THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
2 Kings 2:1-12 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.
2 Corinthians 3:12-13; 4:1-6 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus 'sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Mark 9:2-9 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
I had a few beautiful moments in the woods this week as I carried on with my “rehab snowshoeing.” It only happened a few times but that just made them stand out all the more. I stopped and stood amongst the maple trees as the clouds parted and the sun in all of it’s glory filtered down upon me and I closed my eyes and basked for a few moments in its warmth. In the midst of the clouds and snow that more often than not hid the sun this past week, I truly received each of those times as a blessed gift from the Father.
The sun was there on all those other days shinning in all its glory behind those clouds and blowing blanketing snow. It’s presence was a matter of faith at times, but it was there, whether I could see it or not, as those few breaks in the clouds with its glorious rays beaming on my face joyfully confirmed. There were times when I trekked along that I longed for it. I enjoy snowshoeing, clouds and all, but when the snow is blowing hard and its a dozen or more degrees below zero my “rehab” feels a little more like hard work. The sun is there, its glow still manages to pierce the gloomiest of clouds, but the way is easier when it’s fully bathed in its light.
But that’s just the way that it is in this world in so many different ways. The Son of God has come down from heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary so that He might save the world and restore creation. Through His bitter sufferings and death He has truly overcome Satan and all His powers and has made all things new. He has risen in victory over sin, death and hell. The serpent’s head is crushed, the Son of God has the wounds in His feet to prove it. Even as Satan bruised His heel He brought His Divine foot crashing down upon him. Redeemed, the Lord Jesus has redeemed the world. All that Adam sold for a piece of fruit Christ has paid for … bought back … reclaimed with His blood.
Redeemed … the world is redeemed … restored … remade … won back out of Satan’s hands … the Son of God shines in glory above it all. That is simply the truth. It’s as true as the fact that the sun shines above the clouds, although believing it is also a matter of faith much of the time because so many clouds still hide this reality from sight. Redeemed, yes, that’s hard to see when you hear things like that the average age of a “sex worker” or rather sex slave in the U.S., not Thailand, but the U.S., is 13 years old. The average age, meaning that for all those over 13 there are just as many under 13, meaning 8 year olds and younger.
Won back … really? When you consider how many are being sacrificed in the abortuaries of our nation? Or when you consider the wholesale pornification of our culture? Won back? When you see the suggestive clothes that they have for little girls to wear? Redeemed? When Valentine’s Day is celebrated by the release of a new movie glorifying the perversion of Sadomasochism? Restored? When you hear from some of our snow birds that the Church that they attend in Florida locks the doors during their service because someone might come in and shoot them? And that’s just to name a few of the clouds that hang low in this world’s skies. They may be particularly dark ones but there are many more.
But you don’t even have to look out at the wide world to see cloudy skies. They hang in the air much closer to home as well. As surely as the Son of God has suffered and died to win back the world … to reclaim and restore it, He has done it for you and me. The Word of God clearly teaches this truth, which Luther expressed so beautifully in His small Catechism: “He has purchased and won me not with silver or gold but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death that I might be His own.” We are Christ’s. He shines in glory over our lives. Any question about that is clearly answered by our Baptism when Jesus came to us personally to bathe us with His light.
Redeemed … you and I are redeemed … restored … remade … won back out of Satan’s hands. The Son of God shines out in glory above us all. It’s as true as the fact that the sun shines above the clouds, although believing it is also a matter of faith much of the time because so many clouds still hide this reality from sight. Won back? And yet questions and doubt remain. Did God really say? Does God really care? Is God really there? Redeemed? And yet the accuser still hits us where it hurts. Guilt remains; weighing us down; blinding us to grace and forgiveness. Restored? And yet sin still rules us in so many ways - selfishness, impatience, pride and rebellion. Remade? And yet we’re wearing out - slowly coming apart.
Clouds, yes, lots of clouds, clouds over the world, clouds over you and me, clouds that make no mistake about it the Lord could dispel in an instant with the lightest whisper of His Divine breath. Clouds that God allows to remain so that we might learn and know that there is no hope for us in the world or in ourselves but in Christ and Christ alone. If the world’s restoration was plain for all to see we could be tempted hope in it, as so many do who have blinded themselves to the remaining darkness. If our faith and trust were unfaltering and perfect we might put our trust in it rather than in Christ; turning it into something that should recommend us to God instead of simply clinging to the wounded feet of Jesus. If we had it all together and lived in the Christ-like way we’re called to what need would we have of Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness.
The clouds remain so that we might long for the Son, beloved, they remain to increase our hunger and desire for Him. They remain so that we might know that we simply can’t survive without Him. They remain so that we might long to come here, up the mountain above the clouds, to have His light was over us in His Word and to take a moment at the altar to close our eyes and be bathed in His mercy, grace and forgiveness. The clouds remain so that we might long for the light of the Son, seek out the light of the Son and eagerly await His return. The clouds remain so that we might learn to say that it is good to be here. The clouds remain so that we might learn to listen to the Son and the Son alone. The clouds remain so that we might know that true hope and real joy can’t be found in the world or ourselves but in Christ alone.
The clouds remain over the world and over us but the Son is shining above them, beloved. See Him today in the Word transfigured before you. See the veil of humility removed from Him to reveal His glorious light so that you might know and believe in what the only begotten Son of the Father has done for you and this world. Redeemed. Restored. Remade . Won back. Yes, it all lies hidden behind the clouds, but the Glory of the Lord has dawned upon us, beloved, and one day soon we and the world will all be transfigured also when our victorious Lord parts the clouds with His glorious return. Until then He invites you here week by week so that you might stand for a moment and have your faced bathed in His light to sustain you in faith and give you eyes to see His light glowing above even the darkest of this world’s clouds. Amen