder if you need this kind of experience from time-to-time? Something revealed that enlightens what you have experienced?

Why do we love those times when the usual routine stops and something else or someone else lights up the day with a grander view? I think of the family gathering at Christmas, or the long planned holiday that finally arrives. I think of a special anniversary when big effort is made to create a special, even if short-lived moment in time. I think of the money spent on weddings – to make it ‘the perfect day’. I think of what people do on Australia Day, Year 12 Formal, Graduation Day or Grand Final day. The day gets bigger than a normal day. These big days help us then re-enter the everyday. They put the everyday in a bigger more meaningful perspective. Is that why we love these big days?

That day high up on a hill somewhere in Israel was such a big day. The day was transformed into a very big day for Peter, James and John. They saw things normally hidden – like the sun above the grey cloudy day. They got above their normal daily concerns which demands small focus to a grand focus, above the everyday.

They also got above the gloom and doom of what Jesus has recently been talking about – death, suffering – his death and suffering. They were worried about him. But now they were allowed to see him differently – not a tragic noble man trying hard, but the divinely connected Saviour inviting us into his timeless life. All their earthly concerns melted away as they were simply with Jesus, and with Moses and Elijah high up there in that bright cloud that wrapped around them.

This day was a gift of grace. The bright cloud simply came to them. They did not pierce the clouds like you do in an aeroplane. The cloud came down to them. This was planned by God of the Old Testament glory cloud, the Shekinah.

Why did Jesus invite them in? What happened up there that was so needed by them and us; so special, so memorable that three out of four gospel witnesses tell of it and Peter reflects on it later in life as he writes his 2nd letter?

The grey clouds got pierced and we saw the full extent of God’s light in Jesus. This moment and this grand vision of Jesus was a gift out of the ordinary to sustain us in the ordinary.

They got to see God’s light in their darkness, hear God’s voice in their human smallness and self-focus. They and we catch a glimpse of what is really going on in the world above the clouds, above our individual concerns and the many tasks we need to complete. In this mountain moment we get to see our lives according to God, not the media, my neighbour, parents, myself, kids or Twitter.

Do you long for a glimpse of God’s grand acceptance, God’s light and truth, God’s joy and wisdom for the decisions you are making, the love you are attempting, the time you are taking, the suffering you are enduring, the pride you are claiming?

If you wouldn’t mind being lifted out of the gloom you sense, the tough suffering you know, the pain of regret you feel, the old battle with the old Adam with whom you constantly clash; if you would love to be shown what is really going on in this world and this church from God’s point of view; if you could get a big dose of confidence by hearing that God is at work in your clouds, God is connected more then you feel, God is interested, aware of you, engaged in making his kingdom of light and love real for his world in your world after all, then this glory you seek, this light you need, this joy for which you long will only come by one way, says God on the mountain.

 “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am well pleased – Listen to him”

All the tea in China, all the thousands spent on a wedding or a trip or a new hip; all the dieting, exercising, planning, giving, serving, suffering and loving are no match for what is given to these three and you and me on this transforming mountain.

“This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am well pleased – Listen to him”

Our light, our vision for living, our meaning, our glory is only real in the Son’s words.

Our glory comes more through the ears – not mainly by what we see. The son speaks. We hear the Son. We hear his words. We are transfigured from our small and sometimes petty ways to his grandeur and beauty, if we listen and allow this.

Heaven calls to you today. “Listen to the Son. Be pleased with God’s Son. Love the Son. Love his words. Be loved by the Son”. That is the gift of Transfiguration.

Fears, worries, struggles, sins, weaknesses, mistakes, small-mindedness, self-interest, our will to always win or get our own way, our regrets and all other things that belong to our broken and darker life, are transformed like Jesus face, like Moses’ face, like Elijah’s chariot today.

Peter says;

 We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned that he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness. God made great and marvellous promises, so that his nature would become part of us. Then we could escape our evil desires and the corrupt influences of this world.

We don’t need special words or clever stories to live in light and peace. We only need his inspired Spirit-given word of Jesus the Son who is our sun.

16 When we told you about the power and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not telling clever stories that someone had made up. But with our own eyes we saw his true greatness. 17 God, our great and wonderful Father, truly honoured him by saying, “This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.” 18 We were there with Jesus on the holy mountain and heard this voice speak from heaven.

He speaks still.

19 All of this makes us even more certain that what the prophets said is true. So you should pay close attention to their message, as you would to a lamp shining in some dark place.

The lamp to light up our hearts and minds is this Jesus, this Son. His words are light and life.

The Spirit calls you to resolve anew to pay close attention to the speaking, pleasing Son of God these next 40 days of Lent.

Come often to his holy mountain – his holy Words, his holy gifts, his holy people. He will speak and you will be enlightened and you will be then able to speak what you hear and re-discover that we are indeed still better together – especially under the Son’s cross; under his forgiveness which is our glory.

 Listen to him. Listen to him in me and me and you. He is well pleased with both of us. Amen

 

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Matthew 17:1-9 (2 Peter 1:16-21)

  After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

HEARING THE TEXT

Read the text slowly out loud and take note of the questions it raises for you and what you find yourself imagining. Share those ….

 

 TEXT NOTES

MATTHEW 17:1-9. MOSES & JESUS

Matthew includes a number of parallels between Jesus and Moses in this passage:

  • Six days (v. 1) parallel the six days that the cloud covered Mount Sinai before Moses ascended it (Exodus 24:16).
  • The high mountain (v. 1) parallels Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12).
  • The three disciples (Peter, James and John) parallel the three men (Aaron, Nadab and Abihu) who were invited to worship with Moses (Exodus 24:1) and who were later ordained as priests (Exodus 28:1).
  • Jesus’ shining face (v. 2) parallels Moses’ shining face after his encounter with God (Exodus 34:29). This is a particularly strong parallel. Moses’ shining face was a powerful image for Israel. However, his shining face was a reflection of God’s glory, while Jesus’ shining face reflects his inner glory.
  • God speaks from a cloud (v. 5), paralleling God’s call to Moses from a cloud (Exodus 24:16).
  • God says, “Listen to him,” (v. 5), paralleling “You shall listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  • The disciples are afraid (v. 6), paralleling the fear of the Israelites when they saw Moses’ shining face.
  • Faithless and perverse generation” (v. 17) parallels “perverse and crooked generation” (Deuteronomy 32:5).

The church has, at the same time, loved this story and not known what to do with it. It is mysterious—beyond our everyday experience—difficult to understand. At its core, it is simply a revealing to the disciples (and to the church at large) of Jesus’ identity. It is God’s stamp of approval on Jesus and the path upon which he has set his feet—a path that he has just revealed to the disciples (16:21-23)—a path that will lead to the cross.

 

DELVING DEEPER

Why do you think the Transfiguration was necessary?

 

Why do you think Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with Jesus? What are the connections between these three figures? Exodus 34:4-9; 1 Kings 19:11-14

 

What were they there to communicate? Luke 9:30-31

 

Imagine if you were there seeing this marvelous event; how would you have felt? What would you have done and said?

 

At this stage of Jesus’ ministry, why do you think it is important for Jesus to hear these words from his Father?

 

Which is more important – Jesus’ identity or his activity?

 

Why is the statement, after six days, important? Matthew 16 13-19; Exodus 24:15-18

 

How do you think the transfiguration affected the Disciples’ faith and purpose?

 

Why did Peter want to build a tent? What would you have wanted to do?

 

Jesus’ face, “Shone like the sun.” Where have we heard that before and what causes it?   Exodus 34:29

 

Where else has God revealed Himself in a cloud? Exodus 40:34-35

 

Why do the Scribes say Elijah must come first? Malachi. 3:1; 4:5-6

 

Read the other place in Scripture this day is referred to: 2 Peter 1:12-18

What is Peter drawing out of the experience he had? Share your thoughts…..

 

COMMENT FROM MARTIN LUTHER

Very much is contained in this history.

First, The resurrection of the dead and the future glory and brightness of our bodies are shown. For this was something very remarkable, that Christ was transfigured while yet in the mortal body, which was subject to suffering. What then shall it be, when mortality shall have been swallowed up, and nothing shall remain but immortality and glory?

 

Secondly, There is added the appearance of Moses and Elias, who prove by their appearing that they had never really died, and that there is yet another life, besides the earthly life, from which they were transferred.

 

Thirdly, This appearance teaches us also that we should despise death, and look upon it merely as an emigration or a sleep. In short, this appearance proves that this life is nothing at all in comparison with the future life.

Fourthly, This appearance proves that sin is overcome. For it necessarily follows as an incontrovertible conclusion, that, where death is overcome, there sin is also overcome.

But he permitted those three mentioned apostles especially to see this appearance, in order to guard them against the coming offense of his cross and crucifixion. Yet he accomplished little thereby, for they all were offended with him. Yet this appearance had its advantage after the resurrection, and served to strengthen their faith in Christ, that he was the Son of the living God, and that his kingdom must be regarded in a spiritual sense.

The whole holy Trinity appears here to strengthen the believers; namely, Christ in his transfigured form, the Father in the voice, and the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud.

Moses and Elijah appear in order to testify that Jesus Christ is truly the promised Messiah, according to the law (i.e. Moses,) and the prophets, (i.e. Elias.)

Compare Romans 3:21-22, and on the meaning of this transfiguration2 Corinthians 3:7 ff.      From ‘Luther’s Explanatory Notes on the Gospels‘, pp. 101.

 

PRAYER

Jesus, help us recognise your voice and pay attention to what you say so we trust that you are with us and at work through us today. Amen

‘Glow and Go’ Sermon & Conversation Starters

Sermon, Sunday February 7, 2016. glow and go
Transfiguration Day, St Petri
Luke 9:28-36, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

People glow. And not just when they are sunburnt! Angelique Kerber is probably still glowing after that Australian Open win last Saturday!

People glow and those around them sense it and see it and celebrate it.

  • A young woman who receives the gift of pregnancy “glows”, we say.
    A young couple enjoying the glow of new found love, “glow” we see. We recognise the glow of that gladness and celebrate it.
  • A young boy who has found his place at school and is learning and loving life and growing in every way glows. Teachers love this. So do parents.
  • A retired man who after a long career of serving his Saviour and loving his work glows.

This glow is about being fulfilled, satisfied, content.. It is a kind of thankfulness and humility – being thankful for what has happened; for the people around us who helped us, for Jesus who has been our rock.

This glow is a mysterious thing. You don’t set out to glow, it just happens to you. It may be quite strange. Like it was for Moses and God’s people. Someone had to tell Moses he was glowing as he came back down the mountain with the Word of God under his arm – and a glowing face. Someone had to tell him his glowing face was causing concern among the people!

The glow is a gift; a surprise; a thing to be enjoyed.

Of course a lot of the time for us the glow is a very illusive thing. There are plenty of times when there is no glow. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve more than others. We can tell when they are glowing and when they are not.

Peter, James and John saw the glow of all glows. They saw greatness right before their eyes; the three great men – Elijah, Moses and their friend, and mentor, Jesus; right there. All three are speaking and all three are bathed in light and in the glory cloud of the Old Testament; the “Shekinah”, which has again descended in human history.

The old world and the new world are overlapping. All that the Lord did through Moses and Aaron, and in leading his people in desert times with glory cloud by day and glory fire by night, and all he said and did through his prophets for a thousand years is brought into this moment around Jesus. What a glowing moment of which to be part!

But the other three ordinary chaps like you and me are sleepy and mostly stunned, at least for now. Even so they can’t miss the glow and they want it to last.

Before Peter can finish his sentence about making this glow last by pitching three tents for the three great men to stay, the glow is gone. In a flash, only what was before the glow remains – land, sky, sun, food, drink, the road down to the valley again – but still with Jesus.

I see the glow of fulfilment in Jesus and the serving in his name that results everywhere around St Petri, Redeemer, our Parish office, our town. I even glow sometimes!

The glory of Jesus’ love and power is among us. We enjoy his presence as we sing and pray and listen and share week by week. The glow around here is a gift. No one can manufacture it or control it. Like a light bulb, we don’t make ourselves glow and cannot sustain the glow. It is all gift. The glow of knowing the deep peace of Jesus, the hope we share for now and the future, the victory we have over any pain and suffering and even our death is all gift – surely a work of God’s Spirit powering us.

And what are we to do with this glow of God’s goodness in us when it comes?

We could do a Peter and try and grab a hold of it, control it, make it into a formula and peg it down so it stays with each of us. That is obviously not what God wants us to do with it. We see that in the absolute dismissal of Peter’s idea of the tents.

Paul later tells us what we are meant to do with the hope-filled glow we share…

“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness”.

Confidence! Boldness. That’s his direction for us. Enjoy the glow of the church and the sharing and the belonging and take it with you when you go – boldly.

This is challenging. Paul says God’s Old Testament people could not do this. Not even Moses could do this with his glowing face and God’s words to speak.

“….not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the glory that was being set aside”.

This is because they, and I would say, we, struggle to receive God’s gift of grace glow – his acceptance, compassion, power and good will for us. That is the glory Jesus always offers, but we struggle to trust that he does forgive me, he does accept me, he does love me and he does have a present and future for me in his plans for me and my church.

Paul says that the Old Testament people struggled to receive the glory of God’s love because,

“…their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”.

That is us! The veil is removed in our baptism and in every moment that we are reconverted back to Jesus – day by day. Every time we receive his promises of faithfulness, love, affirmation of us, the old veil of self-interest, self-focus and self-promotion go and we glow.

And the even better thing is that this glow of the gospel is not a static thing like a light bulb burning away. It is more like a welding stick or a blow torch or a fire – it actually does something to us and others around us. The gospel glow is active. It is a spiritual force; a spiritual power which transform people for the better.

Paul says,

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces (because of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb), 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….

Friends, what happens here Sunday by Sunday, what happens in your small groups, your conversations and support for each other around God’s Word at home or work, your Christian Studies lessons at school (if you have them), your Confirmation sessions and anywhere else we receive and share the good news of Jesus is active and transformative.

So, as we head down the mountain of transformation with Jesus and his disciples – still with him, even into the valley of the shadows, we engage in the gospel ministry here and now in whatever way he calls us and we do not give up, lose heart, be downcast or try and manufacture the glow ourselves.

“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”.

Instead we turn away from the things people do to try and find the glow of God’s grace by merely human means, or as Paul says, “The shameful things that one hides”.

We instead remain open and honest in our dealings with others and we stay close to Jesus’ Word on things. In him we live in the joy and freedom of a clear conscience before the Lord and other people in as much as it is up to us.

Friend, enjoy the glow of Jesus. Take it and be. Receive it and go. Glow and go! Go and glow!

Boldly go with the glow of the gospel in your head and heart as he transforms your head and heart and our whole congregation bit by bit over the long journey he sets before us.

We glow and we go.

Amen

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Ponder or share a high and low you have experienced lately.

Read through the Luke gospel text (Luke 9:28-36) noting three things;
1. If there was a Bible scholar in the room, what question(s) would you ask him/her about this text?
2. What words. Images, ideas interest you in this text?
3. What do you find yourself imagining as you hear this text?

Share these with the group.

Imagine yourself in this text. Which person do you identify with the most – Peter, James, John, Jesus, Moses or Elijah? Share why……

Note the actions and words of Jesus closely. What does he say and do and what do these tell you about him?
Read the 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 again noting Paul’s remedy for “losing heart” for Christians.

Share 2 or 3 things that cause you to lose heart in your walk with Jesus and his people, the Church.

Out of these things, which is the one that is threatening to make you lose heart and confidence as you keep living out your faith?

If you could ask the Lord for one thing related to this thing, what would you ask him for?

Paul speaks of this veil that covers the Jewish people or anyone who has not turned to Jesus in repentance and faith. It keeps them from “seeing” (experiencing and sharing in) the glory of Jesus’ forgiveness and acceptance (the gospel). Did you ever have this veil over your face that kept you from knowing Jesus’ love and hope and if so, what took the veil away?

With the veil taken away, Paul says we can know the glory of Jesus’ acceptance and love. But it is still possible to “lose heart” and feel like giving up on faith in Jesus. What is Paul’s remedy for when we feel like giving up on church and learning the bible and loving others?

Focus on these verses and share you findings.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
He says despite our times of losing heart and feeling despondent about the church, about the evil we see in the world, the suffering we experience, we are being transformed by the acceptance and love of Jesus bit by bit.

If you met a person down the street who was telling you they were ready to give up on the Christian faith, what might you say to them if you had this bible text in your mind? Share your examples of what you might say to the person.

PRAY
Spirit of God, help us not lose heart but trust in your ongoing work to transform us more and more into the acceptance and love of Jesus. Amen.

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.