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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sermon 01292012 Transfiguration Sunday

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Lord Jesus Christ, on the mount of Transfiguration Peter, James and John beheld Your divine glory.  This was to confirm for them and us that You had to go to Jerusalem to die for our sins.  May we begin to prepare our hearts as we prepare for our Lenten journey to survey the wondrous Cross, not as an end, but the beginning of our relationship with You.  For You came to save us from our sins and Your transfiguration confirms the divine plan of salvation for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

After Michele and I were married, there was a time where movies played an important part in our entertainment.  One of the trilogies that we thoroughly enjoyed was the “Lord of the Rings” adventures of Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn and the other hobbits from the Shire and other characters of Middle Earth.  One scene from the Two Towers is especially poignant for this morning.  Gandalf, whom everyone had thought had died fighting a Balrog in Mount Doom, suddenly appears in the Forest to a few of the company, Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli, that had set off in search of the Hobbits taken by the forces for the Dark Wizard.  When Gandalf appears, he no longer is the Gandalf the Grey, but has transfigured and transformed into Gandalf the White.

So to this morning the story of Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration was not only a stimulus for J.R.R. Tolkien, but was the inspiration for the return of Gandalf.  As we heard, “Jesus Christ took with Him Peter and James, and John…and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  It was not uncommon for Jesus to go to mountains for prayer and communion with God the Father, but in taking Peter, James and John, it probably caused some of Jesus followers to wonder what would occur.  Once on the mountain, probably Mount Tabor, which is East of Nazareth, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light.  For those of you who have been up when the sun rose and see the sun in the distant East rising, Jesus transfiguration wasn’t slow, it was immediate, it was blinding.  Consider if at noon you were to look directly in the sunlight, this is what looking at Jesus would have been like.  Jesus immediately transfigured before them and Peter, James and John beheld the Glorified Body of Jesus Christ.

Then, “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him [that is Jesus]”.  In this account Matthew inspired by the Holy Spirit, clearly identifies two men that predate him by 1500 and 1000 years respectively.  Moses who had died and Elijah who had been taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot were conversing with Jesus, splendid in white, in His Spiritually Glorified state.

Can you imagine the conversation, the two greatest representatives of the Old Covenant, one having given the Law, the other being the most zealous for the Law, on the eve of the Law’s ultimate fulfillment were speaking to Jesus Christ, the one Whom would fulfill the Law?  Yet what does Peter do, he doesn’t try to ‘hold onto these three figures’, but says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.  Peter wants these three men to stay and probably wants to ask all kinds of questions and sit at their feet and drink up the wisdom and instruction of all three individuals.

Yet, what occurs, the plans of men to delay the fulfillment of the law is thwarted by none other than God the Father.  In similar fashion to Jesus Baptism that we celebrated earlier this month, “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!  Just as on the river Jordan where God’s voice Spoke and Jesus was revealed as the Son of God.  Here on the Mount of Transfiguration God reveals to James, Peter and John that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of His promise.  This Jesus Christ Whom they have seen heal the blind, the lepers and the lame, feed the multitudes, teach with authority and explain more explicitly God’s Kingdom and prophecy about His own death and resurrection is revealed as the fulfillment of the prophecy of old.  Jesus Christ in Whom the Father is “well-pleased” is the One Who would complete the plan of salvation.

As soon as God the Father spoke, Peter, James and John Jesus disciples, “fell face down to the ground and were terrified.  In their sight and hearing, they had seen legends of the Old Covenant and heard the Voice of God the Father and some would say out of their wits they were ‘terrified’.  But the Pastoral Shepherd that Jesus was, “came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.  The vision they had just beheld Jesus plainly and clearly says for them not to be afraid of and Jesus commands them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.

So what can we take away today, 2000 years later?  What gem does God reveal for us today as we celebrate His Transfiguration, the appearance of the Moses and Elijah and the strict command to the disciples to ‘tell no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead’?  The gem we take away is that this same Jesus Who revealed His Glory on Mount Tabor, fulfilled on the Cross of Calvary for you and for me the plan of salvation.  In His one gesture of dying a sacrificial death on the Cross, He made You and I heirs of eternal life.  We no longer are bound by sin, death and the devil and we are transfigured as well in our baptism into His life, death and resurrection. 
This same Jesus Christ Who not moments earlier was in splendid array in garments Whiter than any other transfigures us as well.  Through our baptism with Water and Word, we, the collective church of Emmanuel Lutheran are transfigured and made in the image of God.  Though we still live in earthly attire, though we are conceived in sin, though we are both saints and sinners as Martin Luther would attest, we have been through the Blood of the Lamb transfigured by Jesus Christ.  We are a new creation that waits now for God’s calling to come home to be with Him in His Kingdom.  Our transfiguration is an accomplished fact and because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we now are empowered to tell others what He has done for each of us through Water and Word for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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