Trinity News and Sermons

2/15/15 Sermon Bullets

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Beloved. This is a word the gospel writer of Mark uses in several places to describe the way our heavenly Father relates to Jesus.
• In today’s lesson, the voice from the cloud tells Peter, James and John: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
• At Jesus’ baptism at the beginning of Mark, Jesus hears his Father say to him: “You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you.”
• Beloved. Who do you call the beloved? What kind of relationship exists when one calls another “my beloved”?
• Here we are this weekend at the confluence of three celebrations: Valentine’s Day, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, and the national holiday known as Presidents’ Day.
• For those in relationships, you may well know who your beloved is: the one who gets your heart racing; the one you like to wake up next to each day – whose face is a welcome sight after a very hard day at work. Your beloved is the one who, even though she or he gets on your last nerve sometimes, you want to spend your life growing old with.
• Though historians tell us that their contemporaries had VERY different views of the two American presidents whose birthdays we celebrate tomorrow, at least for most of us George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are truly beloved presidents. Washington was so popular as the General who brought independence, that he was chosen as the presiding officer for the Constitutional convention that brought our form of government. When the country was choosing our first president – there was no one else but Washington to be chosen. It was obvious.
• Peter Stone, in his wonderful musical 1776 has John Adams, who is a bit jealous of the popularity of others, say: “The whole history of this Revolution will be a lie, from beginning to end.” He knew that Benjamin Franklin and George Washington would become figures of legend, and that the histories would say “Franklin did this, Franklin did that, Franklin did some other damned thing. . . . Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, full grown and on his horse. . . . Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them–Franklin, Washington, and the horse–conducted the entire Revolution by themselves.” (Apparently these words actually come from Adams private papers!)
• Many of our traditions come from the way Washington conducted himself in office: from serving only two terms to being addressed as “Mr. President”. Certainly George Washington is beloved.
• Abraham Lincoln is beloved by this country as well, being known as The Preserver of the Union. Bringing about the freedom of the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation and working toward restoring the southern states back to the United States of America, Lincoln, with his folksy manner but deep words spoke the heart of the matter. His famous Gettysburg address – which was rather short after very lengthy speeches by others, rests in the hearts of all Americans – “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
• It is said that his desire for unity after the war was filled with a desire for forgiveness. Who knows how we would have developed as a nation had he not been killed? Abraham Lincoln is beloved.
• With Jesus at the Transfiguration appear two other beloved of God the Father: Moses, the Law Giver who knew God in such an intimate way. Deuteronomy 34 states: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Moses was beloved and secure enough in his relationship before God that, when the children of Israel complained over and over again in the desert- he boldly represented them before the Father.
• Father Romano Guardini states: “The story of the forty years’ wandering through the desert is the story of a never-ending struggle, not only with the hardships of nature and the assaults of hostile tribes, but also with the apathy and stubbornness of those Moses was leading. At first the people are enthusiastic, but soon discouraged. They bind themselves with sacred vows, only to forget everything when it comes to the test. They start everything well, but see nothing through, and the moment they meet with difficulties, the experience of God’s great and terrible signs is completely forgotten. (the Plagues in Egypt; the Parting of the Red Sea; the chariots of Pharaoh drowning with the soldiers, etc). The record of the march to the Promised Land is the story of the desperately heavy struggle of a powerful, God-fearing will with the crushing burden of humanity. Moses had to carry the entire nation on his shoulders. He was, necessarily, the most patient of men.
• This then the man who appeared to Christ, to him who was to carry the cross of his people to the bitter end; Moses too they had failed to follow, in the flesh, into the new land of free divine dominion. Yet another leader had to die ‘on the mountaintop’ (this one for our sins, not his own) before the promised Country could become reality.”
• Moses is beloved of God.
• Elijah too, had a special relationship with God. Father Guardini says: “It is not too much to call him the mightiest of the prophets. Not as a speaker; there is no record of exalted or path-blazing word from his lips. He left no book; hardly a sentence that in itself is anything out of the ordinary. Nor did he have any remarkable visions or revelations. Yet no other prophet looms as huge against the bottomless depths of divine mystery as Elijah; nowhere in the whole history of prophecy do we find an existence of such huge proportions.
• During Ahab’s reign, darkness covered the land, the darkness of hell. It was against this dark that Elijah had been sent. He never was able to proclaim the tidings of the coming kingdom; he had to fight to the end against a wall of blackness, hardened disbelief; against the violence, blasphemy and bloodthirstiness that stalked through the land, Elijah’s life is one titanic struggle against the powers of evil. The spirit of the Lord seethes in him, lifting him high above the human plane, spanning his strength far beyond the human breaking point.”
• One might remember that famous confrontation on Mount Carmel where he slew the prophets of the Baal, followed by running for his life for the Queen was furious that Elijah had not only destroyed the false prophets but shown their religion to be false. He tells God to take his life, for “I am the last who believes you and there is no other. It is enough.”
• God comes to Elijah, not in whirlwind, earthquake or fire, but in a sheer silence and a still small voice to encourage and challenge him to continue his ministry – assuring Elijah that there are others who still believe in the One True God.
• Surely Elijah is beloved of God.
• So there are three beloved ones of the heavenly Father: Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The disciples see them, but do not comprehend what is transpiring before their eyes: the embodiment of the Law and the Prophets appear with Jesus to show that he is the fulfillment of what they represent.
• In speaking of the death and resurrection of Jesus, St. Paul says in Romans 3: “But now the righteousness of God has been made known apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.”
• If we look at this Transfiguration story in its context, just prior, Jesus having asked who the disciples believe he is and hearing from Peter that “You are the Christ!”; Jesus speaks about his suffering, death and resurrection. He then says that if anyone wants to follow him, they too must be ready to take up the cross and follow.
• This commentary and teaching is just as confusing to the disciples as the Transfiguration is to three of them. What is this all about? How can the Christ, the Anointed One, the Long Awaited Messiah die? That is not what we expect. That is not what we have been awaiting these many years. (Jesus even tells Peter, James and John to say nothing of what they witnesses on the mountain of Transfiguration until he had risen from the dead.)
• Mark is teaching us what it means to be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets; what it means to be the Son of man; what it means to be beloved of God the Father.
• Jesus hears from the Father that he is beloved. The disciples hear the voice of God from the cloud that Jesus is beloved.
• And finally, the Centurion on duty at the death of Jesus on the Cross who witnessed all that happened that afternoon says: Truly this man was the Son of God!
• This then, is what it means to be truly beloved. To be ready to endure hardship, misunderstanding, to call a people back to a correct relationship with the Father, to forgive sins, yes, even to die on behalf of your own beloved.
• Remember Jesus’ words from John’s gospel? “This is my commandment: Love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends . . .”
• This beloved of the Father, this fulfiller of the Law and the Prophets, this One to whom we are to listen because the Father commands us to – is not only beloved, but by dying for our sin, MAKES US BECOME BELOVED OF THE FATHER!
• Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, we have the same standing of Moses, Elijah and yes, Jesus himself: We are loved, unconditionally by God.
• What kind of relationship exists when One calls another beloved?
• One filled with hope. One filled with joy. One filled with sacrifice. And one filled with peace.
• Rejoice my sisters and brothers. Because of Jesus Christ, YOU are truly beloved of God!