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Sharing God's Love and Word Within and Beyond Calvary

Sermon Fenruary 19 2023

Transfiguration of our Lord Sermon 2023

Matthew 17:1-9 

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Sometimes I just need to get away.  Sometimes, I need to get away from it all, and turn off the TV, my computer, and my phone, and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door. 

Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever needed to just close the door and spend some time in a quiet place where you could breathe, pray, and recharge your battery?  If not, you must be an extreme extravert. 

I think it is natural that we desire to seek these safe places and find time to recharge our batteries.  After all, there is so much going on in our lives.  And all of us have many things that we must deal with in our post-modern society.  

Who does not feel overwhelmed by all the issues in the world?  And who does not experience sensory overload when they are faced with more information than our human brains can process? 

With all that goes on in our world today it is no wonder that people feel like they need to push the reset button and replenish their energy. The airlines tell us to “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” I think there is great wisdom in that preflight instruction. 

Did you know that even Jesus was not immune to feeling overwhelmed?  The four Gospel writers all inform us that Jesus Himself needed to get away from it all, so He could spend time in prayer and recharge His batteries.  

Today in our Gospel text, we have one such occasion.  The text tells us that “Jesus took with Him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain.”  Jesus needed to get away, and what better place is there than the top of a mountain. 

I think it is no coincidence that this happened at the halfway point of Matthew’s Gospel.  For months, Jesus had been traveling the Galilean countryside, preaching, and healing, and performing miracles, and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is within all of us. 

And as He lived out His ministry, Jesus caught the attention of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they began to study Him and question His authority.  And as they explored Christ’s identity, they wondered out loud “Who is this man named Jesus?” 

This must have led to some self-reflection, because Jesus asked His disciples “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And then, “Who do you say that I am?” 

Peter answers His question.  Peter states “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And with that answer, Jesus understood what He must do.  Matthew informs us “From that time on, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 

From now on, the path that Jesus must follow leads to Jerusalem and to the Cross.  God’s Redeeming Activity in our world was now in full operational mode.  And Peter does not want this to happen. 

Peter, the one who had declared Jesus to be the Messiah, tried to talk Jesus out of participating in God’s Redeeming Activity.  Peter declared “God forbid it, Lord!  This must never happen to you.”  And Jesus replied “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block for me.”  

It is no wonder that Jesus needed to get away.  And the mountain top retreat is just the refuge Jesus and His disciples needed. 

Today Matthew tells us that wonderful and amazing things happened on that mountain top.  Jesus, the Son of God, was transfigured right before His disciple’s eyes, and His face began to shine like the sun, and His clothes became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets of the old Covenant, appeared there with Jesus. 

And suddenly it became clear that Jesus was/is the One who is destined to fulfill God’s plan for our salvation.  Clear, that is, to everyone but Peter.  After witnessing the transfiguration event, Peter declares “It is good for us to be here.”  

Peter does not want to leave the mountain top.  Peter wants to build three dwelling places and settle down on the mountain top.  “Lord,” Peter states, “it is good for us to be here.”  In other words, Peter is again pleading with Jesus not to go back down the mountain and participate in God’s Redeeming Activity. 

But guess what happens next.  This time the rebuke does not come from Jesus, but from heaven.  Verse five in our text today states “While he (Peter) was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said: ‘This is my Son, my Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him!”’ 

And when the disciples heard this, they were overcome with fear. 

Wow.  Think about it.  Jesus had just been transfigured right before their eyes.  And Moses and Elijah had appeared before them.  And the voice of God was heard booming from the cloud.  And what scared them?  It was the instruction “Listen to Him.”  

In other words, the disciples were told to “Go and do what He tells them to do and follow Him.”  And this frightened them. 

Suddenly any illusion that they might have had about staying up on that mountain top and basking in the eternal glory of Christ was gone.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem and the disciples were going with Him. 

And this scared the disciples.  But before they could offer anymore objections, Jesus gently touched them and said to them “Do not be afraid.”  

And the disciples followed Jesus down the mountain.  And they walked with Him as He made His way to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s Redeeming Activity in our world. 

This was their ministry.  And it is our ministry too.  You know, it is a joy to be here in this sanctuary.  And it is here in this place that we too experience our mountain top experience with Jesus.  But we do not have the option to remain here forever either.  

No.  We have been fed and nourished in this place so we can go out into the mission field and be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world today. 

Yes.  Sometimes we DO need to get away from it all.  And sometimes we need to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door.  But our mission statement here at Calvary Lutheran Church is to “Go and share God’s Word and Love within and beyond the walls of this congregation.” 

And this can be a scary thing to do today.  But just as Jesus reached out to His disciples and touched them and told them “Do not be afraid,” Jesus reaches out to us and touches us and says to each one of us “Do Not Be Afraid” as we leave this place and follow in His footsteps.  

Let us pray:  Almighty God, whose Son was revealed in majesty before He suffered death upon the cross, give us faith to perceive His glory, and strength to follow where Christ goes so we may be His hands and His feet in this world today.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.