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Transfiguration of our Lord

Matthew 17:1-13

Pastor James F. Wright

Last Sunday after the Epiphany
St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Sun, Feb 10, 2002 

Here we are all together again this morning at St. John.  Do you ever wonder why you're really here?  Sure you do.  We wonder how coming here can really help us when we're out there in our real lives.  As we work at a job that we don't enjoy, as we take classes that have no connection to what we really want to do with our lives, as we live in relationships that are so difficult to hold together, we strain to understand how spending an precious hour here in the same old Bible readings, hymns, and liturgy can be any benefit.  How can this divine service help us with the stresses we must go and face tomorrow?

While we might think of these things as our real life, there is another reality near us that God invites us to experience.  Beyond the pressures of this life there exists a reality of beauty and majesty that far outweighs any difficulty we face before us.  This reality is the presence of God, which the Bible calls God's glory.

It was the glory of God that the three disciples saw that day when they stood upon the mountaintop.  They looked over at their friend Jesus, the teacher.  As they did they saw that his clothes began to glow bright white.  They looked at his face for a moment, the face they had seen a thousand times before.  Usually there was nothing special about it, but today they could only glance at it and blink because it was shining out at them as bright as the sun on a cloudless day.

Jesus told them this would happen.  He said that if they denied themselves, picked up their crosses and followed him, they would not be disappointed.  Six days later they witnessed this transfiguration.  The glory of God came down upon Jesus and for an instant they saw that glory of God, the same glory that will return when Jesus comes to us again.

This vision is important for us.  It is important because it reminds us of whose presence we are gathered around this morning.  Coming to church may seem a big waste of time to most people today.  We would be better entertained sleeping in, fishing (that's for P.E.) or playing golf (that's for the rest of you.) And they would be right, because church is not about entertainment.  It's about being in the presence of God.

We are here in the presence of God himself.  Jesus said where two or more of us are gathered together in his name, he will be with us there.  In this divine service we are gathered around Jesus.  Here his words are read and preached to us.  This is his table where he feeds us his body and blood.  It is his water that washes to prepare us to enter into the glory of God.

Many times as we sat in this sanctuary our minds have wandered away from Christ's presence.  What's on your mind today?  Washing the car?  Going to work tomorrow?  Where to take the family for lunch today?  We think of the places we could be right now, the golf course, the lake, or with that special someone we know.  But Peter's voice breaks through to us this morning, "Lord, it is good for us to be here."  It really is good to be here in the presence of God because God is so gracious.  We doubt if he's really here, but that doesn't stop him from being with us.  God's presence here doesn't depend on how much we believe he's here.  It rests on Christ's promise to always be with us through his word.  He sees that we are unworthy to be in his presence, and he does something about it.

People may say they find the glory of God on the golf course or the lake, but they don't find forgiveness there, just the God who created this wonderful world.  How frightening it would be to enter into the glory of this awesome God with the sins we carry.

Jesus gets his glory by cleansing us, forgiving us, and restoring us to our Heavenly Father.  To accomplish this, the glory of Jesus led him to the cross.  His glory was to be that sacrifice that would bring sinners like us back into God's presence and let us live there forever.  We don't see that out in nature; only in God's word.

Here in the means of grace, the word of God and the sacraments that flow from it, God is entering our world again.  He has given us a back stage pass to behold his glory.

When you feel the pressures of life, the job, the classroom, the kids yelling and screaming for your attention, remember that these scenes are only temporary.  Behind them is the majestic glory of the presence of God, which you have been invited into and experienced here in this hour of worship.

Oh yes, one day you will be invited into its full blown celebration at the throne of Christ, but for now this is it.  We only see the glory hidden here as we do today.

Peter the disciple, when he was an old man, looked back at his life.  He has seen many challenges and hardships along the way.  People hated him because he picked up his cross and followed his Lord.  That was something the tolerant world would not tolerate.  What inspired him to keep going was this vision of Jesus' true glory on the mountain.  It can keep you going as well.  Peter wrote: "We were eyewitness of his majesty.  When he received honor and glory from God the father and the voice was born to him by the majestic glory, ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,' we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain."  (2 Peter 1:17-18)

This scene stayed in Peter's heart and carried him on through his hard life until the day he was crucified upside down, and his soul was carried to Jesus' side.  It can carry you as well.  God has blessed us with the same glory Peter once saw.  For there is only one Jesus, the man full of the glory of God.  Jesus' glory was to save us.  This is the real scene we are in right now: people blessed with the glory of God.  As long as we have this picture in our hearts, we will endure any situation in this life, because we have seen what waits four us beyond.  It is good for us to be here.  Amen.

Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.

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