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.

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