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Listen to the Voice

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 2/11/18 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The text is Mark 9:2-9.

The other night, Ray and I were watching the old tv show, “The Twilight Zone” on Netflix. The story was about a man from the 1800s, Wild West, who was suddenly transported to 20th century, downtown Manhattan. At night, he was surrounded by cars with horns blaring, buses, bright neon lights flashing and so on. It was more than he could stand and he nearly went out of his mind.

What if the scene were reversed? What if someone from our time found him or herself as a witness of Jesus’ transfiguration? We can explain so much in our world—from volcanoes to northern lights to germs and disease transmission. What do we do when we are confronted with something so amazing, otherworldly and unexplainable?

Three of the disciples went with Jesus to a high mountain. This tips us off that something big is going to happen. Throughout scripture important revelations happen on mountains. Moses was commissioned on Mt. Horeb and received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.

Moses represents the law, while Elijah represents the prophets. Both ascended to God at their deaths, as will Jesus. Their very appearance exceeds the limits of what’s usually thought of as possible.

In scripture, there are numerous signs of God’s presence. The cloud is one such mysterious sign. Additionally, the mountain, the light and the voice tell us God is there. The dazzling white clothing too signals the presence of God or God’s agent.  There are many more connections to experiences in the Hebrew Scriptures, with which the disciples would be well aware.

Transfiguration literally means to change figure or form. Jesus’ appearance was changed, but not that of Moses or Elijah. Here, the disciples, Mark’s audience and we are allowed a glimpse of the true glory of Jesus. His transfiguration anticipates his resurrection.

Peter liked what was happening and wanted the mountain-top experience to continue. His attempt to capture the moment, reduces it to a mere photo opportunity. Peter is rejecting the suffering that lies ahead, but is eager to welcome the glory.

We struggle with wanting the mountain-top experience to continue today as well. Many of us want glory without the cross, but they are inseparable. I will not name names, but there are those preachers who tell you that you can have everything now. You don’t have to suffer in this life because Jesus has already suffered for you. They claim it is your own fault if you are struggling. That is heresy! If that was true, many faithful followers of Christ throughout the centuries, including the disciples, would not have suffered so horribly for the faith. Do we think we are better and more learned than they? I have heard some preach that we have a greater revelation of God’s truth than even the Apostle Paul, which is why they say he suffered for the faith.

After this great experience of the Transfiguration, with a conference between Moses, Elijah and Jesus, Jesus will walk the way of the cross to suffer and die. We too must follow the way of the cross and not the way of glory.

As Martin Luther wrote:
           
That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened« (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25), he deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the       visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. (Heidelberg Disputation)

The offer of a gospel of success is an invitation into what theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr described as “a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”

This is where the heavenly voice comes in. 7”Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’”  Haven’t we heard this before? Well, we nearly have. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father says Jesus is the Son, the Beloved. Then God said, “…with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Jesus was the One being addressed. In today’s gospel, it is the disciples who are being addressed and the heavenly Father’s voice ends with “…listen to him” (v. 7). The Greek word for “listen,” is a present tense, imperative verb, implying continuing action: “Keep on listening to him: or “Continue to listen to him.”

Peter, James and John were not with Jesus at his baptism because they had not yet become his followers. These words of the Father were new for these disciples. This moment of glory accompanied by the voice allows us to remember Jesus’ baptism and anticipate the final triumph of Christ, the glorious king.

Where do we hear the voice? We hear it in scripture. We hear it in music and preaching and our fellowship together. We may have a spiritual dream. We may hear God’s voice as we are lifted out of depression by the words of a brother or sister. And God speaks to us in unexpected ways as well, as long as we are open to listen.

We listen to him when we proclaim the gospel in word and deed by feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoners, clothing the naked, healing the sick, forgiving those who have offended us and seeking to be peacemakers in our communities. How can we be silent when we have seen the glory of Christ and are being transformed? (Rhonda Garrison Haynes).

8”Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus” (v. 8). Can you imagine that? After what has transpired, to have it all gone and there is simply Jesus.

Moses and Elijah have disappeared. Their appearance with Jesus says that he was the messiah and that the end times are fulfilled in him. The fact that they disappear, leaving Jesus alone, says that the old has ended and the new has come. Jesus incarnated the missions of Moses the law giver and Elijah, the first of the prophets.

Jesus does not escape with his heavenly visitors to glory, but remains to complete his journey to Jerusalem and the cross. He stays behind, so that he is with his disciples then and now. Jesus does not abandon them, expecting them or us to go it alone.

Initially, the disciples were told to be quiet and not let anyone know what they had seen. But that was not the end of the matter. After the resurrection, the church is let in on the secret and becomes the dwelling that Peter thought to erect. The disciples were to wait until after Jesus was raised from the dead, when they could really understand what had happened.They were then prepared to share the good news.

As we listen to the beloved Son of God, he will direct our ways so that we too may share the good news. Just as Jesus was transfigured, we are transformed so that God may use us to transform the world. But we must know what aspect of the good news one needs to hear. For the hungry, a sandwich is good news. For the drowning, a rope or life-jacket is good news. This morning, if our ears were open, we heard about the 5 & 2 Ministry, which is good news to change the lives of children in our community. God has given us this opportunity to be his hands and feet in Bemus Point and elsewhere.

If you have not checked out the information about 5 & 2, do so today. I’m sure Laurie will be around after worship and can help you to take advantage of this ongoing venture.

Listen to God’s beloved Son. Be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and go out from this place as those who are willing and enabled to transform our world.

Amen.

Resources

Fred B. Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year B
Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV-Year B
Rhonda Garrison Haynes, asmweb.org/epiphany-season-year-b#Transfiguration
Barbara Kay Lundblad, huffingtonpost.com/Barbara-Kay-lundblad/mark -9-2-9-visions-on-the-mountain_b_html
Martin Luther, The Heidelberg Disputation
Brian Stoffregen, crossmarks.com

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