Saturday, March 2, 2019

Jesus Only, Year C, Transfiguration, Luke 9.28-36, The View from the Mountain

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Three men: Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
Three mountain top experiences:  Mt Sinai, Mt Carmel, and on this, the mount of Transfiguration.
The story of Moses is all too familiar.
God had heard the cries of his people in Egypt, laboring as slaves under their taskmasters and came down to deliver them.
“Let my people go!” was the message Moses was commissioned to bring to Pharaoh.
“Let my people go!”
The people of Israel were allowed to leave after the mighty display of God’s power in the ten plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea.
Then they camped at Mt. Sinai.
And there on the mountain, Moses received the ten commandments from the hand of God.
“This is how you shall live as my people.”
You shall have no other gods.
You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
Remember the Sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet
Ten Commandments that define righteousness.
That was the view from Mt. Sinai.
But Israel would not remain faithful to that covenant, and so God sent the prophets.
Elijah confronted the King of Israel, Ahab.
"I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father's house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
Elijah, standing alone as the prophet of God in the face of 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah, put on a display of the power and might of God.
What followed was a contest.
Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God."
Of course what happens is that the prophets of Baal called out to their God for hours, yet nothing happened.
Elijah, in turn, called upon the Lord God and fire rained down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.
Elijah stands in a long line of prophets who proclaimed God’s word.
That prophetic message was about judgment and hope, and a call to justice.
False gods were condemned, as on Mt. Carmel.
And the people were constantly reminded to remain faithful to the covenant and to practice justice in all the land.
The prophets would lift up the cause of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the sojourner in the land, demanding justice for all.
They would call out a word of judgment and warning, often focused on the rich and the powerful in the land who oppressed the poor.
They warned of the destruction of Israel.
And spoke of the hope of the Messiah.
Such was the view from Mt. Carmel.
And in today’s Gospel, Moses and Elijah join Jesus on the top of another mountain.
Moses and Elijah, speaking with Jesus, and all three radiating with heavenly light.
From that mountain Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about what was to come in Jerusalem.
The view from that mountain was the cross where Jesus would suffer and die to redeem the world.

Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
Righteousness. Justice. And Forgiveness.

As the people of God, we stand with the disciples on the mountain top and share the view of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
Three men.
Three views.
Three paths to follow.
You cannot stay on the mountain top.
And when you turn to go down, you will follow one or the other.
I believe that one of the most important questions of spirituality is who you will follow down that mountain.
There are those who follow Moses.
It’s all about the Law and living a righteous life.
We see that to this day.
These disciples of Moses lift up the Law.
The Bible is for them the pathway to a Godly life, and their concern is primarily for the individual’s walk with God, AS ONE OF OBEDIENCE.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is their question.
And to answer that question they look to Moses and the experience on Mt. Sinai.
They hang the Ten Commandments on their walls.
And their concern is about making the right choices in life.
It is a concern about sin as immorality.
It is about repentance.
It is about living a new life, faithful to the commandments of God, and putting aside all sinful ways.
They followed Moses down the mountain.
There are others whose eyes are fixed on Elijah and the prophets on the mountain.
For them the concern is not righteousness as an individual pathway of life, but justice as the calling of the people of God.
They have heard the prophet’s call.
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Micah 6:8)
Their’s is a concern for the society as a whole.
Issues of social justice are their passion.
How do we as a society treat the poor and the outcast?
Those who follow Elijah down the mountain see our sins as societal sins, and the result of our following false gods.  It’s systematic evil they are concerned about, not individual righteousness.
These are the disciples who will march on Washington for one cause or another, calling for justice to be done.
They have followed Elijah down the mountain.
“Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”
There is another path down that mountain.
It is not the pathway of righteousness of the law.
It is not the way of justice.
Though both the Law and the Prophets lead us to Jesus, just as Moses and Elijah spoke with him on the mountain, in the end it is Jesus alone.
And for those who want to follow Jesus, the view from the mountain is the cross.
That’s what Moses saw.
That’s what Elijah saw.
And they were visiting with Jesus about it.

It’s not about righteousness of the Law, nor about doing justice, for we have failed at both.
On the cross is where God has chosen to meet us.
Jesus sees our failures at righteousness.
Jesus knows that we fall short of justice.
And so he came with a message of love and forgiveness.
This is the third way.
Baptism is about forgiveness.
Communion is about forgiveness.
The Gospel we preach is about forgiveness.
The Cross is about forgiveness.
Jesus is about forgiveness.
And the Father waits longingly for the Spirit to create opportunities to forgive.
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”
Moses and his call for righteousness can lead us nowhere, unless he leads us to Jesus and his forgiveness.
Elijah and the prophets’ call for justice can do nothing unless they lead us to Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
Jesus only.
Love as you have been loved.
Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Show mercy as God has been merciful to you.
Take up your cross, and follow me, Jesus says.
Jesus only.
Not Moses.  Not Elijah.
Jesus only.
Three men and three mountains.
But in the end, there is only one.
Jesus only.

No comments:

Post a Comment