Sunday, February 3, 2008

Jesus Makes it Light

Transfiguration of Our Lord
Series A
Exodus 24:8-18
Psalm 2:6-12
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come.

While others make it heavy, "JESUS MAKES IT LIGHT." While shadows cast and make life dim, "JESUS MAKES IT LIGHT."

I just finished doing a detailed outline and analysis of the last book in the Bible. Yes, Revelation. Spending time on that would hardly seem to benefit us, those who know how the story is going to end. Even my 3 year old knows. If you ask him, he'll tell you: stop the bad guys. But our religious times don't listen very well. What is promised is twisted into fiction: what Jesus would give, others would take. And they'd take you down with them. So, the final words of warning and blessing still stand for us to heed and witness:

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Preachers and teachers of the End Times often scare to death the hearers of this book of blessing. They act as if the book ends there, with Law and damnation, judgment and death.

But no, there's more. Listen… the blessing:
"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.'"
The church responds, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."
And John blesses them, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen."

That's a good ending isn't it? Not so scary. Yet fear is a great tactic if you want people to rush into your church. After all, where else do you run when you gotta repent at the last minute?! These last minute preachers spew forth all manner of guidance, wisdom, and prophecies to help prepare you, to make you ready. You'll learn of what this number or that number means… You'll know how the apocalyptic book opens up the rest of scripture. Or so they promise.

God on the other hand, speaks simple. Read the book and see for yourself, it is as simple as my boy would say, "stop the bad guys." It was not written for just the chosen few. And if you can't read it, good thing God meant it to be spoken aloud, so you may hear and believe, and thus be saved from your selves.

We probably either know someone or will know someone who evangelizes by sharing not the good news, but the bad news. For such well meaning people, I've got a big clue for them. Notice the beginning of the book. The title of the book is Revelation, singular, not plural. It's not about the many revelations, more stuff I gotta know. "This is the revelation of Christ." Know Him, the one thing to know, Jesus. You don't need to know the saints innumerable, nor scan the breaking news. Y'see, the "god" in RevelationS (plural) is an unknowable god, unlike the God of RevelatioN who lets his light shine. Watch this:

"After six days, Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light."

Ahh, all of a sudden, the book of revelation seems rather simple. Because HERE is the miraculous thing. That this man is God. The fullness of God is revealed in this man, Jesus. All of the words of Pastor and me during Epiphany and the Transfiguration celebration do no good, if we do not let you see Jesus. If so, we get in the way. In our transfiguration text, we hear and know how SIX days pass… but the SEVENTH day lights up! His Gospel is so sweet that none can dwell on the bitterness of death's sting.

That's a tall challenge for all Christians, and in particular, for teachers, pastors, and parents… that while we ought to teach the law in its full sternness, we must teach the Gospel so that it alone reins. It's easy to preach the Law. We're law givers by nature, just itching to deal out judgment. To seek out the righteousness of God… or to let sleeping dogs lie. What a pity. They aren't dogs. They aren't cattle. They are made in the image of God. We must speak to them as God speaks to us.

He takes these three up to the mountain, knowing their weaknesses, their fears, and yet still shows them. He shows them so the apostles may show you... Jesus. Like the Baptist, "I must decrease, so he may increase." Peter, James, and John… along with the rest of darkness, do well to receive this light of God. No one can drink that cup of wrath and survive. In the Latin, it's called "extra nos." That means "outside of US," not faith in one another, but in the Chosen one. When John the evangelist worshipped the angel-messenger, John was corrected. Worship the Lamb of God, seated at the right hand of the Father.

It's not just Jesus who is transfigured in this text. So also are Moses and Elijah, looking pretty good, considering they died several thousand years earlier. And soon also the three apostles, who though now cower and would rather stay here… they quickly join the first of many martyred, who would rather die just once with Jesus' name on their tongue, so that the Word may breath them back to life.

All is changed. It is a new creation. Yeah, it doesn't look all that glorious. And it just looks like bread and tastes just like wine. It may look like it's just some guy we call vicar, while over there, it's just our Pastor. And it's just you guys, just us. No, it's the faithful caught up in the cloud of God's presence. Do you have ears to believe it?

That's how the Gospel works. You can't do enough nor believe enough. God speaks the faith into your ears and out it goes. Out it goes? In one ear and out the other? No, out it goes, on your lips, into the world. These are the romantic words that St. Valentine would truly smile at. Into your ears, and out it goes into this cold world as love lights up every precious corner.

No scare tactics here. For my job is not the moral police, but Word and sacrament. Nothing to fear. Unless of course you are on the wrong side. Good thing there's time right now, for you to hear the Good News and be saved.

It's an awful shame when a child is scared of his father's face. I know we come into this world fearful. But it gets me right here. Enough times I've seen children cower in public, take a step back, running away inside. From their own father.

In Matthew's Gospel today we heard Peter bargaining God, "But I don't want to go." We can laugh after the fact, but there's enough times in our lives when we think we know better. Acting out like adolescents trying to get out of punishment. Try to see this is not punishment. Let your baptismal faith flow through your guts so you can know… that God is not some unknowable distant father, cold to you, leaving you to sort out Heaven and Earth.

God descended from heaven to earth. Here Jesus our brother reveals our father. The whole Father. In the Flesh! As an earthly father I plead for your forgiveness for all fathers, all authorities, and everyone you ever trusted. Forgive us, who ought to show you the light but at times let you down. For the flesh will always fail you… all the while the heavenly Father never scares you. Hey may correct you, as he did John, Peter and all the other apostles. Here Christ's hand comes to you, and wipes away every tear, and offers you a place at the table of the marriage-feast of the Lamb.

Here revelation is fulfilled; this is the climax of Epiphany, when we celebrate Christ's transfiguration, revealing to us God's face in His spotless lamb... Jesus the Christ.

Chase no more burdens. Have no fear. Jesus is here. He'll stop the bad guys. While they may make it deep and dark and heavy, He makes it light. Jesus makes it light.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people" forevermore. Amen.