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February 26, 2017



2.26.17                               Transfiguration               - 2 Peter 1:18-19 ESV


 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.





Like the snow?  Maybe if you like to ski you’re happy today.  Mt. Kato may have some business yet.  It’s been several years since I went skiing and I never was very good, but I remember the thrill of standing on the top of a high hill, enjoying the beautiful view, then looking down at the base and that scary feeling, thinking about zig-zagging down on two narrow fiberglass boards over steep slopes and through tight turns trying to avoid obstacles and getting to the bottom in one piece.  I never went off a ski jump but I’ve walked up to the top of one to imagine what it’s like.  I admire those who are able to go down the ramp (no turning back) and glide like a bird through the air and land maybe a hundred yards down the hill.  What a rush that must be!  I couldn’t do it, could you?


We’ve got to.  No, I’m not talking about entering a ski jumping competition.  I’m talking about the mountaintop experience we have today on this Transfiguration Sunday to see the heavenly glory of Jesus.  Then coming down off that high point to the valley experience we have as Christians living in a broken world.  That’s what Peter is talking about in the epistle lesson we heard.  We remember how he wanted to memorialize the scene by building three shrines on the summit of the mountain, but the voice of God interrupted his foolish idea and ordered the three disciples to listen to His beloved Son instead. 


Thirty years later, Peter, writing this second letter to Christians undergoing severe hardships on account of their faith in Christ, refers to his experience on the holy mountain.  He urges his readers (including us) to pay attention to the word of God in the Spirit-inspired Scriptures.  So today, as the song I sang put it, you’re encouraged to COME TO THE MOUNTAIN TO SEE THE GLORY, then GO TO THE VALLEY TO TELL THE STORY.  In other words, take a leap of faith.


No doubt seeing Jesus shimmering in divine light on that mountain would be a surreal, unforgettable sight.  It was sort of a preview of coming attractions.  The disciples needed that spiritual high before following Jesus to the depths of despair at His crucifixion in a few short weeks.  We repeat that journey in the upcoming Lenten season starting on Ash Wednesday.  But what really lifted their spirits was when they understood from Scripture that it was supposed to happen that way.  Even the resurrection of Jesus, as glorious as that would be, was misunderstood by some of the disciples until they realized what it all meant as Jesus opened their minds to the Scriptures, we’re told.  Thereafter we find the apostles preaching and teaching boldly, on the basis of the Old Testament prophecies, that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Savior, the only hope for heaven.  And of course their words and actions were recorded for our learning in the New Testament writings.  “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” it says.  The Greek verb means to be filled with wind like a sail pushing a boat through water.  That’s what the Spirit does for us in the Holy Scriptures – He moves us along. 


And we have this “prophetic word more fully confirmed,” Peter writes, “to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  Here is where that light shines [hold the Bible] in the darkness of our sin-shrouded lives.  The truth of our salvation has been revealed to us in God’s Word.  We can see it right here in our church as we hear and learn the enlightening words of Scripture in services and classes.  Yes, I’m saying come to the mountain to see the glory in the opportunities we have to worship the Lord here.  Oh, it’s not a miraculous epiphany like the three disciples had with Jesus and Moses and Elijah (both of whom were in the presence of God on Mt. Sinai).  But it’s even better than a beatific vision like some claim to have seen perhaps of Jesus (or more often Mary, they claim).  We have the clear words of Scripture to show us the truth.  That will give us the courage to go down the mountain to tell the true story of Jesus in the valley of the shadow of death in a dying world.  Assuming this time together in church makes a difference in our lives.  Assuming this mountain top experience changes our valley existence. 


Kathleen Barret writes in a devotion booklet called, “The Upper Room,” that she used to be angry much of the time, in a grumpy mood because everyone, everything seemed to be against her.  But when she discovered the good news of Jesus in the Bible, her world seemed to improve.  The sun shined more brightly.  Birds chirped more cheerfully.  Flowers bloomed more beautifully.  Why, even the store clerks who had been so rude to her before were nicer.  “Of course,” she states, “I thought the world around me had changed.  I didn’t realize until later that it was I who had changed; I was different.  It wasn’t the clerk who had become friendlier; I had.  The sun didn’t shine any brighter; I was more aware of it.  The birds chirped before but it was annoying noise to me.  And flowers bloomed certainly but I didn’t notice their sweet fragrance nor enjoy their delicate petals before. But Jesus changed me and He continues to change the way I look at everyone, everything, every day.”


How true.  Sometimes you can’t appreciate the mountain unless you’ve been in the valley.  Some prison inmates can tell us what an uplifting experience it was to learn that God could still love them so much that He gave His Son to die for them so that they could have eternal life.  We pray that other people, people you know who are coasting aimlessly through life, oblivious to God and their own lost, condemned condition before Him, could have that same uplifting experience before they hit rock bottom, before it’s too late.  Who knows, maybe God has made a divine appointment for you to reach someone like that.


A pastor acquaintance of mine tells how that happened to him when he least expected it.  He’s from Texas and he had flown into Milwaukee to give a talk at the seminary we attended there.  Having some time to kill, he walked into a small sporting goods store and looked around.  It was virtually deserted except for the owner behind the counter, who struck up a conversation.  Well, the pastor’s Texas twang revealed that he wasn’t from around those parts, so the owner asked him what he was doing in town.  He didn’t really want to get into a lengthy religious discussion right then, so he said, “Here on business.”  “What kind of business?” he demanded.  Unable to avoid it now he explained he was a Lutheran pastor going to speak at a seminary.  One thing led to another and before long the shopkeeper, who was a fallen-away non-church-goer, received a gospel witness from the Bible.  He realized he needed to learn more about Jesus Christ, so he wanted to find a church in his neighborhood.  And the pastor told him that he would refer a friend he knew in the area.  Unexpectedly, a ray of light had shined in a dark place.


Now you’re saying to yourself, “Well sure, he’s a pastor so that’s easy for him to do.”  Not necessarily.  There are times we don’t want to be bothered; we’d rather go incognito.  But as Christians we have seen the glory of Jesus on the mountain of His Word.  And we have no choice but to tell the story of Jesus in the valley of the world.  Sometimes it takes a little nudge (like going down a ski slope).  But it gets easier the more often you do it.  Then sometimes you just can’t help it. 


Of course it helps to know what you’re talking about, so we recommend Bible studies, make sure you know the facts.  You can’t give what you haven’t got.   There are tracts to teach the basics.  I put a bunch of these – “You are my witnesses” - in the brochure kiosk in back.  Help yourself.  The point is, the more we grow, the more we glow as Christians.  Others will see the light of Jesus in you.  The testimony of your lifestyle will speak volumes to them.  It won’t be “fake news,” it will be great news.  Maybe they will want to come to the mountain to see the glory and then go to the valley to tell the story, too. 


Can you picture yourself now at the top of that ski jump?  Get ready to take the leap of faith, and you will feel the rush of being carried along by the Holy Spirit.  You don’t need any snow to do it.  Amen.