THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD, 2-10-2019

LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI

Rev. Michael C. Larson

Old Testament: Exodus 34:29-35

Epistle: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Holy Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

*Expanded Propers also included after sermon text.

Dear Christians, this feast of the Transfiguration is a glorious festival day. It is truly a feast for the eyes and for the ears. Because we see our Lord Christ, with Peter and James and John, transfigured on the top of a mountain, and Jesus face is shining like the sun – light is beaming from his skin – his clothing, shining – with a dazzling divine brightness. Talking with the Lord on this mountain is Moses – the great lawgiver and mediator between God and His people Israel – and there’s Elijah – the resurrecting, ascending end-times prophet. Luke’s Gospel notes they are talking with Jesus about His exodus: recalling the deliverance from Egypt and slavery to sin – looking forward to Jesus’ exodus: his glorious death and resurrection that frees us and leads us from the slavery of sin to the promised land of everlasting life.

And what a feast for our ears too. The Father’s voice is proclaiming again, as He did at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” And then he directs our ears to Jesus, to Him alone, saying, “Listen to Him.”

Now there is something important here in this vision we should all understand: Jesus did not get another body up there on that mountain. This is no magic trick. When Peter and James and John witness Jesus shining brighter than the sun in divine glory, it’s the same Jesus they have always known. The bright shining body is the same flesh he received in Mary’s womb.

So what happened? Well, for a brief moment, Jesus let those disciples see just a little bit of what had been hidden during his earthly life. Make no mistake about it: This is the God of Israel dwelling now in human flesh. God of God, light of light. Very God of very God. The one in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.

Moses and Elijah bear witness. The voice of the Father from the cloud bears witness to this. This is the glory of Yahweh Himself – God in human flesh. The invisible God in Christ becomes visible. The unapproachable becomes approachable.  

John would later write of this experience: “He tabernacled among us…That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, was made manifest.”  

But don’t think there was perfect clarity up on this mountain, because there wasn’t. Peter, whose name means Rock, can also be something of a roadblock at times.

I want you to remember that immediately before this transfiguration, Peter boldly confesses Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. But when Jesus teaches his disciples that his mission is to be tortured, to suffer grievously for our sins, to be crucified on the cross, and rise, Peter becomes a roadblock, an obstruction to the glorious mission of our Lord Christ. Peter yells out, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

And here on the Mount of Transfiguration, we see Peter at it again. Things should be crystal clear for Peter about Jesus’ mission to go to the cross for our salvation, but they are not. And we know because he’s trying to set up a roadblock to Jerusalem once again. “It’s good that we are here,” said Peter “I will make three tents here – one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” And why wouldn’t he want to stay? There are two VIP saints of the Old Testament and Jesus brightly shining like the sun. It’s truly a “mountaintop experience” we would say. And that’s where Peter wants Jesus to stay. That’s where he himself wants to stay. In a kingdom with no cross.   

But we Lutherans should know better. Luther called this sort of thinking a theology of glory, in which a person “does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore, the “theologian of glory,” in the words of Luther, “prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, and wisdom rather than the foolishness and scandal of the cross.”

In a moment of weakness Peter was preferring again a Christianity with no cross – a savior with no scars, and a church with no suffering. That is why Jesus would sharply rebuke Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. You are a roadblock to the cross – the place where I must go. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

As Peter is foolishly speaking about tents, his words are cut off by a bright cloud, overshadowing them all, and a voice from the cloud speaking: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The disciples all hit the deck. They fell on their faces and were terrified. They knew the words of the Lord to Moses who said, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

So imagine Jesus getting his hands on his cowering disciples, and saying to them, “Get up and don’t be afraid.” The next time someone speaks those words of comfort, it will be the angels at the empty tomb, and then, Jesus Himself, who says to the women, “Stop being afraid.” He’ll show his pierced hands and feet. He’ll restore Peter through the forgiveness of sins and send his apostles to preach His Gospel.

A whole sermon could be preached on those words spoken from God the Father from that cloud: “Listen to Him.” This is the point Peter is making in the epistle this morning. We have something more sure, the prophetic Word. When the Holy Spirit caused Peter and John to write Holy Scripture, they dwelt ultimately not on seeing God’s glory with one’s eyes, though they did, but on hearing Jesus’ words with one’s ears.

So this morning listen to Him. Listen to Him whom the Law foretold. Listen to Him whom the prophets promised. Listen to Him whose blood washes you clean – so that you with sins like scarlet might become white as snow, clothed in the radiant righteousness of Christ.  

But first the transfigured Lord had to leave the Mount of Transfiguration and go to an altogether different high place – Mount Calvary. Before he could make you pleasing and radiant to your father in heaven, He let himself become disfigured and marred beyond recognition for your sins. He had to die and be raised so that dying sinners would be transfigured, raised up, and restored through the forgiveness of sins. 

The moment of your transfiguration happened on the day of your Baptism, when you were clothed with Christ. That, of course, as you witnessed again today, is the day that God looked at you and said, “This is my child! This is my son – this is my beloved - the one I love and in whom I am delighted.”  

What we see on that mountain is also a glimpse in our own future. “Beloved,” wrote St. John to the community of the baptized, “we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. But when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is!” Also Paul wrote, “When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory!” The Psalmist sings: “Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

In other words, when you see Jesus transfigured on that mountain you have a foretaste of your own future. Because at the Second Coming of Jesus, all who have lived and died trusting in Him will be raised in bodies that will be like his, shining in glory. That’s exactly what the angel told the prophet Daniel about the Last Day, when those asleep in the dust of the earth awake – some to shame but some to everlasting glory. The Scriptures say, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky.”

Peter was by no means wrong when he said in the brightness, “Tis good Lord to be here.” But how much better it is to be here, now, at this altar. Because here Jesus also gets his hands on you – to bless you and absolve you. To tell you that your sins are forgive. Listen to Him. He’s says, “Don’t be afraid. Your sins are put away.”

His kingdom is so close you can drink it – from the chalice of his undying love for you. Heavenly food and heavenly drink, which refreshes you, revives you, and transfigures you to shine. That you might be light to your neighbor and bear witness to the glory of God.  

This feast of Transfiguration is for your comfort and joy. It anticipates the day when the veil of this life is lifted…and we all, with unveiled face, will behold the glory of the Lord, being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. In the name of Jesus. Amen.


Introit:

Antiphon

Your lightnings lighted up the world;

the earth trembled and shook. (Psalm 97:4)

Psalm

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints

for the courts of the LORD; (Psalm 84:1-2)

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,

ever singing your praise! (Psalm 84:4)

For a day in your courts is better

than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

the LORD bestows favor and honor.

No good thing does he withhold

from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:10-11)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning,

is now and will be forever. Amen.

Antiphon

Your lightnings lighted up the world;

the earth trembled and shook. (Psalm 97:4)

 

Collect of the Day:

O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah, and in the voice that came down from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshadowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King of His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Old Testament: Exodus 34:29-35

The Shining Face of Moses

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

 

Gradual:

You are the most handsome of the sons of men;

grace is poured upon your lips (Psalm 45:2)

The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

 

Epistle: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Christ's Glory and the Prophetic Word

16 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. 17 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention has to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God las they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

Alleluia Verse: Psalm 96:2-3

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Sing to the LORD, tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

 

Holy Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, ma bright cloud overshadowed them, and ma voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and shave no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

 

Hymn of the Day: “O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair” LSB #413

Text: Sarum Breviary, Salisbury, 1495

Translator: John Mason Neale, 1818-66

Tune: DEO GRACIAS

Source: English, 15th century

 

1 O wondrous type! O vision fair

Of glory that the Church may share,

Which Christ upon the mountain shows,

Where brighter than the sun He glows!

2 With Moses and Elijah nigh

The incarnate Lord holds converse high;

And from the cloud the Holy One

Bears record to the only Son.

3 With shining face and bright array

Christ deigns to manifest today

What glory shall be theirs above

Who joy in God with perfect love.

4 And faithful hearts are raised on high

By this great vision's mystery,

For which in joyful strains we raise

The voice of prayer, the hymn of praise.

5 O Father, with the eternal Son

And Holy Spirit ever one,

We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace

To see Thy glory face to face.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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