Greater Confidence in the Message
2 Peter 1:16-21
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love! AMEN!
An Odd line
I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church. They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.
Much like I do.
And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today. A moment that everything becomes more real.
The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.
But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement
“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”
Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them. It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.
The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth
We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.
Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us. It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.
While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way. Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better. One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work. They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now. That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.
And what Peter talks of counters that.
These are just stories from an alternate reality. They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.
And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect. Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that. History and training in being a good person. Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.
But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…
And Peter says it will change our lives as well.
The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!
You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.
These words in scripture. They aren’t just words.
They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.
In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.
For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it. One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.
God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..
Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.
Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. 36 *Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. 37 After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. 38 So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. 39 But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. Acts 5:35-39 NABRE
His name was Gamaliel, one of the greatest of Jewish Rabbi’s, not just of his time, but in history.
Not exactly a friend to those who followed Jesus; though, in this situation, he certainly had words of wisdom that were beneficial to them.He’s not the only one throughout history who was not a believer, yet God used to deliver and guide his people. Jethro’s father was one, and Cyrus the Persian for another. I’m not sure that Balaam’s ass was a believer, but God even spoke through it.
So how do we deal with such things?
We know that there are two forms of revelation, that is two ways in which we know about God. The first is through scripture, specific revelation. This is where we get to know God deeply. He tells us who He is, how much he loves us, how Christ came and proved that love. The second way is what is called general revelation, and is what we can discern of the Creator through nature, through observation, through the various sciences.
Even the observations and thoughts of man that create idols and establish man-made religions have some truth in them, some portion that is written based on how God has ordered things. For such false religions were created based, not in a vacuum, but withing God’s creation, within His world, by humans who are made in His image, and have a portion of the truth.
Remember – they aren’t His enemies, though they may fight against God, and struggle with His direct, specific revelation.
That doesn’t mean they have the complete truth. Or that we should just accept what they can observe as being equal to what we interpret from scripture. But we can consider their wisdom, measure it against scripture ( not just our interpretation of scripture). and rejoice where it is found consistent.
Is this easy or fast? No. Sometimes testing their belief means that we spend a few hours in scripture, and in prayer. But Gamaliel’s advice is similar – let’s see if God is at work in this. And hold fast to the truth we know!
Does it change how we relate to those who believe other than we do? Yes – we see them as people who are looking for God, and doing what they can to deal with their own brokenness.
This change in attitude leads us to a position that means we aren’t opposition, but rather working alongside them. There may be a line in the sand – but that isn’t to divide us, it is to remind us of what has been specifically given to us, through Christ’s life, death, burial,and resurrection. There is the line – that love of God revealed in Christ. That specific, merciful, glorious revelation of His love.s
In the midst of all of this, praying and asking God to bless us, we find a very special ministry, that of seeing all reconciled to Jesus.
And that my friends, is worth it. .
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 I keep your law in my heart, so that I will not sin against you. 12 I praise you, O LORD; teach me your ways. Psalm 119:11-12 (TEV)
Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony
Yet I was forced; and this was well done towards me, but I did not well; for, unless forced, I had not learnt. But no one doth well against his will, even though what he doth, be well.
Augustine’s comment from my devotions this morning is something I need to think about, as I prepare my sermon for tomorrow. How do I teach people to see the Bible? Do my sermons, and what and how I teach lead them to treasure this incredible gift of God? Or does what I teach and preach cause them to dismiss is, willingly twist it, and allow them to create a god that appeals to their desires, rather than meets the needs of their deepest brokenness?
The same for the scripture that resounds from within our worship – the liturgy which is so full of scripture. Do I facilitate their worship with a passion that honors God as He blesses us through the words He dictated, that He breathed through prophets and apostles, kings and leaders of worship?
If we preach about other than Jesus, if we teach Christianity as a simple set of rules to follow or something that changes from what was written, we dismiss the blessing of scripture. If we treasure theology over the word, we again dismiss the word of God, for the word of mankind. We dismiss the message of His loving-kindness, His mercy, His presence in our lives, which the scriptures reveal. The very treasure that reveals that we don’t need to be God, for He loves us. That real, lasting pleasure comes through His word. That peace is found in Him, and as we live in Him, we realize this incredible blessing, this incredible grace.
Scripture, the word of God, can make us uncomfortable. If afflicts us in the places we need to be corrected, the very place of our brokenness. It confronts our broken and twisted desire for pleasure, our love of self, our illusion that we are truly master’s of our fate. It is hard to learn to love that which hurts. Even so, when we realize the Holy Spirit applies it to our brokenness, even the discomfort is embraced, sure that God’s peace will comfort us, and bring us to wholeness. If we are to find hope for our brokenness, if we are going to offer and provide it to those people we are to care for, where the Spirit reveals it is in scripture. It is there the Lord who is our hope of glory, of life eternal, is found. There what He needs to heal us of is shown, as is the cure, His presence, His blessing of us through His word, joined to water as He baptizes us, as He nourishes us with His body and blood.
Back to the original thought, of teaching and preaching in such a way that the word of God is treasured. That our words portray His word, which He, the WORD, is revealed. That people know this isn’t just man’s words written on paper, proclaimed in our message. It is the word of God, the One who desires to love us, reveals to us that this love has no limits there on the pages of scripture.
If we show them we treasure it, they will begin to as well, and they will do well as they hear it, as they read it, as they treasure His word in their hearts.
As we do this, as we treasure the word that reveals to us the love of God, as we set an example for our people, we shall find that He has answered our plea. That our thoughts and words are acceptable to God, our Rock and Redeemer. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
2 Peter 1:16-21
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the height, the depth, the width and breadth of God the Father’s love for you, as we see it revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we see scriptures?
Maybe I am just projecting my own personality onto Peter, but I think he must have had the hearing of a typical guy, somewhere from age of 4 until the age of 94. In other words, he probably had that dreaded disorder called “selective hearing”, especially at church.
Well, it’s not completely based on my own experience, but on his words in the epistle, look at verse 19.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote,
Maybe it is because I am cynical, but I see Peter, prior to the experience of the transfiguration, sitting in synagogue because his mom or wife is dragging him there. As the Rabbi is reading the Torah, or Isaiah, he’s thinking about where he will fish this week, about the taxes he has to pay, about the challenges he faces working with his dad…who happens to be sleeping two pews back…
Let’s be honest, there are times in our lives where the Old Testament scriptures, and sometimes the New Testament scriptures don’t seem as important to us as who will win the big game, or the struggles we face at work, or the challenges that affect those we love. We may have forgotten the wisdom of Leviticus last week already, the often repeated phrase in the midst of the commandments,
I am Yahweh, your God.
Or we might have forgotten the phrase we learned back in January, “Alleluia, He is Risen!” (therefore I am risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Something happened to Peter, up on that mountain. That changed how he looked at scripture, how he felt about those boring Old Testament scriptures… so much so that he encourages us, begs us to pay close attention to them…..
I pray we shall, as we encounter the Christ they reveal to us.
Getting Peter’s attention…As we hear Peter tell of the event, we hear his passion well, how much this event, years later, changed him. It is one of the reasons why I love teaching people how to read scripture, and the bottom line is to read it like you would read to a young child. Let me read it again, but first, consider this.
Imagine someone coming up to you, Al, and asking that all the stories you told, about the joy of baptizing your granddaughter were really true? Or asking any of you ladies if your wedding really happened? Or some event that moved you more than anything else in your life, actually was that important. Now, as you think through that attitude – hear these words.
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
I wouldn’t call it being defensive, perhaps Peter could be, but this is important to him, it is one of those events that you don’t forget, for God is revealed to you in all of His glory. As you realize, like Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and every other prophet, and yes, Peter, James and John that there it is a wondrous thing to be found in the presence of God, and to realize you are welcome there.
Instead of hearing a list of his sins, and the verdict of complete judgment, Peter hears God the Father’s voice, uttered from heaven, sharing about His love for His son……..
And completely foretold in the Old Testament.
Now God has Peter’s attention… but will He have ours?
Words shining in Darkness
So do we need a transfiguration event, an experience like Peter’s to help us take scripture, including the Old Testament writings more seriously? Do we need something to help us pay attention to all the promises of God’s love, to the promises of Jesus coming to deliver us, to carry us back into relationship with God our Father, the promises that God will never abandon us?
Or will Peter’s words, about these stories he tells, that are neither fables or myths be enough? I can point us to the transformation in Peter’s life, the repentance and humility that becomes so part of Paul’s life, the changes in people like King David’s life, the determined hope of Jeremiah?
What will it take for these stories to so impact us, that we can’t wait for Bible Study on Wednesday or church on Sunday, but that we desire and guard our time that we can spend as Paul encourages us; to pay close attention to what is written and proclaimed by the prophets?
Will it take a mountain top experience? I don’t think so, been on enough retreats to know the fervor fades, much as Moses face did coming off of Mt Sinai.
What about the other things Peter witnessed, the miracles, the great teaching, or the things he experienced, the walking on water, or looking into an empty grave?
What will help us see the these words in scripture as a lamp shining into the darkness
What would help us know these words, in order that we could bring light into our neighbor’s darkness? If not for our sake, for theirs, to see them transformed as we have been, as we are in our baptism, to see their joy as they come and celebrate God’s love at the altar, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ?
Peter’s answer was simple – the experience made him realize that the scripture was all about Christ’s light invading our darkness, about His coming, the incarnation, about God dwelling with us. When the Nunc Dimitis is SPOKEN by Simeon, he quotes the Old Testament about the light that shines for the darkness.
Similarly John takes up that theme…
14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NJB)
They saw His glory, His light invading the darkness. That is what makes the difference, and it is what we need to see, to really think through.
We say it sort of, when we ask how people who don’t know God’s love can survive in life. We realize something has happened to us, but do we realize how much?
Yes, and yet no,
We can’t , until we find ourselves before the throne of God,
Until that day…
Which is why we should pay close attention to scripture, to hear the promises, to see what eyewitness record, to see the lives that are changed because they walked with God, and the lives that were sustained, because they know God is there….
Put simply, the reason we read scripture is to know that our lives, as we walk through them with God, are transformed. That we walk with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we in Him. To know and be assured of the promises that spell out the depth of His love for those He calls to be His own. The very things that life tries to hide.
Those prophets, those writers tell us of His love, of His mercy, of His healing presence. That’s why Luther said he saw Jesus on every page of scripture, because that is who He was looking for there!
You see, that’s what devotional reading of scripture, and even serious study is about. To know as Paul tells it, of the incredible depth and height, the width and breadth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s not about knowing the theology, its about knowing God.
It’s why it’s not fable or myth – it changes lives to know that love, to understand the promises, to get why this baptismal font and this altar and the words we say here matters.
It’s about God’s love – a love that can’t be stolen from you, a love that will see us to the day when we clearly see Him.
But until that day, of the promises you have been given, I end it with this one,
May you know you dwell in the presence and the peace of God our Father, a peace that can’t be put into words, but indeed a peace that holds us, comforts us, strengthens us, as our hearts and minds secure, for we abide in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN?
So pay close attention to those promises then!