Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sermon: Transfiguration - 2011 and Baptism of Eric Edrington

13 February 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 17:1-9

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

In His mission to rescue us “poor miserable sinners” from destruction, death, and the devil, our Lord came into our sinful world with His unspeakable glory hidden under a fleshly veil. He came as a tiny infant. He lived in a simple family. He grew in stature and wisdom. He preached and taught. He called people to repentance and forgave their iniquities. He healed their infirmities, cast out their demons, and raised people from the dead.

He called disciples, taught them to pray, proclaimed the Gospel to them, and gave them the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood. He ordained the apostles into the preaching ministry to draw men into the nets of salvation, dying on the cross and rising from the empty tomb.

And yet, Jesus kept the full measure of His glory under wraps, only revealing who He is by little glimpses at a time.

One of those apostles, those fishers of men in the preaching ministry, St. Peter, had the reality of who Jesus is, revealed to him “not by flesh and blood.” Six days before the Lord’s transfiguration on the mountain, Peter confessed with his mouth what was revealed to him in His heart: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And six days after this earth-shattering confession that the New World was being wrought in the transformative work of the Creator God, in the Redemption of God the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, six days after this eruption of faith by the one whom our Lord would nickname “the rock,” – six days later, the same amount of time that the Lord took to create the heavens and the earth, the Lord Jesus raises the veil some more: for Peter, James and John. Heaven was to come to earth for a longer glimpse. That which was normally veiled was to shine uninhibited like the sun, white as light, transfigured and changed in form, the curtain peeled back to reveal and confirm St. Peter’s confession (which is the Church’s confession) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!

This is the confession that Jesus is who He Himself says He is. He is as human as any of us here, and He is divine even as His Father is God. And His mighty power is not wielded in wrath, but graced in love. He has come in dazzling array not to frighten, but to bring peace. And in their confusion and terror, the veil was replaced, they were comforted, and “they saw no-one but Jesus only.”

This was no fantastical story, a “cleverly devised myth,” or an optical illusion. Three men – two of whom would later die as followers of Jesus confessing this reality until their dying breath – experienced this lifting of the veil together. And the Holy Spirit has caused a word to be used, “overshadowed” – a word that is only used in Scripture to indicate the presence and the power of God.

Dear friends, even as the meek and mild imagery of the Christ child comforts us with the confession that God condescends to our level, wraps Himself in our flesh, joins us in the depths of our sinful world, we can also take comfort that this is no ordinary baby, no typical adolescent who debates with His elders, no mere magician who turns water into wine, not just a healer of diseases and caster out of demons, no mere prophet or preacher – but this is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the one whose power and might chases the demons away, transforms the very particles of the matter of the universe, and who fulfills the Old Testament promises of both the Law and the Prophets.

For Jesus does what the Law cannot do.

The Law cannot save, but can only accuse. The transformative might and compassionate redemption of Jesus melt our sin and guilt away and change our hearts like the beams of the sun irresistibly turn the hardness of ice into the softness of water.

Jesus does what the Prophets cannot do.

The Prophets cannot save, but can only point to the One who can. Like St. Peter, the Church, like a rock, confesses Him who is the true Stone, the One the builders rejected who has become the Cornerstone. And He is the founding stone upon which the new heavens and the new earth are hewn and edified, even calling us imperfect pebbles to be transformed into the living stones of a new and greater temple!

Dear brothers and sisters, take comfort in the hidden power of God, for Jesus hides His power that we might experience Him as one of us, a fleshly man who traverses the same highways and byways that we do. He hides His power under the misery of the cross (the same cross that saves us) and under the humility of baptism (the same humble water and word that saves us, that has drawn Eric into the Lord’s mighty transformative power along with Christians of every time and place).

For we worship a God who is both a helpless child in the manger and a bombastic vision of energy glowing like the sun. His power is not used for destruction or for revenge for what we have done to the Lord’s good creation, but rather His might and glory are used for redemption and for forgiveness of what we have done to the Lord’s good creation.

Jesus has come to make all things new, to restore goodness to that which has become corrupted, to wash away sin and death, to drown the Old Adam in the watery grave of baptism, and to give all of us a little glimpse under the veil of the Lord’s might – which is His mercy.

“Lord, it is good that we are here” we join St. Peter in saying. The presence of God is good. By His grace, His presence restores us, refreshes us, forgives us, makes us new, and energizes us with the very restorative power of God. And the Lord encourages us: “Rise and have no fear.” For we have been absolved of our guilt and we are being remade into what our Creator has meant us to be all along. He is powerful and He is in charge.

And this transformation is accomplished for us, dear friends, in the same was as it was for Peter, James, and John: as we shun the false glitter of the world and look to where real power and real mercy originate, seeing “Jesus only.” For the Father proclaims: “This is My beloved Son… listen to Him.” He has good news for us today and forevermore!

The peace of our transfigured mighty God and merciful Savior shine upon you as the very light of Christ, now and unto eternity. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Theophilus said...

With all due respect, you continue to present Jesus to us as Institutional Christianity's orthodox pope, with a striking resemblance to the pope of Rome. Are you aware of this?

Your Jesus is very different from the Jesus I know from the four Gospels, a humble proclaimer of the covenant/gospel from above, whose message continues to make broken lives new and whole today.

Respectfully submitted,

A "Follower of the Way"