Sermon for Last Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration)

 

Text: Luke 9:28-29
Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.

“This is my son”       

Have you ever had a “Wow” moment? I’m sure you have. It’s a moment when you’re left speechless, your senses tingle with delight, you can hardly believe this moment is happening.  You can only express what you are feeling with a simple “Wow”, a sigh or something similar.

When holding a new baby in our arms, we marvel at this miracle of new life with an admiring “Wow” and wonder what this little person will bring into our lives.
As we gasp at a beautiful sunset, snow-capped mountains, the intricacies of a small flower our response is a simple “wow”.

Peter, James and John had a jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, wow moment the day they went up on a mountain to pray with Jesus. The appearance of Jesus’ face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. And to add to that, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. This brilliant glowing that surrounded Jesus and shone from his face and clothes indicates Jesus heavenly glory.  The disciples are standing in the presence of God himself and were experiencing a unique and glorious revelation of who Jesus was – he was God – he was the divine – sent to earth.

It’s no wonder the disciples want to hang on to this and continue the divine encounter by offering to build three shelters and enjoy this wonderful experience even more. But the continuation of this divine event isn’t necessary. They have seen the divine glory of Jesus. 

We are told that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about his “departure” to complete his work of salvation in Jerusalem.  The word “departure” is the same as the Old Testament word “exodus”.  Just as Moses led the people from slavery to freedom and life in the promised land, Jesus will free all people from slavery to sin to freedom and eternal life. 

Moses and Elijah, men who had both been overwhelmed, depressed, lonely and ready to quit the tasks that God had given them and yet God didn’t give up on them.  They were able to be successful because of God’s strength and faithfulness. 

Think of Elijah afraid and running for his life from King Ahab. Resting under a broom tree, he prays that God would end his life.  He is depressed and downhearted believing that he is the only one left who believes in God. But God doesn’t give up on Elijah and encourages and restores him (read 1 Kings 19).  Moses and Elijah are the perfect people to talk with Jesus, to encourage him, to guide him, before he walks toward the horrors he knows will happen in Jerusalem.

But there is more. A voice speaks from heaven.  “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to him”.  “This is my Son whom I love, my chosen one”.  These are words of endearment, love, affirmation, parental support.  Jesus hears these words and knows that no matter what happens as he carries out this special task, he is the Father’s beloved Son.  Nothing can change that.  This bond of love can’t be broken.  It’s as if God the Father is putting his arm around his stressing son saying, “You are my own dear Son and nothing can change that. I am with you all the way”

Jesus and the disciples go down from the mountain and they are met by a man who says to Jesus, “I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child (Luke 9:38)”. In short, “This is my only Son”.  Is this just a coincidence that we meet another only son?

This boy is in deep trouble.  He is powerless in the face of overwhelming convulsions that throw him around screaming and foaming at the mouth  leaving him exhausted.  This sickness is outside of his control.  The events that take over his life are not of his own making.  The boy’s father must have been terrified as he watched his son overcome with this sickness.  No-one can stop these events – not even the disciples.  All the boy has in his favour is a loving father to watch over him. 

Doesn’t this sound all too familiar of another only Son, Jesus, who is in such deep trouble that is taking control of his life. It’s the kind of trouble that Jesus can’t control.  One thing he has in his favour is this – the assurance of his Father at his baptism and on the mountain top, “This is my only Son, my beloved Son, whom I have chosen.”

There is a theme here. At our baptism and every day since our heavenly says to us “You are my beloved child. You are my son or daughter whom I have chosen.” It’s at those moments when we are in the valleys of life, like that father and his son in the gospel reading, when we get hit for a six and tragedy, sickness, or grief knock the wind out of us and we start to say,  
“That isn’t fair”,
“We don’t deserve this”,
we appreciate the words of our Father the most, “You are my beloved child”. Those words express to us healing, hope, confidence, strength and the love of our God that goes beyond any human understanding. 

“You are my beloved child”.  Put your own name at the front of that and bask in the beauty of that phrase – “____ you are my beloved child”. 

You see that’s a magnificent statement – we are talking about God who is all together opposite, perfect, holy, godly, the creator who made us to be in his image saying to us – imperfect, sinful, mortals – that we are his dearly loved children.  We struggle in the valleys trying to determine right from wrong and often getting it wrong. We deal with success and failure, doubt and worry, with believing in ourselves or dealing with an unfair criticism, with sickness, the breakdown of a relationship or grief. 

We don’t ask for any of this.  Often these things just land in our laps and we have to deal with them the best way can.  Whatever happens these are the struggles we face in this life.  In the face of his troubles Elijah said, “I’ve had enough. I want to die”.   

In all of this God seems to be so far away from what is happening in our lives, amazingly he is close by reassuring us, “You are my own dear child”. He will keep on saying that until we grasp that in faith and trust his goodness and love to get us through.  He will keep on saying “You are my own dear child” until we can look at our problems with boldness and confidence knowing that we are being held firmly in the hand of a loving God. And one day he will say to us when we have drawn our last breath and our last day has come, “You are my own dear child welcome to your eternal home”.

In the meantime, while we are here in this life he says to us, “Be my child” to the world. Be my love to those who need love, be my mercy to those who need mercy, be my healer to those who need healing, be my provider to those who need food, shelter, and clothing.  Be my grace to those who need forgiveness, kindness, compassion and care. “Be my loving child” in a world that is needing love and warmth.  This is not going to be easy but “be my child”.

This week we begin Lent and as we progress through the Lenten season we witness again the suffering of our Lord; we hear again that it is in our suffering and hurting and dying that we find the love of God. Like Moses and Elijah and even Jesus, we may think we are at the end of our tether and there is only darkness ahead, but in the end, we are never alone and we are given strength to endure.  We have a suffering Saviour who knows firsthand what we go through and holds our hand when there is no other hand to hold on to.

An example of what of what I’ve been talking about.
“Over the last ten years our lives have hovered somewhere between tiresome and sheer hell”, said Kay.  “One of our children was born with a congenital heart defect.  Our business collapsed.  We lost our home and soon after getting another one it was burnt down by an arsonist.  I landed what I thought was a dream job until I was assaulted by my boss and the administration tried to keep it quiet.  I had a breakdown and was sick for three years.  Finally, I’ve been able to put this behind me by winning a case in court.  Then my husband Tom was helping a friend and sustained permanent injuries”. 

Those listening to her story were feeling her pain and anguish when they were taken by surprise at her next statement. 

She said, “On my worst, crabbiest days I can tell you hundreds of things that I have learnt about my fragile self and other people and especially how God has used all this to teach me things.  I have learnt that I am fallible and weak.  I have learnt who my friends are and how generous they are.  I have learnt to accept their kindness and to accept help from strangers and that not everyone in the world is out to get me.  But best of all, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that when there really is no room left in your heart for hope, it is still there because Jesus is holding it for you and you will rise above it all”.

Can you see that from the bottom of the valley this person has been raised to new heights?  All the old problems are still there, but her complete despair of ever coping has led her to the One who can cope, to the One who gives hope, to the One who lifts us above our circumstances and allows us to say with Paul, “Whether I’m full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little, I am content.  I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me” (Philippians 4:12-13).

“You are my own dear child”.  As we listen to these words, God changes our sorrows into joy, our despair into hope to the point that he is the only one we can see.  Yes, all these things are happening around us and to us but it is Jesus who holds us close and only Jesus who gives us hope.

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
27th February 2022
E-mail: sermonsonthenet@outlook.com

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