Sunday Sermon February 27, 2022

Encountering Glory

Luke 9:28-36

 

Have you ever encountered the glory of God? Have you ever encountered a point where you know for sure that you are not alone, and that God is present in such a way that life is changed? Have you ever experienced the certainty of divine intervention in your life? Do you have a story that you might tell, but you don’t, because you think another person will either not believe you or not be able to really understand what your talking about? An experience that just about makes words inadequate for the moment.

 

I believe that life has its moments, and sometimes we get caught up in them. In a church I once served there was a lady who was suffering with a serious illness. I got a call one-day that she had been taken to the hospital, and I went to see her. She did not look very well and we were concerned about her. Even though she did not seem very responsive, I sat with her, spoke with her, and had a prayer. Eventually I left and the next morning I went back to see her again. That second day I walked into her room and found her sitting up in bed smiling and eating. I was rather stunned. She had suddenly recovered, and then she told me that she did not remember anything from yesterday, except me praying with her. I have to confess that I did very little, but God did it all. Suddenly we realize that in the dimmest of moments a simple prayer draws God close; even if we don’t realize it.

 

I am not sure how much I have talked about it but my mom in the later years of her life underwent a liver transplant. She somehow had contracted Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a virus that a person may get through a blood transfusion, and my mom went undiagnosed with this illness for years until it damaged her liver. AS her liver was failing she told me that she had dreams where she found herself in heaven and standing before Christ. It was an ageless place, pure white, and in which by its very nature of sin and death cannot exist. A place where God’s presence and love abound, and that once you are there you would not want to leave. She said that she saw Jesus seated in a place of authority and power upon a white throne. The first time he seemed to be welcoming her to come, but in her third dream he simply turned his head and waved to her, as if to say that her time to come is not yet. Through these dreams my Mom was not worried about dying, and a organ became available to her. Her recovery through the surgery was so remarkable that she had the doctors and chaplain’s office talking about her. Afterwards, she still struggled with her health, but the liver she received never failed. She always said she was not in a hurry to leave, but she wasn’t worried about it either.

 

Some people say that miracles do not happen, but I tell you that they most certainly do, and sometimes in ways that are even more definite than what I have just related to you. Sometimes God’s angels still make their presence known. Sometimes we encounter the very glory of God and can only shrink in confession or rise up saying Holy, Holy, Holy.

 

Such is the stuff of the transfiguration. We read that the disciples came off of the mountain and told no one what had happened at that time. Their experience was beyond words. They had seen Jesus glorified in a heavenly light, they had encountered Moses and Elijah –the two most important individuals in their faith representing the law and the prophets. A cloud had overshadowed them like that what must have fallen on Mt. Sinai during Moses time. The very presence of God had surrounded them, and the voice of God had spoken to them, “This is my son, my chosen, listen to him.” How could anyone come back from an experience like that and be able to talk about it? Who would believe such an encounter? Regardless for the disciples, this event was life directing, life defining, and life changing. How can we look at life the same way when we know that our reality is part of something bigger that we can not see?

 

Do you notice that our text begins with these words, “Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him, Peter, James and John…” What was Jesus saying eight days ago that this text is speaking about? Well, if we look back Jesus had asked his disciples what people were saying about him. In response, Peter made his memorable response: Luke 9:20 (NRSV) [You are] “The Messiah of God.” This represents a crucial recognition of the truth by the disciples. However, Jesus immediately began to warn them that “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” The disciples thought they saw glory, but Jesus tells them is leading them to the cross. On their bright hopes Jesus seemed to cast a dark nightmare. The next six days are filled with silence, without word or deed, as far as the records show.

 

What could offset the difficulty of hearing Jesus predict his own death in such a terrible way? What could help see Jesus through the suffering and difficulty that he knew laid ahead of him? Well in the darkness there is the glory of God that shines and can never be squelched. I think part of the reason for this story of the transfiguration is to remind us of the certainty of God’s glory in the midst of life’s shadows. Life can be confusing and difficult, but God is ever still in control of all things. Here Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah, concerning his departure, or most literally his exodus. Jesus gained the reassurance of being in accordance with God’s plan and of his life being the fulfillment of the law and prophets.

 

The disciples came to understand that Jesus was indeed truly the Christ. In 2 Peter, Peter wrote, “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 had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.” So, we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

 

This encounter with glory deeply affected their perspective on the truths about life. Likewise, when we encounter God’s glory even today, it brings to us the reassurance of our salvation, the sovereign nature of God, the importance of love, and the lesser significance of the material wants we have in this life. It is a little bit like the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and everything is small stuff.” Compared to the eternal weight of glory that is to be bestowed upon us, what is there in this life that can compare. I would rather live for the eternal than gather for myself the fame and fortunes of this life. This is where glory leads us. It gives us eyes for what is beyond our earthly life. Have you encountered glory?

 

If you have seen glory, then listen. God is speaking to you. In our story Peter is seen as rambling on about building three booths for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Perhaps Peter just wanted to offer hospitality and service to so great a visitation, or maybe somehow, he wanted to capture the moment. God’s response to Peter’s actions was simply to tell him to be still, listen, and learn. Sometimes this is good advice for everyone.

 

How easy it is in life to confuse what is important, or to try to create concrete containers in life for faith. In some ways isn’t that what the church is –a formalized expression of our Christian faith? We as a people are booth builders. Consider every holy site known. What will you find where Jesus was born –a church. What will you find where Jesus was crucified –a church. What will you find where Jesus was resurrected –a church. It would not surprise if someone has built a church on a spot claimed to be where the transfiguration took place. That would be ironic. (Peter got his booth after all)

 

We really can not fault Peter, because we are just like him. We compile millions of dollars into an administrative colossus that we call the United Methodist Church, and you know that it is not all bad, but the real spark and power of the church is never contained in the buildings or the organizational structure. The real substance of our faith belongs with the divine nature and glory of God, and it is utterly uncontainable and completely free. God will always work within our midst, but never be contained, and so the message is simply given be still and listen to my chosen one. It is Jesus who is the fulfillment of God’s plan and prophecy, and it is Jesus who is to be the center and focus of our faith.

 

Therefore, like the disciples as they came down off the mountain, we too have a message to share with the world. It has to do with the heavenly Glory of God having been poured out upon our world through Christ. We are still caught up in the miraculous and part of the marvelous.

 

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer
in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…”

 

As we progress through the days of Lent coming up and the stories of Jesus passion, death, and resurrection; as we journey through the sometimes-dark corridors of life and wonder what it all means, never forget that the glory of God shines in life. The Glory of God shines in Christ. The glory of God is within you. Have faith, be reassured, and listen for Jesus. His Spirit will speak to you and those around you, and guide us through life. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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