Summary: How do we respond to the presence of Christ Jesus?
Concordia Lutheran Church
Sunday of the Transfiguration, January 24, 2010
† IN HIS NAME †
May the knowledge that comes from God’s authoritative word reveal to you the benevolence of God the Father, shown to you in the life of Jesus Christ
Walking with God
As we have worshipped God this morning, the hymns and songs we have sung have taken very different approaches to looking at the dynamic of our being in the presence of God. We have travelled from the deep desire expressed in Shine Jesus Shine, where we plead for His presence and for Him to deliver us and pour out His mercy; to the realization that it is time to humbly bow and recognize His holiness; to the awesome power that of the great hymn HOLY HOLY HOLY, which leaves us nearly breathless as we consider His glory. We have done this with intent…
For which way is proper, to walk almost casually with Christ through life, as we acknowledge our need for Him to lift our spirits and fire up our passion? Or is it right that we humbly and quietly rejoice, almost intimately in His presence? Or should we just be in awe – and so aware of His incredible holiness that we, with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, and Isaiah, and the apostle John, tremble as we realize that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God?
Peter will help us consider these things, as we watch him interact with Jesus, on the mountain, and perhaps we will realize that the question of how we act, in the presence of God, in all His glory, is not the right question.
A Normal Day?
It’s a normal day in the Palestinian countryside. The disciples are walking with Jesus, and as seems to be a common practice, Jesus takes three of the disciples up a mountain alone, leaving nine to continue proclaiming that God does indeed reign.
I can imagine their trip – John and James, those competitive brothers trying to find who can ascend the more difficult path, and Peter, well being Peter. Probably saying things like, “hey Jesus – let’s try “that mountain,”” or, ”hey are you going to teach us how to move mountains today? I mean, you did say that if we had the faith of a mustard seed we could toss these mountains into the sea… can we try that – we won’t tell the other guys!”
Eventually they would reach the top of this high mountain, and perhaps a little out of breath, they gasp and wonder what is next…
And the glory of Christ is revealed in a way that requires a new word to describe it. He is transformed, He is transfigured to the point that even His dirty, dusty robes shine with white light. And incredibly, two of the greatest men in Israel’s history, long since departed this world to enter God’s rest, appear.
Peter springs into action, wanting to take charge, to organize the living arrangements, making plans without knowing how long they were going to stay there. If it had been today, he probably would have been on his cell phone to his wife Linda, asking her to plan and cook the huge dinner that was going to happen with all of Israel that night!
I think sometimes we get such attitudes. We have to be busy in the presence of God, we have to be doing something. We want Him here, so we can do something, something incredible, or even just something like making sure He can rest. We get so busy with our lives, and the ministry, that we rarely take a moment to stop and listen to God! Or to simply rest in His glory.
The Awe strikes
I love how scripture indicates what’s next. “He was still speaking when – BEHOLD,”. I picture this great big, huge cloud, ringed in gold, approaching from behind Peter as he is getting more and more animated… and then BOOOM – the voice blasts in a deep power-filled voice – THIS IS MY BELOVED SON – PETER BE QUIET ALREADY AND LISTEN TO HIM!!!!
The three disciples then do their best imitation of dirt, except their trembling fear sends ripples like earthquakes through the ground around them. The Father’s holiness, seen in Christ visibly, is now heard and their reaction is – o wait - this is the glory of God and we are….the sons of thunder, and Peter the man who constantly suffers from foot in mouth disorder. The kind of terror that is expressed as we realize we are sinners, we don’t deserve to be in the presence of God, what we deserve is His judgment.
There are some who would indicate that it is this mode – of near paralyzing awe and fear, that is the proper attitude to being found in the presence of God. And there is very often in my life, a need to take this kind of time – to realize that it is not all about serving and doing and working, but to look around at creation and listen to the God who created it. To realize His glory, and to contemplate the great glory of God, and to just be in awe… and to tremble when we consider that we are in His presence. TO grasp the concept of God’s holiness, and glory and power and might. And to realize that we are but sinners – but sinners in need of Him!