Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Wittenburg Trail - Online Lutheran Community

The Wittenberg Trail (WT) represents the ancient Church for a post-modern world. The WT also provides a solid foundation for the shifting sands of post-modernism and a refuge from the ahistorical, non-creedal, shallow and commercial trends in today’s "pop church" culture.

The WT is a Christ-Centered, Law and Gospel focused, Confessional Pan- Lutheran Social Network.

Visit The Wittenberg Trail
Check out LHM Daily Devos by Pr. Ken Klaus

As long as I'm promoting "online communities" here's one that I lurk on.
I'm an EMT-B and the news and info here is helpful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Genesis 12:1-9, Second Sunday in Lent, Feb 17, 2008

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. (Genesis 12:1-9, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And God said to Abram, “Go Now!”

You know, I just don’t think I would have done it. Oh I know, it’s not really good for a pastor to say he wouldn’t do what God commanded. But really, look at what Abram is leaving. God couldn’t be more specific. Leave your country, your family and your father, leave everything behind that gives you any stability, any sense of belonging. Most of you live pretty close to your family, and even I live not too far away. Even if we are at quite a distance we can get reach out and touch our loved ones in a second. That’s what cell phones do for us, keep us connected at all times to those we love. Not Abram (his name is later changed to Abraham). His doing what God told him to do cuts him out of the picture. His family will go on doing what they’ve been doing. Abram just won’t be a part of it. He won’t inherit his father’s land, he won’t see his cousins, or nephews, or nieces, grow up. He won’t be doing anything for the rest of his life with his family. God’s command to leave is one sided. It isn’t just leave. It is leave everything. What God does to Abram is disconnect him from his past. I just don’t think I could do it.

And the funny thing is that although we consider Abram a great man of faith (and he surely is that!), he doesn’t seem to have been able to do either. There’s a clue to that here in the text. Something that tells us Abram’s trouble with doing what God wanted. God said,

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house…”

That sounds simple enough, there’s just a little more dramatic force in the original language, God said, “Go now!” And how does our hero react? He reacts by following God’s command, right? Well, not exactly.

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.

Oops, what’s this with Lot going with him? Why did Abram let that happen? Isn’t Lot one of his “kindred” that he’s suppose to leave behind? As it turns out, Abram would regret taking Lot along. Lot would be no end of trouble. Lot would be a guy that Abram would end up baling out of trouble again and again. If Abram would have listened to God, he would have spared himself a Lot of heart ache. But that’s always the case. If we listened to what God tells us in His Word, we spare ourselves a lot of heartache too. Well, we are all cut from the same cloth aren’t we?

And there’s another thing. It isn’t just us who see Abram’s lack of ability to do what God commanded. In Joshua 24:3 God tells the people,

Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan… (Joshua 24:3a, ESV)

You see, God made it happen. You might say that God pushed Abram out of his homeland and dragged him around the land of Canaan. Over and over again Abram showed he was weak in doing what God wanted and trusting that God would do as he promised. Here is just a few points to remember:

  • Abram was given the most beautiful woman in the land (possibly the world, but don’t start thinking swimsuit model here, our sense of beauty is very different from theirs). Sari was not only beautiful but she the way that God had promised to deliver His promises to Abram. She would be the mother of the great nation. And yet, Abram lent her out to two kings as a sex toy just to save his own skin.
  • God promised that he and Sarah would have a son, the first born of a great nation. Abraham took matters into his own hands, literally, by sleeping with another woman. If God won’t give me a son through Sari I’ll get one this way.

Over and over again, Abraham shows himself to be doubtful of God’s promises. That’s what we heard St. Paul say too, isn’t it.

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Romans 4:2, ESV)

In fact, Abraham had nothing to boost about before God. Everything that God asked him to do, he did imperfectly. If God hadn’t stepped in over and over again, Abraham would have screwed everything up, over and over again. Now there’s something to keep in mind. Abraham may have his doubts. He didn’t always do what God told him to do, the way God wanted it done. God may have to slap him over the head with a 2x4 again and again. But, in spite of Abram, God still kept His promises. You might even say that it was God’s promises that kept everything going in Abram’s life. In fact, God’s promises that make things happen.

Abram wasn’t a different kind of person than you are; He had faith in a faithful God. He didn’t dig up the faith to believe what God promised; it was God’s promise itself that created faith in Abram. All the mistakes that Abram made were his own; when he is faithful it’s his faith acting.

Remember God said “Go Now!” God also said Go Now to Abram when He told him to take his son, the son you love, your only son, Isaac and sacrifice him on the mountain. There’s no backing out of this one. He’s very deliberate in carrying out God’s instructions. Even though Isaac is his the only way God’s promises are going to happen, Abram does exactly what he’s told. Abram believe that God would stop him, or raise his son from the dead. It’s a difference of years and years of God’s promise being active in Abram’s life.

On that first time God talked to Abram God made him 7 promises. It’s the last one that’s most important to us. That all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abram. The interesting thing about is the word earth. It’s Adama that same word as in Adam’s name. Adam came from the Adamah. A translation that gets the gist of the pun is Dusty came from the dust. God’s promise to Abram was God’s promise to you and me. We are children of Adam the one from the Adamah. Now remember it’s God’s promise that make things happen. It’s God’s promises that create faith. That’s important because just like Abram we are quick to modify what God tells us to do.

  • He tells us to go now and make disciples and we sit on our hands… and our checkbooks.
  • He tells us to love our neighbor and we cheat him out of his land.
  • He tells us to pray for those who persecute us and we pray for them to “get what’s coming to them.”

St. Paul tells us

to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, (Ephesians 4:1, ESV)

That’s hardly doing that. But we’re going about it all wrong if we try to muster up the strength to live as we’ve been called to live. The strength doesn’t come from our own will power. Our will, is so often influenced by our sinful nature. Instead it is God promise that makes things happen.

St. Paul also talked about that.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29, ESV)

Our faith doesn’t lie in ourselves but God’s promise to bless all the people of the earth.

God makes that promise true in Jesus. It is Jesus who is told Go Now! Just like Abraham. But there is a difference. Jesus doesn’t falter as Abram did. Jesus didn’t falter as you and I do. There’s a hymn by Martin Luther Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (LSB 556. v5-8, text and music in the public domain.) We don’t sing it too much because it very long, but right in the middle of hymn is these verses.

[God] spoke to His beloved Son:
'Tis time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with Thee forever.

This Son obeyed His Father's will,
Was born of virgin mother,
And God's good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my Brother.
No garb of pomp or power He wore,
A servant's form, like mine, He bore,
To lead the devil captive.

To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy Ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thee, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be Mine;
The Foe shall not divide us.

The Foe shall shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving.
All this I suffer for thy good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life shall from death the victory win,
My innocence shall bear thy sin;
So art thou blest forever.

This is God being faithful to his promise. You see, it is God who is faithful, not me, not you, not Abram. He promised to bless you and me through Abram and he did it in Jesus Christ. It is that shedding of His precious blood that wipes away every part of sin in all that we do. Back to the Epistle Lesson

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." (Romans 4:5-8, ESV)

That’s the promise, our lawless deeds are forgiven. That means we are free to walk as God calls us to walk. That means when we do walk imperfectly, when we sin, we are forgiven. And when it comes to doing better? Well, we look to God’s promise in Jesus. We hold on to Jesus. God’s promises make things happen. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mark 4:35-41, Funeral Sermon for Delores Callies

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV)

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, finally we are here. Delores waited a long time for this day. She spoke about her death the very first time I met her. As I got to know her better I began to understand why. Now there were some folks who believed she was just some kind of hypochondriac, but not me. I’ve seen enough pain to know her pain was real. She didn’t have an easy go of life, and she certainly didn’t have an easy go of death either. There’s something you should know. I’ve not been a pastor all that long, about seven years, but I’ve yet to find anyone as well prepared for death as Delores. This funeral for instance is planned at Delores’s hand. She picked the hymns, the readings, the solo, and even the text for this message. This lady was ready to die, and I’m not saying she was just tired of the pain, I mean she was prepared physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The truth is that even as she was longing to go, she fought this thing to the bitter end. So even though she was ready, even though she prayed for death every hour, she hated it. And so do we. And even though now she is suffering no more pain, the separation of death is still the greatest evil, the real wages of sin. Even though we are relieved we will still weep tears of sorrow. Delores would expect nothing less.

Funerals are stormy events. Our families are torn apart by death, even when it comes and we think we are prepared for it. As the storm passes through we wonder if anything we could have / or should have done differently. I should have been there. I should have called one more time. I wish I’d gotten a chance to say that I loved her, one more time. All these types of questions blow in with the storm of death. And we begin to wonder if we can bear up under the immense pressure of the storm. We feel like a tree blown and bent by the storm, ready to break. And it’s impossible to understand the storm until you have experienced it yourself.

Today we have gathered here, in the midst of the storm, to see what God has to say about the thing that causes the storm. Today we’ve gathered here, in the midst of the storm, to find comfort in one another, and comfort in the Good News about a Savior who has done something about the raging storm.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

More than anything else that is why we have gathered here today, to hear our Savior say to us “Peace! Be still!” Just as the disciples cried out to him because they were facing death, “Master, don’t you care if we die?” We come to him here today saying, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are facing death?” and Jesus says to us too, “Peace! Be still!” I have calmed the storm of death.

The disciples were often plagued with doubt and weak faith, even though they were there with Jesus, even though they had seen him at work everywhere they went. At the moment when death threatened them, they became afraid. Death brewed up a storm inside them. Yet Jesus was quietly sleeping, calm and patient. When they couldn’t stand when the waves were lashing over the bow, and each had in his own mind the picture of his own death, they woke Jesus. And Jesus calmed the storms, first the storm on the lake, then the storms of the heart. “After all you’ve seen, do you still have trouble believing?”

“Yes Lord, we do!” we say as we look at this casket lying here in the front of the church. “Yes Lord, we do!” as we each try to come to grips with our own mortality. “Yes Lord, we do!” And Jesus calms the storm, “Peace! Be still! I have conquered death. It has no power over you. After all you have seen and heard, when death threatens you remember that I have calmed the storm of death for you.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ family members of Delores; Remember now, especially now as we again face death, that Jesus Christ has won the final victory over sin and death. Remember what he did for you and me, and what he did for Delores. Remember why he did it. Death is the result of sin; sin brought into the world by Adam and Eve when they rejected God’s control over their lives; sin that has passed down from generation to generation, leaving the storm of death in its path; sin that will bring death to each of us. But, Jesus Christ has calmed the storm. He bore the awful consequences of sin on himself. He suffered that storm at his own death, not for himself, he suffered there for you and me. He suffered the punishment for the sin of the whole world and bore the storm of that punishment by hanging and dying on a cross. The sky darkened, the storm rolled in as he suffered there for us. But that storm too, He calmed, “Peace! Be still! It is finished!” and when he died, the punishment for all the worlds’ sin died with him and was buried with him in the tomb. And even though death held him in its grasp for three days, its power was already broken. Jesus Christ burst from death, and walked out to life again. The storms of death need not plague human beings ever again, because Jesus Christ has won the victory over them. Whoever believes in him has that life that he won there. Whoever believes in him can be comforted in the knowledge that he has calmed the storm.

Family and friends of Delores: Jesus says to you today, “Peace! Be still! Even though you still struggle with the storms of death, I have won the victory. Turn to me now when the storms of death threaten you.” Jesus calmed the storm when his disciples were afraid of death; Jesus calms our storms when we face death. Turn to him today. Listen to his calming words for you. Let him calm your storm. Amen.

Let us pray;
Gracious Lord Jesus, calm the storms in our hearts today as we grieve the loss of our sister in Christ, Delores. Keep us focused on you and what you have done for us through your life, death and resurrection. Help us to be peaceful and still as you calm the storm. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

February 10, 2008, First Sunday during Lent, Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1-11, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

Amid the lush vegetation of the Garden, a “son of God” was confronted with temptation. He stood casually by and watched… and listened… as his wife was spoke to the serpent. “If you eat of it, God knows you will be like Him.” Hissed out the Serpent. The words floated in the air with promise. “Is it really possible,” thought the man. “That I could be like God, himself? Doesn’t that mean I would be God?” The serpent’s lips curled into a smile of victory as the woman’s hand reached for the temptation. “Well, It won’t hurt if she just looks at it… touches it…” her husband said to himself as she pulled it from the tree. “I wonder how it tastes?” as her teeth sunk into the soft pulp of the fruit, and soon the sweet liquid ran from his lips too. In that very instant this son of God, went form being His loving, obedient, trusting son, to being a suspicious, guilt-ridden, fearful stranger of God. He didn’t become God’s equal; he became God’s enemy. He was no longer even what God had created him to be. Adam had failed the challenge, and he failed it miserably. He had decided not to be God’s son. And he condemned all of his offspring from that moment on to the loss of sonship that accompanied that decision. All those born after him, that means you and me, share in that loss, we too, are born as suspicious, guilt-ridden, fearful strangers of God.

Another Son of God faced temptation, too. The people of Israel, the chosen Son of God, marched through the hot desert. Forty years God led them there. There were times when they were hungry. The question was this, would this son trust in the Father to give him the bread he needed? Would this Son trust in God’s word and promise? They, too, failed. “Did you bring us here to die in the desert, of starvation?” he cried out. And later again he failed to trust the provision of God, by demanding water. And still again, when he entered the land God had promised him. He worshipped the false gods of the people he was to conquer. Over and over again we read of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Over and over again we read of his failure when he was tempted. This son also chose not to be God’s son.

Unfortunately that failure is not limited to God’s ancient sons. God’s son today, the new Israel, his church, fails, too. When we look at the failures of Adam, when we look at the failures of the Children of Israel, we know that we often have the same responses. Even though God has specially chosen us, even though he has richly provided all that we need, even though he has over and over again demonstrated his great-undeserved love for us, we re-enact the failures of our ancestors. We repeat the choice not to be God’s sons. We want proof that God will provide for us as the economy begins to turn sour. We wonder how we will survive among the rumors of bankrupt businesses and lose of income. We want proof of God’s love for us when we are ill. We doubt his love when our loved ones suffer and die as we watch helpless; and when trouble comes into our family relationships. And when things are going well; when life is good and doubts are far away we push our Father to a small place on Sunday, in reserve for when we need Him. We set ourselves up as the god of our lives. When we do these things, just like Adam, just like Israel, we chose death and permanent separation from our Father. We choose not to be the Son of God.

But, fortunately for us, fortunately for Adam and Israel, there is another Son of God. This one is the Son of God. He was faced with temptations, the very same temptations we are faced with. Whenever he was faced with the choice to be God’s son, he always willed to love, trust and serve His Father. But, Satan, the very same serpent who had success in the Garden, did his best to tempt Jesus into repeating the failures of God’s other sons. He set before Him the temptations that lured Adam and Eve, the Children of Israel, and the temptations he sets before you and me. But Jesus Christ didn’t fall to them. Even though he was “… tempted in every way, just as we are—yet [He] was without sin.” (Heb 4:15) The Father, Himself, spoke about Him and said, “This is my son, whom I love, in Him I am well pleased.” Because of Jesus, because he was the perfect Son of God, His Father once again declares us to be His Sons.

This Son of God, endured the temptations of Satan. The Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness and He was there without food for forty days. Satan pounced on the opportunity to have Jesus doubt that His Father counted Him as His Son. Satan asked if God would really supply all that was needed. “Turn these stones into bread. Take matters into your own hands. Satisfy your hunger.” But unlike Israel in the desert, this Son had absolute confidence in His Father. Instead of turning stones into break he turns to the Bread of God’s word and relies on the Father. “Man shall not live by bread alone!” Jesus said, choosing to be God’s Son.

Satan gave no rest for the Son of God. Next he tempted Jesus to ask His Father to prove that He was present with him. It had worked with God’s other son in the desert. Israel demanded water as proof of God’s presence. “Cast yourself down, God will prove that He is with you.” But this Son refuses to test God. Instead of demanding a sign of water, the true Son, the true Israel puts His trust in the words spoke at His baptism: “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!” And again Jesus chooses to be God’s Son.

Finally, Satan offers what is not his to give. “These kingdoms I will give you! All the glory, all the honor, all the authority. Be like the first son of God, make yourself God’s equal, be like God. Worship me! Be like Israel and give obedience and worship to one who is not God! But Jesus again chooses to be the Son of God, not a worshiper of Satan. He yields to God’s will. He will accept glory, but His glory will come through suffering and death. His glory will come when He stretches out his hands on the cross to die. He cannot be turned from the course His Father has set before Him. Satan’s temptations have failed. Jesus, God’s Son, is stronger than the tempter. His power and reign are on earth is coming to an end.
Jesus Christ chose to be a son of God (a trusting, obedient, and loving man). He is the second Adam. He is the true Israel. He does what they had failed to do. He doesn’t fall to the temptations that caused them to turn from their Father. He consistently chooses to be the Son of God, He does it for them, He does it for us!

Because of Jesus the words that God spoke over Jesus at His baptism are spoken over us at ours. “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” God accepted the perfect love and obedience of His Son, Jesus, and that obedience and love is accepted as ours. Looking to God’s word spoken to us we can know the power of it in our lives. We have the assurance of the Father’s spoke word. We can resist the Serpent when he speaks to us and tempts us not to be God’s sons.

Jesus also chose to be the Son of God, even when it meant that the Father punished Him instead of us. When Jesus hung on the cross, the Father disowned him and rejected Him. He did it so that we wouldn’t be disowned for eternity. We celebrate this Son’s victory over sin and death every Sunday, and especially at Easter. God the Father raised Him from death as proof that the punishment of this only-begotten Son sets all the other sons free from punishment forever. There is nothing better than being God’s sons. Armed with that knowledge, Satan’s voice has no sway over us.

Jesus “sympathizes with our weaknesses” when we are tempted. The Son of God invites us to approach the throne of God with confidence, where He speaks for us. “These are your Son’s. These are those for whom I died.” There we receive grace and mercy, there we receive strength to overcome whenever we are challenged to be or not to be God’s sons. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

February 3, 2008, Transfiguration of Our Lord, Matthew 17:1-9

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:1-9, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lord it is good for us to be here.

Sometimes, I think if things would just stop for a moment and I could catch my breath everything would be all right. If only for a moment, I weren’t so busy then I’d have the strength to go on. There is so much these days to keep us busy. If I projected a community calendar up on the wall here we’d all see how busy we all are. School and church, and county, and family activities. There are meetings just to plan meetings to make sure all the planning is done. All of these activities keep us running, from morning till night. It hardly seems we have time to sit and take a break. And that’s just adults, add to all this busyness our Children’s schedules; basketball games; play practices and and music contests. All of it builds to a crescendo headed for the end of the school year. How many miles have you put on your mini-van (or should I say mini-taxi) this year for school events? There is so much to do… sometimes we just want to catch our breath, sometimes we just want it all to stop. There’s an old commercial about a family at breakfast. There’s food spilled on the table, kids dressing and eating as they head out the door, mom frazzled, and dad in a daze. How well does this picture fit your family? Sometimes, we all need a “time out.” At time to catch our breath, a time to recharge, a time to stop and just be still.

Maybe we need a time-out like in basketball. I like basketball. Especially when a game is close, and there’s lots of tension and the outcome of the game is uncertain. The players are at a fevered pitch, battling for control of the ball, giving all they have for a few seconds of possession. Sometimes tempers rage, sometimes panic. Everyone in the crowd is focused on the floor. Emotion flows out of every pore, of every player. People in the crowd sit at the very edge of their seat, ready to leap into the fray and help. But, sometimes in a game like that its best to try to calm the players down, let coolness prevail and cancel the panic. Sometimes, a good coach knows, it’s time to take a time out. During a time out, the action can almost completely stop. The ball, that was the focus of so much attention, bounces slowly to a stop on the floor and is ignored. The refs talk about the weather and last nights NBA scores, and the crowds sit down and take a drink of pop or finish off that last bit of popcorn. The coach gathers his players around him, and gives a few instructions, and the players breathe deeply and recharge. It’s only a few seconds, but during that brief few seconds, life goes into slow motion, time drags out to a slow crawl. Then the buzzer interrupts, and the time-out is over, the crowd returns to its feet, the congregation of refs breaks up, the players take a deep breath and return to the floor, and the game picks up again… soon everything is back to where it was, the focus, the action and the passion. Some of the players are more focused, maybe just enough for an advantage in the game.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It’s a kind of a time-out. Here we are still with the lingering joy of Christmas. The altar has been covered with white, for the joy of Christmas, we’ve been talking about all kinds of wonderful things like, Epiphany (when the Magi visited Jesus), Jesus Baptism, and of course the gifts that God brings to us because of Jesus. But ahead of us is Lent. Soon the colors turn dark purple. There’s sorrow ahead as we begin a walk onto the dark shadow of death. There’s guilt ahead as we contemplate our sinfulness and the great cost the Jesus paid for us. Lent begins a contemplative season when we think about these kinds of things instead of the joy of Christmas. Standing here right now and looking ahead, it’s good to be here, at this little time-out after Christmas, before Lent.

Jesus and his disciples took a time-out, too. He had been instructing them about what was ahead of them; sorrow, suffering, and even his own death. It was Peter who spoke up for all of them. “No, Lord, none of that will ever happen to you!” “Yes, it will.” Was Jesus reply, “Yes, it must.” And the disciples were left scratching their heads, trying to understand. Everything was going so well, everything was so focused on the people around them, the healing, the feeding, it didn’t make sense for all of that to change. Jesus knew what was ahead. Jesus knew how things would go from then on. So He gathered Peter, James and John and headed for the hills… for a time-out. That’s what they needed; Time to recharge, time to reflect on what had happened the past, and time to focus on the task ahead. I don’t know what the three disciples expected, probably not what they saw: “and he was transfigured before them there.” It was a metamorphosis. Jesus face glowed bright, and his clothes. And God’s representatives appeared, Moses and Elijah. And they were talking to Jesus. It was, I’m sure a glorious site, a heavenly site. Here was Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah, the great prophets of God. What a wonder! Peter and his companions didn’t want the sight to end. This may have seemed to them as the pinnacle of their time with Jesus. But, in truth it was only a time out. But they didn’t want the timeout the end.

Peter says, “Lord, it’s good to be here. Let’s stay and never let this end. We can live here in all this glory, in all this light. Here in the company of Moses and Elijah. Let’s forget about what’s ahead. Let’s forget about all that you have told us about, the suffering and especially the death.”
But without all of those things that Peter wanted to avoid, and not think about, without the suffering there would be not death, and without the death, there would be no resurrection. And without the resurrection there would be no restoration of human beings to God. What Peter wanted to avoid was the very purpose for which Jesus came. It was through pain and death that he would restore human beings to God, and through his resurrection that he would give them hope for the future. Jesus and his disciples couldn’t stay there on the mountain. God had a plan…

There are times when we all think like Peter. “It’s good, Lord, to be here…” I’m satisfied with things just the way they are right now. I’m satisfied with my faith. I don’t really need it to grow beyond where it is right now. That growth may come with pain and suffering, it’s good to be here right now without it.

I’m satisfied with my prayer life where it is right now; I don’t need to speak to God about all that’s happening in my life. He knows more about it than I do anyway. I’d rather continue to deal with these things myself.

I’m happy drinking the milk of your word. I don’t need to be in bible study, I don’t what to have to chew on the meat, and think about what may still be wrong in my life. I don’t really want God to poke around in my life, and show me sins that I’m become comfortable with.

I’m satisfied with my congregation where it is. We don’t need to change anything. We don’t need any more activities to fill my calendar. We just need to get things back to the way they used to be.

There is always the danger of loving the moment, being satisfied with the status quo…. Living in the timeout. Change can be painful, and moving forward always requires change.
Peter wanted to hold on to the glorious vision of Jesus Christ on the mountain. Moving from there meant pain, suffering and death. But, what God wanted to give Peter and his friends, what God wants to give us is the greater Glory of Christ. The glory we find in a stronger relationship with him. A relationship that was begun when Jesus Christ suffered died and rose again for us, a relationship that will find its completion when he returns again to claim us as his own. When we want to stay in the status quo we are locked in our sinfulness, instead of looking to the forgiveness that Jesus Christ has won for us.

When the cloud came to the mountain, Peter, James and John were faced with the presence of God. They fell to their faces in fear. They knew they were sinful people only deserving God’s wrath. The wonderful, heavenly vision couldn’t be theirs without Jesus Christ. The wonderful, heavenly vision couldn’t be theirs without what Jesus was about to do. They couldn’t stay there. The timeout was over.

The cloud left them… time began again. It was time to move forward… forward with God’s plans… forward to suffering… death… but also forward to Resurrection and Life!

The timeout is nice, but the game goes on, life goes on. The timeout isn’t the game, there’s so much more to do. God’s plans for our future require change. They may even include suffering. But, forward we must go. Forward into Lent to contemplate what Jesus has done for us… forward to an uncertain future, but armed with the vision of the transfigured Christ. Armed with the knowledge of what he has accomplished for us. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep yourhearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.