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The Transfigurations: The Light Shines! A sermon on 2 Cor. 3:12-4:6

church at communion 2The Transfigurations: The Light Shines!

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the transformation God is working in your life, as the Holy Spirit causes you to shine with God’s glory!

Two transfigurations?

If you looked carefully at the title of the sermon, you would have seen that the word transfiguration is plural.  You would also see the reading the sermon is based on is not the reading of Jesus transfiguration, that amazing day that stunned Peter, James, and John as Christ was transfigured, right before their eyes. 

Can you imagine being there, having Jesus revealed in all of His glory?  Would you drop to the ground in awe, or would you put your foot in your mouth like Peter did?  John would speak of it later with these words,

 14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

But this sermon is not about the transfiguration, it is about the transfigurations.  It’s not based on the Gospel according to Mark, but what we call the second letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.

It’s about the transfiguration the Holy Spirit is working on this morning, the transfiguration that is occurring to you and to me, as the glory of God is seen in our lives.

And because this is about our transfiguration, it, of course, it is about Christ being revealed to us, in all His glory as well.

What blinds you?

For the Jews in the time of Jesus and Paul, the Old Testament served as the veil which Paul describes.  Oddly enough it was voluntary at first, as people were so troubled by the glory and love of God that they couldn’t even look upon a reflection of the glory seen glowing in Moses.

They choose the veil, and they hung on to it as if seeing God, would overwhelm them.  Paul identifies that veil as the Law, the Old Covenant that allowed them to focus on all the law, on all the minutiae. On all the ways they can try to prove they are God’s choice, or on all the ways they fail and fail to see God’s mercy that is available to them.

But we have our veils as well, things that we think hide us from God, or at least His holiness, His glorious love from us.  Our veils are just as much a challenge, and we choose them and bind them about us.

The first veil is the one the Pharisees and Sadducees often wore.  It is the self-righteous we wear, that would melt away if we compared it to the glory of God.  We might consider ourselves good because we go to the best church, or because we have the better political beliefs, or because we don’t sin as blatantly as others.  We try to measure up to God’s law, well at least the commandments we haven’t overtly broken.  I mean, no one here murdered anyone this week, or committed adultery, or robbed anyone else…. Right?   ( I won’t mention “bear false witness- gossip” or “be envious of others homes, spouses, job, pets, – but I will project that on the screen!)

The other veil is self-condemnation, looking at all the rules and realizing that we can’t keep them, about living with the tears and shame that comes from hiding behind a veil, and realizing how we are wasting away in a prison of our own making. Thinking that because we can’t overcome sin and self-centeredness on our own, that this means we will never escape how it crushes us.

And we, who think we can hide behind a veil… often move from being self-righteous to being self-condemned, fluctuating day by day, sometimes far more frequent.

The veil stops us, but how can it be removed?

Only God Can And Has

It is removed when we trust in Jesus, as we depend upon Him to keep the promises made to us, about cleansing us from the sin we so hate.

This is the work of the Spirit, as we are turned to the Lord, as the Spirit takes away the veil, as Christ Jesus is revealed, and His work is made known.  As that happens, our lives are being changed,  our lives begin to reflect Christ, not as a mirror would, but something deeper.  For the Spirit begins to transfigure us, this is the same word that Mark uses in His gospel.   We are transfigured as we look to Christ, as we dwell in Him!  We begin to show His glory, as the Holy Spirit makes this happen!

We are changed for the glory of Christ didn’t just reflect from our lives, but as it made its mark there.  His glory, which we stand in awe of acts like a branding iron, forever marking us as His own people, a people who become more and more like Him. What a glorious thing!

It is why Paul says we can be bold, so assure of God welcoming us, His children, into His presence.  It is why we don’t give up, and why we strive to do things the right way, keeping this powerful word of God straight, undistorted, focused on Jesus, reveling in the fullness of His love!  It is so incredible, as Paul says, we don’t want to talk about ourselves, but rather the love of Jesus, and are willing to serve people to help them know that!

That is why Paul said we work so hard trying to reveal Jesus love to others. Hear His words again,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

The assurance of sharing in His glory, the assurance of being loved by the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit!  For one with Christ, you are being changed into one who shines with His glory.  This is the transfigurations!  Rejoice and rest in His peace!  AMEN!

Great Confidence in the Message. A Sermon about the Transfiguration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreater 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!

We Can See!

2 Cor. 3:12-4:6

 May the glorious gifts of mercy and peace you receive from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ shine into your world, as God transforms you into the image of Christ!

The Unnerving Glorious Mathematical Law

Featured imageAs we look at the incredible Transfiguration of Jesus, we need to understand it mathematically.

That is right; I said Mathematically.

We can show this mathematically, because of the of the epistle reading.  We can understand why the transfiguration is much more than what was revealed that day to the three terrified apostles.   As we see Christ revealed in all of His glory, we can make a connection from that event to our lives today, to our lives this week.

To what Paul talks about in Colossians 1,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
Read that last sentence, this gives you the assurance of sharing His glory.

What a glorious promise, what an incredible truth!

So what about the math?

There is a mathematical axiom that dates back to the time before Christ.  It goes like this.

If A=B and B=C, then….

C=A.

Simple, right?

Now let’s apply it to scripture.

In verse 18 of our epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 3, it states this.

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

So the transition could look like  Our Image => Image of Christ

Jesus Christ is the exact likeness, the exact image of God,

Then we are being restored to what we were created to be, going all the way back to Genesis,

27  So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

This is amazing, glorious, that we would be undergoing a transfiguration that will leave us sharing in the glory of Christ.

That is the work of God in us!  This is true of you and me, for we are being remade in the image of God!

That Which obscures this in all of us

That is a heavy burden if you consider it for a moment.

Does God expect us to live, to speak, to think… like Jesus, to be like God, in whose image we are created?

Are we going to be judged based on how well we each resemble Jesus?  How our thoughts are His thoughts, whether we love others like He did?
I think that is the problem the Jews had, for they measured their righteousness against the Old Covenant law. Because of that, all they could see was failure, they missed the presence of God.  They hear the “you shall keep the Sabbath Day Holy” and miss the idea that we find rest in God’s presence, as He gathers us together, as His family.  They hear “you shall not bear false testimony,” and look around at all the evil and unrighteousness, not realizing the comfort and security we have, trusting Jesus to care for us as promised.

Legalism comes from looking at the rules, and trying to keep them, without realizing why we do so.  As we focus on the law, we are blinded to the God, who describes our life with Him in that law.

Because we are blinded, we miss Him!

If the Law is our focus, our lives our failures, for the burden is beyond anything anyone can accomplish.  Judged by that law, we know what scripture tells, we all fall short of His glory.  All have sinned, no one is good, no one but God!.

Even the reflection of God’s glory in the face of Moses would fade…as it did as Moses left the presence of God.

How this transformation occurs

This transformation then is not by our effort; it never could be!  We cannot keep the law perfectly.  That veil, that inability to look to God, to recognize His presence can only be removed by God.

Notice it says,

18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.

We’ve had that veiled removed; it is not something we’ve done. It is the work of Christ, on the cross, and pays for all our sin.  It is the Holy Spirit at work as well, who through word and sacraments like baptism and the Eucharist assures us that we are united to Jesus.  United to Him in death, and then that death, that veil removed as we rise with Him, cleansed and healed.  We’ve become adopted children of God our Father.

We are being transformed into His image, even as we see the glory of God in Christ, as we adore Him.  As we look to Him, as our focus moves off of our sins and failures, and off of those around us, we begin to reflect that glory, it becames more and more natural…

That is why Paul tells the church in Ephesus,

4  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)

This transformation we are undergoing, it gives to God great pleasure!

This transformation, where the Spirit removes the veil in baptism, who keeps us close as we commune, as we hear that our sins are forgiven, that we can see God!

What this transformation looks like..

What an amazing change this is in life, to know God’s desire is fulfilled in reconciling us to Himself, in revealing His presence in every aspect of our life!  In securing us to Jesus.

The results?  Paul talks about this way of God giving us boldness, that we will never give up!  That as His mercy is revealed, as we know it is mercy and love towards us, we stand in that love.

Everything else fails away, for there is nothing that compares to it.  We do not have to force God’s love on people; we simply share the hope we have.  We do not have to put out false images of perfect lives, we can share the hope that comes from seeing God, and that image becomes imprinted on us.

It is why Paul can use the “image” idea as he tells the people in Corinth,

33  I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I do not just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 1  And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 (NLT)

Going back to our math, and the A=B and B=C, we find ourselves, our eyes on Christ, running a race without thought of sin, just focusing on Him.  We see that image imprinted on Paul. Knowing His love, being transformed into His image.

We find ourselves doing what Christ did, inviting people into the presence of God, making the sacrifices that would remove that which blocks them from Him.  For that is what He did.

So look to Jesus, for you can see Him!  He is the author and perfector of your faith, who with joy gave it all, discounting the shame, the pain!  Who now waits for us at the right hand of the Father!

That is our destination; that is why the Spirit transforms us, readying us for that day.  Comforting, empowering, causing us to grow and transform, as we dwell in His amazing peace. AMEN!

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