Posts Tagged ‘Transfiguration of our Lord’

Christ Alone

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

Transfiguration Sunday
March 3, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” (Luke 9:36a)

When I was a boy, I use to think that Lent was, well… depressing!  I dreaded going to Wednesday evening services.  Advent on the other hand was exciting… Christmas and all of the presents were just around the corner.  I wanted the high points of Advent and Christmas worship, the mountaintop experience, not the valleys of Lent!  Boy I had it wrong!  Do you ever find yourself looking only for the “highs” and avoiding the “lows”? But the truth is friends; we can’t avoid the “lows” because they are part of life.  In our Gospel reading this morning, the Apostles were probably feeling a little confused and depressed because Jesus had recently told them about his impending suffering and death upon the cross.  His disciples were afraid, and they were confused!  Perhaps Jesus saw that Peter, James and John needed a glimpse of heaven in order to make it through everything that was about to happen. And ever since, His church has also closed the season of Epiphany (or kicked off Lent) on the mountaintop of the Transfiguration.

So why are we here this morning? 

Are we here to close off the season of Epiphany with a big bang, just as we started it at Jesus’ Baptism? Do we need a big high in order to carry us through the dark valley until we finally arrive at Easter? If you think about it, we could ask the same question about every Sunday. Do we go to church in order to get away from the real world? Or do we go to God’s Divine Service so that through us, God can make something good happen when we return to the “real” world on Monday?

Now that sounds a little “other worldly” doesn’t it?  It makes our time on Sunday’s sound sort of “not of this world”? And that is the point of the Transfiguration story. It’s a real life account about a “not of this world” event. It was the kind of event that left two apostles speechless and another one speaking nonsense. It was so much “not of this world” that it’s recorded in all three of the Gospel accounts.  And each one of them ended with the need to leave the mountaintop experience with Jesus and re-enter “real life” with Him as well.

This morning, we learn that the world of mountaintop experiences is not enough to carry us through. Jesus and His disciples had to live in the real world, and so do we!  But Jesus knew that the experience was necessary for His innermost circle of apostles and because it is recorded for us in scripture, He is telling us that it is important for us as well!  Peter, James, and John needed to see His glory, and so do we!

What does it mean to see Jesus’ glory?  

Well I think our gospel lesson this morning gives us a pretty good picture of that.  Out of thin air, or maybe better put, out of the fog of prayer, appeared Moses and Elijah.  Our text says that they were talking to Jesus about His departure.  What departure?  Well His death upon the cross… his departure from this sinful world!  Why was that important?  Because it signified the fulfillment of all the promises that God had ever made about forgiveness and eternal life!  Those promises began way back in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15) when God first promised Adam and Eve that their descendant, the Messiah, would smash the head of the serpent (Satan), and rip away his ability to separate men and women from God’s love due to their sin!  But why Moses and Elijah?  Because they represented at the time all of God’s recorded Word, a Word which promised that their Savior was coming; a Savior Who would utterly destroy the power of sin, death, and the devil !  

Moses represented God’s Law which was given to Moses and the church to demonstrate that no one can find God’s love and presence outside of His mercy and forgiveness!  Through the Law, all of mankind  was to see that on their own, they are condemned to eternal death unless God intervenes!  And Elijah represents all of the prophets of God who continually warned God’s people that they were not keeping God’s Law, and frankly they didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping it!  But each of the prophets also promised something special, they promised that God’s means of rescue was coming to save them.  A messiah who was first promised to Adam and Eve would come and destroy Satan’s authority and release sinners from the captivity of sin and death if they would but wait in faith for the fulfillment of that promise, and trust in God’s forgiveness and love!

Peter, James, and John needed to see these two Old Testament Saints surrounded by Jesus’ glory because it meant that the promise was about to be fulfilled.  It meant that He didn’t come to simply rescue them from the temporary tyranny of a Caesar, but from the eternal tormenting of sin, death, and the devil!  The cavalry had arrived, and the counter attack was about to begin; not against an invading and occupying government of men, but against the spiritual and eternal occupation and captivity of evil!

Jesus knew that they must see His glory so that they could tell others about that glory… so that those who heard would have faith and know that God who is faithful had not left them alone to struggle against their enemies!  Jesus knew that they must see His glory so that when they saw Him suffering in great agony upon the cross, they would not lose hope; so that when He lay in the belly of the earth for three days they would not be afraid; and so that when He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven they would know that they were not alone!  He was still with them in His glory!

Jesus wanted them to understand once and for all that His glory has always been His and always shall be.  Yes He walked and talked with them, as one of them, but He never stopped being God… He never stopped being their Redeemer.  It was His glory; it was His to reveal or not to reveal as He desired.  They must have asked themselves as He hung upon the cross in agony and humiliation: “Why don’t you reveal your glory?  What are you doing?  You don’t have to do this!”  And to these thoughts, Jesus quietly reassures their fears and ours… “It is my glory.  Have faith.  Trust me and know that I will reveal my glory according to my own will and in my own means.  Accept my means of grace, and you will see my glory; the promise fulfilled… the promise of your salvation!”  

This is why they must see His glory, but none of this would make sense until He conquered sin and death once and for all.  None of it would make sense until they witnessed His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven!

We too, must see His glory.  

Just like the apostles, we also need to learn to let go of our own sinful thoughts that get in the way of God’s work of salvation within our own hearts.  We need to admit that there is nothing we can do to please God or make things right with Him.  So to see Jesus’ glory is to first see our own sin… to see how hopeless we are without His rescue. To see His glory is to admit that we too are being held in bondage by the very same enemies that conquered and destroyed all men and women since the fall of Adam and Eve!  And second, if we are to see Jesus’ glory, we must see Him for who He really is for us personally… He is our only means of salvation… our only means of eternal life.  He is God our Savior!

And how does He save us?  How does He show us His glory?  This friends is the best part of all, He does it in an “out of this world” way… He does it according to His means and according to His will!  He does it with Words, His Holy Word’s, and He does it with simple elements; a splash of water, a scrap of bread, and a sip of wine.  The same God that spoke the world into existence speaks new life into you with the sweet words of the gospel… “You are forgiven!”  And with that same simple Word He takes even simpler things like water, bread, and wine, and He not only gives you forgiveness but the ability to believe in that forgiveness as well!  Dear friends, hear this good news and hear it well… You are forgiven!  You are loved by God!  Do you receive this message?  Will you let it change you?  

So now, let all God’s people say AMEN!  Can I get a witness?!?   Peter had it right; the mountain top is good!  

Hey, let’s stay with this feeling as long as we can!  Peter wanted to do just that… he wanted to pitch a few tents so that the experience would last, so that his little glimpse into heaven would continue. But then He heard the voice of God speak, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!”  And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone…. alone with Peter, James, and John, just as He will be alone with you when you leave this sanctuary.  And just as He led the three down the mountaintop into the “real” world where real life is happening, He is leading you out into that same world.  A world that is still being held captive by sin, death, and the devil.  A broken world that is still living in fear and stressed out with the worries of this life!  

On Monday morning, you will find yourself in enemy territory… behind enemy lines, but have no fear Jesus is with you.  His glory remains upon you, even within you because you have been forgiven and saved by His Holy Word, washed clean by His Holy baptismal waters, and nourished by His very body and blood within His supper, and all of this was done for a purpose.  So that you may bring others into His presence, into His glory here in this very sanctuary so that they too may say by faith, “Master, it is good that we are here!” Amen.

Transfigured by God’s Word

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

The Transfiguration of Our Lord, March 6, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION:  What do you do, how do you feel when you are standing in the middle of God’s glory?  In our gospel reading this morning, we see what the three apostles did; they hid their faces in terror!  What would you do?  Well let’s try to put a more practical application to this question; think about your eyes and your ears for a moment.  Aren’t they wonderful?  With the ear we can listen to God’s Word.  We can hear about His law, which terrifies us because it shows how much God hates and punishes sin… our sin!  But then, we can also hear His gospel, which assures us that God is love, and that through faith in Jesus Christ, God has forgiven us of our many sins!  And then through our eyes, we can actually read this Word of God for ourselves.  We can discover and understand God in a way that is personal and real!  But what if, what if the eye and the ear fail us through disease or old age?  Does that mean that we should be afraid that God is angry with us?  Should we feel that God is punishing us?  Would God do that?  Could He do that?  Yes He could and He’s done it in the past!  Are you beginning to get a sense of the terror that the three apostles had?  Good!  That’s how a creature should feel about its Creator.  But to this terror, Jesus in that same Word taps you on your shoulder and says, “Rise, and have no fear.”  I AM with you!  So this presence and special protection of Jesus is what we will look at this morning.  And to do this, we will answer three primary questions: 1. What is the Transfiguration?  2. What is the Word of God?  3. What is the purpose of the Word of God?

I. What is the Transfiguration?  Well, the word “transfiguration” finds its origin in the Greek word “metamorpho” and it means to transform, or to metamorphose, or to change into another form. In the case of the transfiguration of our Lord, it means that the outward reality of His Human nature was changed to match the inward reality of His divine nature; a nature that was “veiled” (Hebrews 10:20) in human form.  So Jesus’ transfiguration was a glimpse at Jesus’ true glory; the Shekinah glory of God which has always belonged to the Son of God. And to make sure we understand this eternal reality, the voice of God the Father speaks to us with these Words: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased; listen to Him.” [Matthew 17:5b]

Through the audible voice of God, God’s Word explains His Work.  He is telling us essentially this: “I have sent my Son to you in your flesh!  I did this not to punish you but to lead and save you.  You must listen to Him if you wish to know and rest in my love and favor.”  So here dear friends is the wonderful Word of God first speaking in an audible voice to the three apostles, and now from the written Word of God He speaks to you!  Through this Living Word of God you like the three apostles are taken to a place where heaven and earth become one; you actually are allowed to experience a joining of heaven and earth!  But how can this be?  Simply because God’s Word, His means of grace and salvation are with you now!  They are with you to comfort you, to counsel and guide you!

II. But what really is the Word of God?  How can we be sure that our Bibles alone are truly God’s Holy Word?  Well friends, you can be sure because God has given you His own testimony to this truth in our Gospel reading this morning.  Think now; who appeared with Jesus and the three on that mountain top long ago?  It was Moses and Elijah!  Moses the great law-giver who promised that the Lord our God would raise up for us a great prophet from among us and it is this one that we should listen to! [Deut. 18:15] And Elijah the greatest of prophets of old is there with Moses to make sure that we understand that neither he nor any of the other prophets were the one that we were to look for!  And how do they appear?  Gathered around Jesus… listening to Jesus, all the while enveloped in the cloud of God’s glory.  And as Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and the three apostles are gathered in that place where heaven and earth join, the Word of the Father rings out like thunder: “This is my beloved Son!  (One who is far greater than the prophets and kings of old.)  Listen to Him!” [Vs.5]

And how do we listen to Him?  We listen to Him by hearing and reading the Word of God; both the Law and the prophets.  Now, some will say that there are many ways to know God, say like going to the beach or to the mountains.  But friends these things only speak about God in muffled tones and may I say they mainly speak to deaf ears and blind eyes!  What do you do when the sea becomes a Tsunami and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea because of a catastrophic earthquake?  How do you make sense of these things and find God’s wisdom when it seems that the whole earth around you and beneath you is going to hell in a hand basket?  You listen to God speak in the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself; you look to His Word which comes to us in our own history!  God has always been involved and even intervened in our history.  He has done it in mighty acts of judgment and even mightier acts of liberation!  Another way to say this is that God’s people always experience God among them saving them.  But why?  And that friends is the point; without the leading of God’s Holy Spirit calling up prophetic voices to explain what God is up to, all of this would remain a mystery and it would be subject to the whim of sinful human speculation!

But God did speak and He assures us that we can know what He has said.  To do this He has used many different voices of prophets to convey His message to His people of faith.  He has spoken and they have repeated in their own style exactly what God has said.  We can explain this use of prophets in a different ways.  In one way they are like a UN translator who takes the Words of a heavenly language and repeats their meaning into our language.  Or we can think of the prophets as different musical instruments.  As a flute or a trumpet, it is God who blows into them and pushes the different keys so that His musical composition can be heard each in the style of the instrument.  Or maybe He plucks the strings of a guitar or pounds the strings of a piano, but in each case it is God’s music singing into our hearts!  In the case of His Word, God choses to use language; He brings His Word to us in our own language. 

You know, there’s one thing each of us has in common, we like to talk; why we even talk even to ourselves.  We even think in words!  God has created us so that we organize our lives in words.  Because God designed us that way, He not only acted out His love in human history, He also explained those actions through the prophets in our own words.  Through the prophets we have both the promise and the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The entire Bible was recorded so that we would have something sure; so that we would have the prophetic and perfect Word of God, delivered to us exactly as God wanted it to be delivered!  And it is this Word that St. Peter tells us to pay attention to; he tells us to use it like a lamp that will shine God’s own light first in our dark hearts and then in a world that has been darkened by sin!  We are to use God’s Word with complete confidence knowing that no prophecy of Scripture, which is your Holy Bible ever came from someone’s own interpretation.  God assures you that nothing in your Bibles ever came by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit!  And what did they speak of?  They spoke of the very reason that God moved men to record His Word: So that you right now would know Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son and as your Savior! [2 Peter 1:19-21]

III. What is the purpose of the Word of God?  That you would know Jesus and by knowing Jesus know God!  This dear friends is also the purpose of our Lord’s Transfiguration.  It is God’s way of helping you make sense of the mystery which is the two natures of Jesus Christ.  It is God’s way of reassuring you that Jesus who is fully God and fully man is your Savior!  It is God’s way and means of telling us who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing; God is teaching us about Jesus mission and His ministry!  He is teaching us that Jesus was born to die for our sins and for our transgressions!  He is teaching us that Jesus is God’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased and that we must listen to Him.

And when we listen to Him we discover that we have a God who is not only always with us but for us.  We discover that we have a mighty champion who fights for us and protects us.  When we listen to Jesus we find comfort and hope in a Savior who spoke these Words: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [Jn. 6:37-40]  This dear friends is the fulfillment of the same promise that God has consistently made from the very first pages of our Bibles.  This is the promise that God has made yours in the waters of your own baptism.  And in this fulfilled promise, God’s heavenly glory has come to you on earth; it is a glory that envelopes you in His Word and Sacrament.  As you knell at His table you know that for that brief moment you are being given a glimpse of His eternal glory to come.  As you dine with all the company of heaven you know that this is a foretaste of the feast to come!  And as His glory surrounds you, through His Word, by faith know that you are in the miraculous presence of your Great Prophet and King. 

CONCLUSION: Now for some, to be in the presence of God is a terrifying thing.  But for us, we know that because we are with Jesus, everything will be alright.  We know that because Jesus is with us, we have a God who is for us and never against us.  So let the oceans roar and let the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Let the eyes and the ears fail; we will not fear because we know that we have a God who has made all things new.  And when we doubt, Jesus through the Word of God tap us on our shoulder and says, “Rise, and have no fear.”  And when we lift up our eyes we will see no real threat, but instead we will only see Jesus!  May God grant this faith to each of us.  AMEN!

Christ Alone

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Transfiguration Sunday, February 7, 2010
Click here for audio of this message


And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.” (Luke 9:36a)

 When I was a boy, I use to think that Lent was really depressing!  I dreaded going to Wednesday evening services.  Advent on the other hand was exciting… Christmas and all of the presents were just around the corner.  I wanted the high points of worship, the mountaintop experience, not the valleys!  Boy was I messed up!  Do you ever find yourself looking only for the “highs” and avoiding the “lows”? But the truth is friends; we can’t avoid the “lows” because they are part of life.  In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus had recently told His disciples about his impending suffering and death upon the cross.  His disciples were afraid, and they were depressed!  Jesus may have thought that Peter, James and John needed a glimpse of heaven in order to make it through everything that was about to happen. And ever since, His church has also closed the season of Epiphany (or kicked off Lent) on the mountaintop of the Transfiguration.

Why are we here this morning? Are we here to close off the season of Epiphany with a big bang, just as we started it at Jesus’ Baptism? Do we need a big high in order to carry us through the dark valley until we finally arrive at Easter? If you think about it, we could ask the same question about every Sunday. Do we go in order to get away from the real world? Or do we go to be changed so that through us, God can make something good happen when we return to the “real” world on Monday?

Now that sounds a little “other worldly” doesn’t it?  It makes our time on Sunday’s sound sort of “not of this world”? And that is the point of the Transfiguration story. It’s a real life account about a “not of this world” event. It was the kind of event that left two apostles speechless and another one speaking nonsense. It was so much “not of this world” that it is recorded in all three of the Gospel accounts.  And each one of them ended with the need to leave the mountaintop experience and re-enter “real life.”  

This morning, we learn that the world of mountaintop experiences is not enough to carry us through. Jesus and His disciples had to live in the real world, and so do we!  But Jesus knew that the experience was necessary for His innermost circle of apostles and because it is recorded for us in scripture, He is telling us that it is important for us as well!  Peter, James, and John needed to see His glory, and so do we!

What does it mean to see Jesus’ glory?  Well I think our gospel lesson this morning gives us a pretty good picture of that.  Out of thin air, or maybe better put, out of the fog of prayer, appeared Moses and Elijah.  Our text says that they were talking to Jesus about His departure.  What departure?  Well His death upon the cross… his departure from this sinful world!  Why was that important?  Because it signified the fulfillment of all the promises that God had ever made about forgiveness and eternal life!  Those promises began way back in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15) when God first promised Adam and Eve that their descendant, the Messiah, would smash the head of the serpent (Satan), and rip away his ability to separate men and women from God’s love due to their sin!  But why Moses and Elijah?  Because they represented at the time all of God’s recorded Word, a Word which promised that their Savior was coming; a Savior that would utterly destroy the power of sin, death, and the devil ! 

 Moses represented God’s Law which was given to Moses and the church to demonstrate that no one can find God’s love and presence outside of His mercy and forgiveness!  Through the Law, all of mankind  was to see that they are condemned to eternal death without God’s intervention!  And Elijah represents all of the prophets of God who continually warned God’s people that they were not keeping God’s Law, and frankly they didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping it!  But the prophets promised something special, they promised that God’s means of rescue was coming to save them.  A messiah would come who would destroy Satan’s authority and release sinners from the captivity of sin and death if they would but wait in faith for the fulfillment of that promise, and trust in God’s forgiveness and love!

 Peter, James, and John needed to see these two Old Testament Saints surrounded by Jesus’ glory because it meant that the promise was about to be fulfilled.  It meant that He didn’t come to simply rescue them from the temporary tyranny of a Caesar, but from the eternal tormenting of sin, death, and the devil!  The cavalry had arrived, and the counter attack was about to begin; not against an invading and occupying government of men, but against the spiritual and eternal occupation and captivity of evil!

 Jesus knew that they must see His glory so that they could tell others about that glory… so that those who heard would have faith and know that God who is faithful had not left them alone struggling against their enemies!  Jesus knew that they must see His glory so that when they saw Him suffering in great agony upon the cross, they would not lose hope; so that when He lay in the belly of the earth for three days they would not be afraid; and so that when He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven they would know that they were not alone!  He was still with them in His glory!

 Jesus wanted them to understand once and for all that His glory has always been His and ever shall be.  Yes He walked and talked with them, as one of them, but He never stopped being God… He never stopped being their Redeemer.  It was His glory; it was His to reveal or not to reveal as He desired.  They must have asked themselves as He hung upon the cross in agony and humiliation: “Why don’t you reveal your glory?  What are you doing?  You don’t have to do this!”  And to these thoughts, Jesus quietly reassures their fears and ours… “It is my glory.  Have faith.  Trust me and know that I will reveal my glory according to my own will and in my own means.  Accept my means of grace, and you will see the promise fulfilled… the promise of your salvation!”  This is why they must see His glory, but none of this would make sense until He conquered sin and death once and for all.  None of it would make sense until they witnessed His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven!

 We too, must see His glory.  We just like the apostles need to learn to let go of our own sinful thoughts that get in the way of God’s work of salvation within our own hearts.  We need to admit that there is nothing we can do to please God or make things right with Him.  To see Jesus’ glory is to see our own sin… to see how hopeless we are without His rescue. To see His glory is to admit that we too are being held in bondage by the very same enemies that conquered and destroyed all men and women since the fall of Adam and Eve!  If we are to see Jesus’ glory, we must see Him for who He really is… He is our only means of salvation… our only means of eternal life.  He is God our Savior!

 And how does He save us?  How does He show us His glory?  This friends is the best part of all, He does it in an “out of this world” way… He does it according to His means and according to His will!  He does it with Words, His Holy Word’s, and He does it with simple elements.  The same God that spoke the world into existence speaks new life into you with the sweet words of the gospel… “You are forgiven!”  And with that simple Word He takes even simpler things like water, bread, and wine, and He not only gives you forgiveness but the ability to believe in that forgiveness as well!  Dear friends, hear this good news and hear it well… You are forgiven!  You are loved by God!  Do you receive this message?  Will you let it change you?  Let all God’s people say AMEN!  Can I get a witness?!?   Isn’t the mountain top good?! 

Hey, let’s stay with this feeling as long as we can!  Peter wanted to do just that… he wanted to pitch a few tents so that the experience would last, so that his little glimpse into heaven would continue. But then He heard the voice of God speak, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!”  And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone…. alone with Peter, James, and John, Just as He will be alone with you when you leave this sanctuary.  And just as He led the three down the mountaintop into the “real” world where real life is happening, He is leading you out into that same world.  A world that is still being held captive by sin, death, and the devil.  A broken world that is still living in fear and stressed out with the worries of this life!  On Monday morning, you will find yourself in enemy territory… behind enemy lines, but have no fear Jesus is with you.  His glory remains upon you, even within you because you have been forgiven and saved by His Holy Word, washed clean by His Holy baptismal waters, and nourished by His very body and blood within His supper, and all of this was done for a purpose.  So that you may bring others into His presences, into His glory here in this very sanctuary so that they too may say by faith, “Master, it is good that we are here!”