Listen To Him!

Transfiguration of Our Lord (Year C), February 10, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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Our mesage begins with listening to this Christian song about God’s pure light.

“In The Light” by DC Talk

I keep trying to find a life on my own; apart from you I am the king of excuses.  I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do; what’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior.  This only serves to confirm my suspicions that I’m still a man in need of a savior.

(chorus)

I wanna be in the light

As you are in the light.  I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens.  Oh, lord be my light and be my salvation, cause all I want is to be in the light.  All I want is to be in the light.

The disease of self runs through my blood.  It’s a cancer fatal to my soul; every attempt on my behalf has failed to bring this sickness under control.  Tell me, what’s going on inside of me?  I despise my own behavior; this only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I’m still a man in need of a savior.

(repeat chorus)

Honesty becomes me [there’s nothing left to lose] The secrets that did run me [in your presence are defused] Pride has no position [and riches have no worth]The fame that once did cover me [has been sentenced to this earth] Has been sentenced to this earth.  Tell me, what’s going on inside of me?  I despise my own behavior this only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I’m still a man in need of a savior.

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”” [Luke 9:35]

The song we just heard is called “In the Light” by a Christian group named DC Talk.  Maybe you’ve found yourself relating to the words?  Maybe you too keep trying to find a life on your own; a life that you feel will bring you joy, but no matter how hard you try to do it your way, happiness is always just out of reach.  Maybe like the song you are ready to admit that what is really going on inside of you, is your own selfish desire; a self-pleasing desire.

Maybe, you can see that your disease of self-worship is imbedded into your very DNA; it runs through your blood like a cancer, and it is fatal to your soul, which is your eternal life?  If so, you are in good company.  You are in the company of the likes of Moses, St. Peter and St. Paul.

St. Paul lamented, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” [Romans 7:15-20 ESV]

And then in our Old Testament lesson, we see Moses; poor Moses.  So close, and yet so far.  He was the one God had chosen to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt, and into a land flowing with milk and honey.  It was Moses that God gave great wisdom; perhaps short of Jesus, the greatest prophet who had ever spoken the Word of God, and the reason was that God spoke with Moses not in dreams, but face to face.  Moses was the only man who had seen God and did not die!  And now, after 40 years of wandering in the desert because of the sin of the very people he was leading, Moses himself in anger with those people, sinned against God.  There they were, just out side of the Promised Land, ready to enter, and God told Moses, “Not so fast.  You will not be going with them.  I will let you go up on the Mountain and look at the place, but you will not be leaving with them; you have a date with me.  You will die on this mountain and they will go on without you.”

Why?  Why would God do this to poor Moses?  Because, as I said, Moses sinned against God, and God can not tolerate sin.  Moses knew that His anger was displeasing to God, and yet he allowed it to get the better of him.  When God told Moses to draw water from the rock by striking it with his staff in order to silence the sinful and grumbling Hebrews, Moses did more than strike it; he beat that old rock with his staff out of anger.  It was anger that Moses would not confess and give to God that caused Him to sin!

What is it that is interfering with your relationship with God?  What are the secrets that you are hiding that are running and ruining your life?  Do you want to know what is going on inside of you and why you see very little change?  It is because you are not allowing the light of God to enter your heart and deal with what you think is a secret sin.  Here is a newsflash for you… it’s not a secret to God.  He already sees it; He’s known about it forever… He just wants you to acknowledge it and let Him remove it!

In our gospel reading (Luke 9:28–36) we see God demonstrating this spiritual truth to Peter, in a miraculous and mysterious way.  We see the hope of the Hebrews, of Moses, the hope of the Church, and even your hope displayed in a way that should give comfort, strength, and encouragement, so that we can keep on trusting in God’s forgiving presence and work in our lives.

What is it that we see on that mountaintop?  Yes, we see Jesus; we see Him praying.  And with Him are John, James, and Peter.  Now before we move onto the miraculous, let’s not lose sight of the ordinary; let’s look at Peter for just a moment, so that we might also see ourselves.  Who is Peter?  Is he someone extraordinary that God chose to be an even greater man for Jesus?  No; this is Peter the impetuous; Peter the hothead; Peter the self-centered sinner, who dared to tell Jesus that He must not go to Jerusalem if the people there were planing on killing Him on a cross.  And what did Jesus say to this worldly wisdom?  “He said get behind me Satan!”  Do you see, Jesus equivocated Peter’s self-centered sin as equal to the sin of Satan, who was forever cast out of heaven and eternally separated from the love of God!  Yes, this is Peter, the same man who would soon enough not only abandon Jesus but swear three times that He never even met Him!

And why was Peter there on that mountaintop?  For the same reason you are… to witness and to hear God’s redeeming work in a miraculous and mysterious way.  “And as (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.  And behold, two men were talking with (Jesus), Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” [Luke 9:29-31]  What departure?  Why His death upon the cross!  That was necessary, because it was the will of God that the Son of God must complete all of the work that was placed upon Him in His baptism, there in the waters of the Jordan river.  What work?  To fulfill all righteousness!

And before we can ask what it means to fulfill all righteousness, good old Peter opens His mouth again: “And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.””  There He goes again; speaking when He should be worshiping; thinking of himself when He should be hearing what God is speaking.  Listen to what happens and is said next, and see if you understand what I mean: “As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” [Luke 9:34-36]

If you can see Peter’s problem, perhaps you can also see your own.  Peter was speaking and thinking when He should have been watching and listening.  He was wanting to work when God wanted Him to worship.  Instead of having the spirit of a servant He had the spirit of an organizer.  Instead of saying “Speak oh Lord, for your servant is listening” he was saying, “Listen, Oh Lord, for I am speaking.”

There in front of Peter was the Son of God, in all of His heavenly glory.  Somehow, for just those few moments, Peter, James, and John were no longer on the mountaintop, but in a place where heaven and earth meet, and Peter missed it.  He missed the bright light of God’s glory, and He missed the truth that Moses and Elijah were there to hear Jesus speak to them.

Moses and Elijah; two ordinary men that did extraordinary things for God were not dead but there speaking with their Master.  Peter should have been willing to allow God to teach him; he should have called out for wisdom and asked Jesus to teach him what God was doing, but instead He wanted to tell God what He would do.

So what is the solution to Moses sin; to Peter’s sin, and to our own sin?  We must listen to Jesus.  We must hear the very Word of God and let it change us.  We must allow God’s glory to blind us in the perfection of His law; allow it to bring great fear into our hearts and then allow it to be replaced with only Jesus.

“This is my Son, my Chosen One; your Savior.  He is the one who was baptized into your sins; into the death that you should die.  He is the one who took your place upon the cross and died in your stead.  Listen to Him!  Hear Him and allow Him to bring forgiveness into your life and then allow Him to change you from the inside out.  Know that just as Moses did not see his reward in an earthly Zion, he did enter his eternal Zion, and so shall you. Know that just as Peter continually displayed a sinful self-centered way of looking at the world, eventually he understood the meaning of the mountaintop experience, and so shall you when you come into my glory forever!”

Dear friends, there is a time to speak and a time to listen.  In the church, during Divine Service we start with this very pattern.  In the beginning, at the very start of our worship, we begin by speaking to God; being honest with Him in our confession of sins.  But after this is done, it is time to listen; time to hear and receive wisdom from above.  That wisdom is the truth that through Christ, God has taken away not just your sin but the result of those sins.  This is the light of God’s glory; it is the light of His Son Jesus Christ.  It is why you are here; it is the very message that you must hear, so that it can change you.  You must not leave this mountaintop we call church until you see this light; until you see Jesus for who He really is.

But soon, you must leave this mountaintop we call Divine Service; you must allow the light and the glory to fade so that you will continue to hear the voice of God in His Word echo in your heart, “This is my Son.  Listen to Him.”  You must open your eyes and lift your head that is bowed in worship and see only Jesus.  See Him as He leads you out into a world of darkness; a world of sin.  And as He leads you, He alone will be your source of truth and your source of light.  He alone calls you to follow Him under the cross of disappointment and agony, and then speak His message of hope to others who are also lost within themselves.

It is a message that can only be received in the light of God’s Word.  You are forgiven and there is hope there at the mountaintop; there in Christ’s church, where His Word and Sacraments become your source of strength and your promise of entering the Promised Land, your heavenly Zion.

It is a message that walks down from the mountain top with Jesus, and then watches as He climbs another hill alone; the hill of Calvary… Golgotha, where he alone makes us right by taking away our sins through His mighty passion upon the cross.  This is how Jesus fulfills all righteousness; this is how He makes you right with God!

May God continue to help us to listen to, worship, and experience our Transfigured Lord this coming season of Lent and forever.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

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