Saturday, February 25, 2017

Year A, Transfiguration, Matthew 17:1-9, “Only Jesus”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
I’ve been writing short summaries of my sermons and posting them on Facebook.  It’s one way that I have found to reach out into the community and to begin to establish connections with our neighbors.
And so while on a given Sunday we may have a couple dozen people here listening to the sermon, through Facebook, the message is going out to over a thousand households in the Otis Orchards/Liberty Lake area.
One of the most rewarding parts of this is when people respond.
The most common response is for them to “Like” the post. 
And when they do, I invite them to “Like” Peace Lutheran’s Facebook page, which means that they we get all the posts that I write.
The other response that they can do is to comment on the posts.  That’s when it gets interesting.
A few weeks back as we were reading from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I quoted Jesus’ teaching concerning anger, and lust. 
Jesus said:
"But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire."
And also:
"I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Some of the responses were very interesting:
Loren responded to this by saying:  “Read between the lines .not my GOD.”
My first reaction was that he was not a Christian.
Then he responded:  “I don’t know whose Jesus said this, but not mine.”
My response was to point out where in the Bible these passages were written, and others responded.
Tim said:  “I see the controversy of this
We are not condemned with Jesus
We are forgiven
Don't let man nor religion condemn you

Ryan also commented:  “bull it’s not a sin to think it’s a sin to act”
I’ve been thinking about these conversations.
I think that we will always struggle with the question of who Jesus is and what he actually said.
First of all, this is because in our own hearts and minds there is a Jesus that we imagine.
For many that Jesus is a kind, loving, gracious man who came with words of comfort and hope.  That’s a very popular image of Jesus.
Others, though, may imagine Jesus to be a harsh judge that demands that we live righteous lives and condemns us when we are wrong.  This is the Jesus that Martin Luther was afraid of prior to his coming to understand the grace of the Gospel message.
Who do you ‘imagine’ Jesus to be????
Well, then there is the Jesus that we read about in the Gospels.  When we read the Gospels we discover a Jesus that in all likelihood is different than our expectations.  Our imagination.
There we discover that Jesus did indeed teach us to live according to a high ethical and moral standard, and those teachings of Jesus do indeed convict us of our sins. 
And there we also encounter a Jesus that was quick to heal, slow to condemn, and who loved us enough to die on the cross for us. 
Over the years many scholars of the Bible have wondered if this Jesus, the Jesus we read about in the Gospel, is the real Jesus.
Who would we have met and encountered if we had walked on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with Jesus?  How have the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and message been enhanced by the eyes of faith?
What if there had been a video recorder there? 
Alas, though, what we have is not a video recording, but the Gospels, written for us, so that we might believe.
But it was not easy for the disciples to know who Jesus was either, and they ate, drank, and slept with him.  They heard his teaching.  They saw the miracles.
And they were left wondering.  Who is this Jesus?

Finally, in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And then, “But who do YOU say that I am?”
That’s when Peter offered his great confession:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus commended him because he had gotten it right.  God had revealed it to him.
Only the problem was that even though he had said all the right words, what he imagined was very different than what Jesus was.
Jesus began to teach his disciples that he would suffer and die, and Peter immediately took Jesus aside and rebuked him.
It’s as though Peter was responding like some of the people on Facebook.
Not MY God.
Not My Messiah.
No, no, no.  Neither God, nor a Messiah, suffers and dies.  No way.  No how. 
And then Jesus took the disciples up on a high mountain.
What happened there was nothing short of incredible.
Jesus’ appearance changed.
His face shown like the Sun.
His clothes became dazzling white.
He was enveloped with the heavenly Glory of God himself.
And there with him, were Moses and Elijah.
Peter is so overwhelmed that he does what he always does.  He starts talking. 
"Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
Who knows what else Peter was saying, but before he had even finished, while he was still jabbering on, a bright cloud overshadowed them and from the cloud, God himself, spoke:
"This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
I wonder if we could actually hear God speak these words, what the emphasis would be?
THIS IS MY BELOVED SON; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.
Or maybe, This is my Son, the beloved; WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED; listen to him.
Or perhaps,
This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; LISTEN TO HIM!
I think this is the point.  Shut up.  LISTEN TO HIM.  What he has to say is important.
And just perhaps that’s the most important thing God is saying to us today, as disciples of Jesus.
Just shut up, for a while now.  Keep quiet.  Listen for a change.
Over the course of 2,000 years we have imagined who Jesus is, and I would suppose that too often, Jesus has become just that, a figment of our imagination.
Indeed, perhaps the time comes for each of us, for each and every generation, when we simply have to be quiet for a spell and listen.
This Lent, that’s going to be our discipline.  That’s going to be my discipline.  To quit speaking long enough to listen.
During our Lenten services, we will be focusing on N. T. Wright’s book “The Challenge of Jesus:  Rediscovering who Jesus was and is.”  I am going to try to listen as I present these materials, more than to speak.  And perhaps as I hear again for the first time who Jesus was and is, you too will hear that message anew.
That’s the hope, anyway.
And on Sunday mornings, during the adult bible study, Pastor Marcia will be leading us through a course titled “24 Hours that Changed the World”, a study of the passion of Jesus.
I hope you join us in this journey.

After the disciples heard God speak from the cloud, they were overcome with fear and fell to the ground.
Jesus touched them, and said “Get up and do not be afraid.”
They looked up and saw no one except Jesus himself, alone.
Jesus, himself, alone.
This is our calling.
To see only Jesus.
The real Jesus.
And this Jesus, alone.

Not the Jesus we imagine in our hearts.
Not the Jesus that we’ve constructed over two thousand years of speaking more than we’ve listened.

Just Jesus.  The one who was, is, and is to come.
Jesus.  And him only.

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