Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord
March 2, 2014, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Sermon Theme: “The Voice of the Mountain and the Bright Morning Star”
(Emphasis Online Commentary; Derl Keefer and Ron Love, Emphasis Online Illustrations; Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle A; original ideas; GotQuestions.Org; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 24, Part 1)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The theme song of the Disney film Pocahontas is a song called “Colors of the Wind.” The song is sung by a reflective young Indian maiden to a self-assured young English explorer, John Smith. She explains to him that his notion of the way things are may not be quite complete. Where he sees this new land,America, as a place to exploit and conquer, she sees it as a place to embrace and call home.
She pleads with him in the song, as she sings, “Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?”
God’s Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways, and like John Smith before us, there are times when we close our minds to the possibilities that God gives us every day. God gives us holy moments, but often we miss seeing them. We are blinded by our limited expectations of what is possible. Think about the early followers of Jesus seeing Him walk on water, watching Him feed the 5,000 with a small amount of food, and heal people of all sorts of diseases. If we think miraculous things are impossible, then we’ll miss them, won’t we?
That’s why it is good for us to hear stories about the times when God’s people hear voices from the mountains, and see light transfigure their Savior’s face, sense the Spirit descending like a dove, and read about prophets ascending on chariots of fire. We don’t always know what to make of such wondrous and mystical experiences, but we can rest assured that God is giving us holy moments, when His truth transcends our truth, and we hear the voices of the mountains and see the colors of the wind.
By the time Jesus was crucified, word had certainly gotten around about this unusual man performing astounding miracles. Some no doubt had seen the miracles themselves, or had themselves been healed, but others were just reporting on what they had heard. By the time Jesus was put on trial and questioned by Pontius Pilate and Herod, no doubt all of the miracle stories had gotten around, perhaps even the talk about what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration (even though He told his three guys not to tell); the others didn’t see it, but Peter, James and John did. These almost science-fiction like stories were surely the reason, when Jesus was brought to Herod for questioning, Herod was greatly pleased, because, says Scripture, he had been wanting to see Jesus perform some miracle.
According to our text as well as to Matthew’s reporting of the Transfiguration in the gospel, Peter was an eye-witness, he was right there, seeing it all, this white light of the glory of the Lord. He mentions the experience in his letter, but he goes on to say, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place. “ Peter wants his congregation and us to know and trust Holy Scriptures.
According to Derl Keefer, a story circulated that during the last great persecution of the early church there was a discussion as to how to uproot Christianity from theRoman Empire. Many ideas were considered for crushing the Christians. A renegade Christian told the Roman Emperor and the Council that it was of no use to burn the Christians, as so often was done.
He said, “If you burn every Christian alive today, and leave a single copy of the Scriptures remaining, the Christian Church will spring up again tomorrow!” With the advice of the turncoat Christian in mind, the emperor ordered that all Scriptures be destroyed.
Not only is our sermon text for today a part of Holy Scripture, but also it was written by a disciple who was an eye-witness to this miraculous happening.
The world of theRoman Empirewas a pagan civilization. Just about everyone would have been steeped in the gods and goddesses of the ancient mythologies, such as the one about Zeus and his dynasty. You want to hear some strange stuff? Well, listen on:
When the god Zeus was born, his father, Cronus, intended to swallow him, as he had Zeus’ brothers and sisters (Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera). But Zeus’ mother, Rhea, intervened by hiding Zeus in a cave on a mountain. When Zeus grew to adulthood, he battled his father and made him vomit up his siblings.
The revived siblings then joined forces with Zeus in his battle with the Titans, a battle they eventually won. Then Zeus and his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, divided up creation amongst themselves: Hades got the underworld, Poseidon ruled the sea, and Zeus inherited the sky and became the supreme authority on earth. He ruled fromMountOlympus. He later married his sister, Hera.
In our text, Peter tells us that he did not follow such myths. Rather, Peter said that he heard the voice of God from heaven directly when he accompanied Jesus to the Transfiguration mountain.
He says in the text, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
This proclamation by the Father is His confirmation that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, His only son, whom He has sent into the world to save mankind by sacrificing Himself on the cross. This confirmation was significant for two reasons: one, it gave Jesus the strength He needed to go on to Calvary, and two, it later served to confirm the faith of Peter, James and John, as well as those who would hear the Transfiguration preached from the mouths of Peter, James, and John.
You see, Jesus knew that after He would leave this world, Peter, James, John, and the other disciples, and you and I today would each be a lamp unto the world and that lamp must not be hidden. Our lights, reflecting His majestic glory would be beacons for lost sinners in a world of darkness. Confirmation that He is indeed the Messiah would empower us.
Yet, we must keep in mind that we are a small lamp unto the world, because not one of us is the bright morning star, as Peter refers to Jesus in our text. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Bright Morning Star. (By the way, Isaiah 14:12 refers to Lucifer or Satan as the bright morning star when he fell out of heaven in disgrace.) The morning star is the brightest star in the heavens, and therefore produces the most light. We’re not expected to do that, but, instead, to be points of light guiding others to Jesus, one by one, one on one. Each one reach one, as the Baptists used to say!
At the same time, the awesomeness of the Transfiguration lifts us up, encourages us, strengthens our faith, and even brings us much comfort. As I said earlier, we don’t always know what to make of such wondrous and mystical experiences, but we can rest assured that God is giving us HOLY MOMENTS, when His truth transcends our truth, and we hear the voices of the mountains and see the colors of the wind.
Most of the time, our “holy moments” go by unnoticed by us; on face value, they may not be very obvious to us, whether it’s the holy moment when we are healed of some ailment, or the holy moment when we receive insights into a Scripture, or when we feel the peace that passes all understanding. In this difficult old world we live in, when the vicissitudes of life attempt to block God’s light from us and our light from others, it is comforting to hear the voices of the mountains and see the colors of the wind. We are assured that our resurrected and glorified Savior is with us! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.