Saturday, February 22, 2020

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

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
There are a lot of people out there that want to be Moses for us.
And there are a lot of people out there that would claim to be Elijah.
But only one Jesus. 
Only one Jesus.
Moses gave us the Law, the teachings of God.
Elijah was the great prophet.
And in their spirit there are those who would like to be givers of the Law, or to speak words of exhortation and warning, as the prophets did.
To be a Christian is to live under the freedom of the Gospel.
As Paul writes in Galations 5:  For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
And then again:
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self- indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
To walk in the way of Christ is to walk in the way of love, and to do so in perfect freedom.
Too often we have lost sight of Jesus, who set us free.
And rather than live in the freedom of the Gospel we have chosen to pitch our tent with Moses, high on the mountain.
We hear God’s word, not as the liberating news that it is, but rather as a master’s demands that keep us in bondage in slavery.
We hear God’s word as law.
We hear God’s word as a never ending list of what we have to do.
Love one another as I have first loved you.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is only one question we need ask in any circumstance and that is what would be loving.
But so many refuse to leave it as that.
So many want to make love into a law.
So many would enslave us once again by rejecting the Gospel and the freedom that is at its core.
One of the most insidious ways we turn love into a law is when we add the word “tough” to it.
Tough love.
You know how that goes.
I love you, and because I love you, I’m going to demand certain things of you for your own benefit.
Tough love.
I will make you suffer the consequences of your actions.
I will forbid you from doing many things, all for your good.
I will seek to protect you from yourself.
I will be your Moses.
In the name of tough love people have been condemned.
In the name of tough love people have been marginalized and persecuted.
It’s a slippery slope from “tough love” to hatred, hatred clothed in the language of love the sinner, hate the sin.
But, for example, you cannot claim to love a black person at the same time you despise everything about being black.
Love is the fulfillment of the law.
And love sets us free from the demands of the Law.
That’s Jesus.
Love your neighbor.
Love as I have loved you.
And the disciples looked up and “saw no one except Jesus himself alone”.

Elijah also stood by Jesus on the mountain.
And there are many who would follow Elijah and the prophets.
A prophet.
In our world today a lot of people think of prophets as predictors of the future.
Prophecies abound.
People think, for example, that if you just unravel the words of the prophets you will be able to predict, for example, when the world will come to an end.  Many have and they lived to see they were wrong.
In this vein people have written books and made millions predicting the end of times.
Hal Lindsey and the “Late Great Planet Earth” for example.
And the more recent “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
I am humored by one thought.
Did these people invest their earnings from the books in the stock market?  Or did they truly believe the world was coming to an end and not concern themselves with long range investing because they wouldn’t need it anyway?
What the prophets actually did was not so much to predict the future, but to critique the present and tell of the consequences of people’s behavior.
Theirs was often a word of warning, but also a word of hope.
The prophets, like Isaiah for example, would tell the people what they could expect as a consequence of their actions.
But they also spoke of the hope that is ours because of a loving and gracious God.
The prophets were closely aligned with Moses.
Their word of warning and judgement flowed out of the Law.
The truth of their words lies in the fact that actions have consequences.
We understand this, though sometimes we don’t heed those warnings.
Packs of cigarettes all have warning labels on them.
People still buy them.
People like me, during my drinking days, get intoxicated.
The root word of “intoxicated” is toxin, that is ‘poisonous’.
  I’m finding out about that now.
My ten years of heavy drinking may have left me with significant neuropathy in my legs, nerves deadened by the toxicity of the alcohol I consumed.
I heard the warnings about alcohol, but never thought that it would apply to me.
Well, actions have consequences, and you just can’t drink as much as I drank without experiencing the consequences.
That’s the type of message the prophets preached.
What is the consequence of your actions.
But where prophecy goes wrong is regarding our relationship to the Father.
In Second Timothy it is written:
The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
And also, in Romans:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we hear the prophet’s words and fear the rejection of our God, we have lost sight of Jesus.
We have pitched our tent on the mountain with Elijah.
We have enslaved ourselves to the consequences of our actions, both now and for eternity.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
Whether it be Moses, the giver of the Law, or Elijah the prophet of God, their Words are of no avail except in as much as they lead us to Jesus, and Jesus alone.
It is the love that is ours in Christ Jesus that will rule, not only the day, but eternity.
And love sets us free.
It sets us free from our bondage to sin and death.
And it sets us free from the consequence of our actions.
Love, and love alone, can do that.
May this peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen

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