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"It is Good Lord to be Here"

Matthew 17:1-9

Rev. Alan Taylor

Transfiguration, series A
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Feb 23, 2020 

Transfiguration St. John, Galveston 2/23/2020

“It’s Good to Be Here”

Matthew 17:1-9

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Jesus “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. Arise, (He says) and do not be afraid.”

Let us pray…

“O Father, with the eternal Son

And Holy Spirit ever one,

We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace

To see Thy glory face to face.”

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

There is a tension in the Christian life between the promises have God that have been fulfilled and the promises that are yet to be fulfilled. Some say, we Christians live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet.” “You have died (the Scriptures tell us) and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” The old has died and the new has been created to love and to trust in Christ. You are “a royal priesthood, a holy people set apart for God’s own purpose.” You are heirs of the kingdom of heaven, and in the crucified and risen Christ, all of the promises of God are a resounding, and most definite “Yes.”

Still, your heart can’t be fully content until the day when the archangel shouts and the trumpet of God is heard and the dead in Christ are raised, for then you will see God in all of His glory.  As the Scriptures say, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Your sight is blurred because there is a “not yet” in God’s plan to bring you to your heavenly home. 

On the Mount of Transfiguration something amazing happens. Please note…I said something amazing happens, not happened. The events of Jesus’ life are not simply historic facts, although they are that. To speak of Jesus and His life only in a historic sense is to find ourselves groping for what we cannot have because of the chasm created between us and Him by time. We Christians need to learn to speak of the blessings of God, not as events relegated to the past, as if Christian preaching were about what happened yesterday, but as living realities whose blessings are conveyed to us in the here and now through the power of God’s word and the sacraments. 

Something amazing happens on the Mount of Transfiguration. The past and the future converge leaving a present reality that Peter simply does not want to leave behind. Moses and Elijah, two figures from the past, appear on the mountain as evidence that all of God’s promises given through the prophets are fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes.” Jesus is transfigured on the mountain and the Father, as evidenced by the Spirit’s voice, lays His hand of blessing on the life and ministry of His Dear Son, a life and ministry that is yet to be completed. “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (says the Father); listen to Him.” And immediately, Jesus gives His word to His disciples for the future, “Rise (He says), and have no fear.”

After the initial shock of finding himself in the nearer presence of the Triune God, Peter was ready to stay there on the mountain. In fact, he was ready to put up tents so that Moses and Elijah and Jesus would have a place to stay. What Peter experienced on that mountain that made him not want to leave was a glimpse into the glory of heaven where the past is fulfilled and the future is without care, without fear. He saw, if you will, a bit of the “not yet,” that we so long to see and experience. Without a doubt, Peter knew there was something different about being in the presence of the glorified Jesus. “Lord, it is good that we are here (he said).” The past and the future didn’t matter to Peter for, perhaps for the first time in his life, he was living in the present, in the glory and the radiance of the living God. 

Jesus speaks to you today through His word, to assure you that you too are empowered to live each day with the same assurance, with the same comfort and peace that Peter enjoyed on that mountaintop.  Essentially the message is this…the past is sanctified, that is, no matter how horrid it may appear, the past, your past is used by God to bring present and future blessings to you today.  And the future, those sometimes tumultuous and fearful looking days that lie ahead, are in the hands of the Lord, even those hands that were marred and pierced for your salvation. 

In his novel The Second Coming, Walker Percy asks a rather haunting question…“Is it possible (he says) for people to miss their lives in the same way one misses a plane?” He answers the question in the affirmative. He then goes on to describe such a life: “Not once in his entire life had he allowed himself to come to rest in the quiet center of himself but had forever cast himself forward from some dark past he could not remember to a future which did not exist. Not once had he been present for his life. So his life had passed like a dream.”

There is no question that the past can haunt you and the future can frighten you. As to the past, it might be atrocities that were inflicted on you. Certain questions emerge in your heart and mind. Where were you, God, when I was scarred, when the horrible past was emblazoned on my soul? And God says, “all things work together for good to those who love Me and have been called according to My purpose.” In other words, God says, I have and I will sanctify your past. I will use it to my glory and ultimately to your good. 

If it isn’t atrocities inflicted upon you, your past may well haunt you with sins, those atrocities that you committed before God and inflicted on others. It has been said before that, “the devil thirsts for the tears of the righteous,” perhaps especially for those tears generated by the memory of sins that still haunt and bind us. And yet, in the “now” of the sacred story, Jesus says, I have taken your sins from you and in return I have given you My righteousness. Though your sins were crimson, like blood, I have, by the flow of My own blood, made them whiter than snow. What sweeter words could the troubled soul hear than those words that we enjoy in the “now” of the sacred story…”I forgive you all of your sins!”

As to what you may perceive as a fearful future, full of unknowns and potential sorrows, the assuring words of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration are given to heighten your trust in Him and to calm your fears. “Arise, and do not be afraid.” Jesus’ command not to fear, an imperative, in this case, would be hollow, almost taunting, were it not for our Lord’s assurance that He has overcome the world, that He has overcome everything that threatens you and causes your heart to fear. Indeed, behind His call to “not fear,” is His promise to be with you to the very end of the age, that is, until the trumpet sounds and the voice of the archangel is heard shouting from heaven. 

Oftentimes preachers will lament about how foolish Peter was to want to stay on that mountaintop. Foolish!? I don’t think so!!  What man, or, woman, after all, having seen the radiance and the glory of God, would want to return to the state of the “not yet,” where the sacred story is still unfolding?

Here you are though, still living in that tension between the “now” and the “not yet.” You see the glory of Christ only dimly, as in a mirror, and yet, He is most definitely yours because He has made you His own. Through God’s Word, and through the gracious and unimaginable power of His sacraments you have been taken up to the mountain to live a new life as a “holy priesthood” in God’s presence, even in His favor. Indeed, “you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

It is good for us to be here on this mountain today, in the midst of these blessings that Jesus so desires to lavish upon us. “This is My body, this is My blood, given and shed for you.” The chasm left by time is bridged as you kneel in the presence of the Lord of glory who bought you with a price.  And even now, in the “not yet,” you sing with angels and with archangels and with all of the company of heaven…

“Holy, holy, holy Lord

God of pow’r and might:

Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Indeed, it is good Lord to be here. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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