Sermon for Sunday 2:27-22 Last Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 99; Exodus 34:29-35; 2nd Corinthians 3:4-2; Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)
During the recent Olympics held in China, I think what came to the forefront was that some athletes are pressured to win so hard, that they are willing to do whatever it takes to win, even a hollow one, to satisfy their teams to win at all costs. I witnessed one young lady accept a gold medal, even after the truth came out that she had used performance enhancing drugs to do so. She accepted the medal, though it was obvious that she was embarrassed to do so. I saw another young woman who had one of the worst performances of her life, but she held her head high in spite of her own personal disappoints, which reveals the spirit of the games to compete is the greatest act one can do, win or lose. I saw one man who had dominated his sport end his quest for one last medal who could not compete with the younger athletes, and just smiled and said, “I gave it all I had, it just was not enough today.”
I saw a cross-country shooter that after having been told she could not win, go out their and walk away from her performance with a gold medal anyway. She said, she collapsed at the finish line, as she had no strength in her body, but rose and held her hands up to God, thanking Him for the performance of her life. I saw a number of athletes competing for their countries and ended up in last place, yet with smiles on their having competed as an Olympian. I could go on, but the thought that kept through my mind was that all of the athletes had competed as best as they could and even the ones who used drugs knew they didn’t earn what they received. One day beloved, we will see Jesus our Lord return to this earth, and judgment day will be at hand. Some who have taken advantages over other people will be looking for mercy, some will be literally looking to hide and find no where to do so, some who have been told they will be first, will find out they are not and others will find that all their work to help others will place them in front of the line.
In our Psalm this morning tells us that God’s position as King of the universe and His past history hearing and forgiving His people are reasons to praise Him and I agree. God showed Himself in Israel as a forgiving God, but He was not soft on sin. His past forgiveness calls forth praise and provides assurance that forgiveness remains a possibility. God’s people praise the Holy God because He rules all creation, because the Holy God is the Forgiving God. In Psalm 100:3-4 states: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and ware his; we his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
In Exodus we are reminded that God used Moses as a constant messenger, for He was concerned that we, the creation of His, listened to Moses and he traveled between God and the people regularly and they knew His presence on the mountain was a reminder for us. Each of the commands that God uttered were passed on to the people, who waited anxiously to hear the word of the Lord. Whenever Moses was in the presence of God, he unveiled himself. Both servant and Master revealed themselves in an act of trust and closeness. Revelation changed Moses’ appearance but not his humanity. The recipient of revelation and mediator of God’s word did not become divine. The written divine word was not all the people needed. They needed a mediator to interpret the divine word in the new situations that passing time brought into God’s presence and changes ou lives. Moses’ closeness to God brought a radiance the people could not bear. Nothing should veils us when we are in God’s presence.
2nd Corinthians is a reminder for us of the many blessings we have received to help each of in our walks. Sort of like Paul, I began several years ago walking in mine or the church that I was serving at, in the neighborhoods with what I called, “Walking and Talking with Jesus.” It was intended as a prayer time and praising our Lord. Sometimes I walk alone, other times I walked with people from the church. It was a time to be spent focusing on our blessings. For me personally, it was a time to thank God for the call to minister to His people and that it was an honor I considered sacred, for scripture has many, many examples of how we fail to measure up, but even more when we see those blessings and recognize Him for them. It was always a time when I felt completely at peace when finished and refreshed, as well. For many it was a time to thank God for the ministries they felt honored to continue, to reach out to others with the message of salvation, to give them hope where they saw none, and to know they were not he only ones experiencing those thoughts of what to do next.
As Your church, we are a covenant people, that as His ministers of the gift of God, He prepares us and makes possible our ministry on His behalf. Our ministry is in the name of Jesus who gave Himself to establish a new covenant based on forgiveness of sins. You have provided us with the Holy Spirit, which guides us and leads us in Wisdom to do the work that Jesus began, and that we are to pick up and continue. Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament scriptures of the Messiah’s coming and all of the people were in place to support His birth, His growth, and the preparation of His coming, and finally of His coming out of the lands to begin His earthly ministry, that we have received as our own ministry. The multitude of gifts revealed through the people of Your church, reveals Your mighty presence in all that takes place and we are honored to serve You.
Finally from Luke, there is the Transfiguration moment as Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. Upon arrival, Jesus is transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Must then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter jumps us and says to Jesus, “Lord, it is good we are here, we can build three buildings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” I always thought I would come up with something better, but then of course, I wasn’t there or I would probably come up with something dumber than Peter!
Yet while he was still talking a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well please. Listen to him!” At that point, I would have done exact what Peter, James and John did, they lay flat on the ground, terrified. Jesus simply said, “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up they saw no one except Jesus. He quickly told them not to tell anyone of their experience until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. They said to him, “We thought Elijah had to come first?” Jesus said this is true and I tell you he has already come and he was unrecognized and mistreated much like the Son of Man (which was Jesus), and they realized that He was talking about John the Baptist and that Jesus was the Son Of Man.
So you see the Resurrection was not a surprise, but God planned it. Jesus expected it. The resurrection means Jesus had to die fir. Expecting death did not make the experience easier. The agony of Gethsemane was real and the disciples could not understand that, for “Suffering Messiah was not what they expected.
The season of Lent is almost upon us, and if you practice it yearly or if you have never experienced it at all. I will be attempting to reveal it to you. Lent is about giving up something you really enjoy, to contemplate the season of Lent. It can also be a time when you take on something you may have not done before, so it is not just suffering for adding a new responsibility in your life. I invite you to bring an open mind to an experience of Lent. Amen