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Atlantis: the domain of the Stingray
author: Stingray
category: Sermons
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Transfiguration of Our Lord

Luke 9:28-36, Luke 9:18-27

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here..."

Could you imagine being there? How glorious it must have been! Jesus takes you to be with Him up to the top of the mountain where a most radiant light shines from Him. To top it off, Moses and Elijah appear—only two of the greatest figures in Scripture! "This is cool," someone might say these days. Or, to speak to you kids, "This is phat!" (That's p-h-a-t phat, for you's a good thing, trust me). Or, you could just say what Peter says, and mean the same thing: "It is good for us to be here."

Of course, there have been many more opportunities for Peter or another disciple or follower to say such a thing.

For one instance, as we heard only four weeks ago, we can look at a situation in a small town in Galilee. Jesus, His disciples, and Mary were invited to a wedding. Now, weddings are normally great things. Ultimately, a man and a woman are brought together to spend the rest of their lives together, and then they throw a great party. Sure, there may be hiccups here and there along the way. The ring bearer or the flower girl get upset and run the wrong way, the bride may have woken up to a huge zit on the end of her nose, the groom may get so jittery that he messes up his line, or something else may go wrong, but the end result is glorious and marvelous: two become one! And there's great food and drink to be had. Well, there was a hiccup at this wedding, too. Either someone didn't order enough wine or all the wine that was ordered never arrived—they ran out. But Jesus was there to save the day, and He turned water into the best wine anyone had ever had! "It is good for us to be here." "This is cool!" "This is phat!"

We could also look at a time on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples had gotten into a boat as they were about to cross to the other side of the lake. Without warning, a furious storm came up. The storm was so violent, that the waves were crashing over the boat. The disciples were terrified, but through it all, Jesus was calmly sleeping. Out of fear for their lives, the disciples woke Jesus: "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" So He did, and rebuked the winds and the waves, "and it was completely calm." So, they continued to the region of the Gadarenes. This was amazing to the disciples, for they asked one another, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!" In other words, "It is good for us to be here." "This is cool!" "This is phat!"

Or, there was another time. Imagine a mountain side by the Sea of Galilee. By this time, Jesus had performed many miracles—healing, casting out of demons, and the like. So, a large crowd of followers had formed—they, too, thought it was good to be here, where Jesus was. Seeing them, He asked Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" Well, they didn't have enough money to buy enough bread, for the number of men alone was 5000, and even the bread and fish that a small boy had wasn't enough—he only had five small barley loaves and two small fish. Yet after Jesus had taken the bread and the fish and given thanks, it was distributed to all the people, as much as they wanted! How glorious, from five small loaves of bread and two small fish, Jesus was able to feed over 5000 people, and there were 12 baskets full of leftovers! "It is good for us to be here." "This is cool!" "This is phat!"

How about one more? We'll move to a place called Bethany. A man Jesus loved dearly had died. He loved this man as dearly as a brother should love a brother, so that when He learned of his death, He wept. So, Jesus and His disciples make their way to Bethany. When they came to the tomb, he told the people to take away the stone, said a prayer, then called into the tomb, "Lazarus, come out!" And, wouldn't you know it, "the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face." How glorious that scene must have been! A man dead for four days is raised from the dead to be as alive as he was before! "It is good for us to be here." "This is cool!" "This is phat!"

So, the stage was set for the transfiguration. But, before we go there, we'll look at something that happened about eight days prior. "Who do the crowds say that I am?" Jesus asks. Well, since He had done many marvelous things, but kept his divine nature hidden for the most part and often told people not to reveal what had miraculously happened to them, the people thought Him some great prophet returned from the past. "He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'" Well, Simon Peter knew this: "The Christ of God."

It was important to look at that because of what happened next. From that time on, from the time of Peter's confession on, Jesus began to predict His death. He would go from performer of many miracles and story teller to someone who must be sadistic, saying that he was going to suffer many things and eventually be killed. "Never, Lord!" "This shall never happen to you," was Peter's response, St. Matthew tells us. "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

And, honestly, why not? Jesus has done many great things as we have mentioned. People have gotten a glimpse of God's glory in Jesus, and they want to keep that around. This Jesus can do some pretty amazing things for us in the here and now, no way we would want Him to die...we need to keep Him around.

So, on the mount of transfiguration, it was good for Peter and James and John to be there. "Hey Jesus, let's linger here for a while. You know, make the moment last! We'll build some shelters so You and Elijah and Moses can hang out with us for a good long time."

"[Y]ou are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

And, honestly, things haven't gotten much better. People still prefer the glory to the passion. People still do not have the things of God in mind. Yes, even people who would presume to be called Christian.

Why, just watch some "Christian" television. Preachers like Billy Graham and Joel Osteen point you to the glory of Jesus, but often (almost always?) turn your attention away from the passion of Christ. Watch programs like The 700 Club or Praise the Lord (and, no, I'm not encouraging you to do so), and you will see men and women who talk about getting something back, here and now, for being Christian, who spread the heresy that by asking Jesus into your heart (also a heretical doctrine), He will do for you everything you ask of Him. Or, sow a "seed" of $1000 (that is, send them money), and you will get it returned to you ten-fold.

There is this sad, Pentecostal idea pervading almost all of American Christianity that God is your God to perform whatever miracles for you that you want. And through their evangelistic efforts, this heresy is spreading. Christianity around the world is becoming less Christian and more "American." Somehow, the Declaration of Independence has found its way into Christian teaching: "God is mine to fulfill my pursuit of happiness." It is the way of the world, not the way of God; It is being mindful of the things of men, not the things of God. Sadly, Christians around the world are latching on to this idea.

This theology of glory leads to hopelessness. For, as it teaches, if God is mine to do my will, what happens when my will is not done? What has happened if my will is not done? "Well, I must not be believing hard enough. I must not have prayed long enough. I must have done something wrong. Now, I've got to work harder so that God will grant my wishes." So what happens when those wishes continue to go un-granted...? All hope is lost, for that thing I hoped for—my wish—is never going to happen.

As frightful as that may be, it is also scary to know that this idea is spreading even into orthodox church bodies, such as ours. The theology of glory rears its ugly head in Lutheranism, too, especially when we start to crunch numbers. When there isn't enough money rolling in or when membership numbers decline, we begin to wonder if we're doing something wrong or that maybe God is blessing someone or something else. We begin to wonder if we're teaching and preaching the wrong things—if we're believing and doing the wrong things.

And, the theology of glory doesn't have to be so grand. How often have you thought that God must have been punishing you because things weren't going exactly as you wanted them to go? Or, on the flip side, how often did you think God was blessing you or granting your wish because you have done something good? As the Word of God declares, "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

"Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

God is no genie. To all those who would seek the glory of Jesus before the passion of Christ, God the Father says, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Hear Him...Listen to Him! Hear Him...Listen to Him because He has something to say: "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." This is sadistic foolishness to the theology of glory. It is the theology of the cross.

There is a saying that goes, "Before we can pray, 'Lord, Thy Kingdom come,' we must be willing to pray, 'My Kingdom go.'" Similarly, if we are to pray, "Thy will be done," we must be willing to pray, "My will be undone." This is the contrast between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. Or, as Jesus put it:

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.

The theology of the cross is this: God accomplishes His greatest good in the midst of suffering and when human reason is contradicted; it can only be received by faith and centers on the death of Christ for sinful man. Or, as Luther wrote: "When God makes alive He does it by killing, when He justifies He does it by making men guilty, when He exalts to heaven He does it by bringing down to hell." All of this He has done in His Son, Jesus the Christ.

And this is exactly what was confirmed by the Father's words from another account of the Transfiguration: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We've heard those words before. As Epiphany began, those were the words from the Gospel as Jesus was Baptized. In His Baptism, Jesus was united with sinful man; He was united with us. In His Baptism, He was designated as the bearer of our sin—He became our designated dier—so that He would take our sin with Him to the cross and there destroy it as He received the wrath of God due us: death. So, as Epiphany now ends, we hear those words again—words that inexorably link the Baptism of Our Lord with the Transfiguration of Our Lord, a reminder that Jesus has come to bear our sin and be our Savior, to justify us by making Himself guilty. This is the will of the Father, and with His Son, He is pleased.

So, you know what. What Peter says is true. It is good for us to be here. This place is cool! What goes on here is phat! For, as we have been marked with the sign of the cross, our sins atoned for by the passion, death, and resurrection of the Son of Man, and Baptized into His name, the Father sees His Son when He looks at us. He sees the merits of His Son given to us, and He is pleased. His will has been fulfilled, and we have been forgiven for all our sins. That is a sign of orthodox church bodies—the Word is taught and preached in its purity—and that will never change as the Word of God never changes. It is what we believe, teach, and confess. And this is exactly as the Word of God declares:

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Where is the theology of glory, which is the wisdom of this world? It is foolishness to God! We preach Christ crucified—the theology of the cross!

Therefore, what we preach—Christ crucified—is glorious, though outwardly it seems the opposite! Christ has died that I may live: a miracle beyond all miracles! As St. Paul so wisely put it, "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." This is the gift of mercy and grace that has been given to us in this place in Word and Sacrament. "It is good for us to be here." "This is cool!" "This is phat!"

Why is it good for us to be here? Because Jesus is here, and He has forgiven you for all your sins!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

audio recorded on my digital recorder and converted to mp3
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