Sermon for the Last Sunday after Epiphany
|Text: Luke 9:35
A voice said from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen—listen to him!”
In a very catchy song called “Pray
for you” (Jaron Lowenstein 2009) the lyrics go like this,
I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do
He said you can't go hating others who have done wrong to you
Sometimes we get angry but we must not condemn
Let the good Lord do his job and you just pray for them (pause).
“I pray your brakes go out running down a hill.
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill,
And knocks you in the head like I’d like to …
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls” and so the song goes on praying for all kinds of bad things to happen.
Needless to say even though the song has great music, I don’t like it. The song misses the whole connection between God and faith and prayer and how we treat others even if we don’t like them (in this case it seems to be a girl who has dumped the singer). I don’t know what his religious background is but he’s got it all wrong.
Missing the point is a common theme throughout the gospels as we observe the disciples coming to terms with who Jesus is. Often it’s Peter who is in the limelight because he’s the one who’s not afraid to speak up. He often blurts out stuff without thinking it through first and so he stands out when he makes a blunder and gets it all wrong. When Jesus speaks of his arrest and suffering and death at the hands of evil people and then also of his resurrection, Peter not only misses the point about what Jesus is saying but also tells Jesus off for speaking like this. In fact, all the disciples miss the point of what Jesus had been saying about his death and resurrection. This was clear when those events actually happened and they became lost, afraid, confused, and despondent and forgot all about what Jesus had said about him rising to life after 3 days.
Hadn’t Jesus been telling them that this would happen and that he would rise? Didn’t Jesus say the day Peter rebuked him, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again?”
It’s easy from our point of view to say, “How dumb can you be! What could be clearer than that? You’d have to be a bit thick to miss the point.”
But they did! We weren’t there at that time and so we don’t know whether we would have done anything differently.
Today we have one of those events in Jesus’ life when the disciples missed the point but the gospel writer includes the event in his account of Jesus’ life to ensure that future generations can learn from it. Dotted throughout Jesus’ ministry there are those moments when statements are made that make it quite clear who Jesus is. This is one of them. Jesus’ appearance changes and Moses and Elijah mysteriously appear and chat with Jesus about the events that will soon happen when Jesus goes to Jerusalem.
Peter is overawed with the moment and sticks his foot in his mouth again. He wants Moses and Elijah to stay on and they can all have chin wag. He has missed the point of their appearance. A cloud covers them and a voice speaks, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen – listen to him!” Peter is left in no doubt what is the main thing here. This is not about Peter boiling a billy and enjoying this glorious moment. This is not about prophets from the past. This is not about just a man, a rabbi, a teacher. “This is my Son”, the Father declares. This is about the great “I AM” who is about to walk the road to Calvary.
These same words were spoken at Jesus’ baptism when he was starting his 3 year ministry. There was a rough road ahead with a lot of opposition not only human but also satanic. There will be a lot of people from the highest authorities to his closest inner circle who will misunderstand him. There will be times when he will feel terribly alone and totally abandoned. “This is my Son, my own dear Son”, the Father declares, as an encouragement to Jesus and to everyone else that the man with Jordan River water running down his face is also divine – he is God – the great I AM – on earth.
We have other instances when people keep us focused so we don’t miss the point. Out in a boat after a storm died down, the disciples worship Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33).
There is an instance when Peter gets it right for once and confesses to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:14).
Then there was the centurion and the soldiers who had crucified Jesus. As they stood guard at the cross they made statement, “This man really was God's Son!” (Matt 27:54).
The Gospel account of Jesus’ life is full of questions about who Jesus is and by what authority does he do the things he does,. We have people puzzled over him, attacking him, hating him. But the writers always bring us back to the main thing so that we don’t miss the point. It was made clear at the Transfiguration, “This is my Son”. That’s what the disciples needed to hear that day and that’s what we need to hear. Don’t miss the point. Jesus is the main point.
You might object and say, “But pastor, that is so basic even a bit childish. Jesus is the main thing – the centre of all that we do as Christians. A Grade One child can tell us that. We need just a little bit more than that.”
And if I was where you are I would agree but when I think about it a bit more deeply, it’s just when we think that we have our Christian faith all sorted out and down pat that we find out that we start to miss the point. We do that personally as well as collectively as the church.
For instance, in the church we can get so involved in side issues like finances, buildings, music styles and worship formats, administrative issues, who is on what roster – they are all important and needed, but we are missing the point. They are not the main thing – Jesus is.
We can fuss over doctrinal details and these are important too but to use so much energy to the point of distraction is to miss the point. Our teachings are important because they lead us to see that to put doctrine or welfare issues or justice causes above Jesus is to miss the point. We need to listen to him, speak to him, live with him, worship him and when we focus on him everything else will stay in perspective. With our focus on him we will seek correct teaching, look for ways of helping people and pursue ways to speak up for those who have no voice.
When Jesus is the centre and focus of the church it’s easier to work together. We are people who are united together by Jesus and with Jesus, and our common goal is to do things that will bring glory, not to us as individuals or to our congregation, but to Jesus.
I don’t really have to say how easy it is for us as individuals to miss the point when Jesus is no longer the main focus of what we say and do. Distraction is Satan’s weapon of choice when it comes to moving our focus away from Jesus to something that appears to be far more interesting and enticing but with only temporary value. He will use our senses, our desires, our will, our sense of what is right and wrong, anyway he can, to miss the point without us even realising it and make everything else the main thing and not Jesus Christ. We love our sport, our kids, our hobbies, our spare time – you can add whatever it is that you treasure the most – they are not the focus and centre of our lives. They are not the main thing; Jesus is.
On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were given the special reminder straight from God himself, “This is my Son”. Soon they too would face all kinds of hardships and distractions and those words would not only keep them focussed but would also encourage them to stay strong because the Jesus they served was no less than God himself. He would take care of them and help them whatever they faced.
The Second Letter of Peter was written near the end of his life and Peter recalls the events of that day and the words, “This is my Son” quite clearly as if they had happened just the day before – powerful divine words that he could focus on as he approached his own death at the hands of the Roman Emperor.
One of the reasons we come together on Sundays is to help us to stay
focussed on Jesus.
That’s why we have devotions, read our bibles, pray, attend home groups – so we keep Jesus at the centre and not miss the point.
That’s why we have pastors, teachers, leaders and each other to keep one another on track and Jesus in the middle.
That’s what happens at our school – it provides an opportunity for people to discover that Jesus has so much to offer when he is in the middle of their lives. We don’t want anyone to miss the point – Jesus is their loving Saviour.
Today we have visited the mountain with Jesus and his disciples so that we might see his glory and hear again those words from the Father, “This is my Son”. The text has one more interesting thing to add and it goes like this, “When the voice stopped, there was Jesus all alone”. Peter had wanted more time with Elijah and Moses but in the end his focus was drawn only to Jesus. That was all that mattered. That must have been a powerful moment for him.
The question that challenges every one of us is this: Is Jesus the main thing in my life or have I missed the point?
Just as God’s grace gave Peter so many second chances when he kept on missing the point, even on the Mount of Transfiguration, may God's grace renew and strengthen each of us as we are distracted, side-tracked and miss the point again and again. May God's grace give us the vision that Jesus and only Jesus is the only thing that counts.
© Pastor Vince
10th February 2013