Sermon, August 6, 2017

Sermon.08.06.17

St. Paul’s – Brookings

Fr. Larry V. Ort

Exodus 34.29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1.13-21; Luke 9.28-36

 

The Feast of the Transfiguration is always celebrated on August 6th; this year, the feast occurs on Sunday, so it takes precedence over the 9th Sunday of Pentecost. Thus, we interrupt our series on Romans for this important celebration.

What should we hope for on this feast day? The Collect addresses that question: “Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world may by faith behold the King in his beauty.” This service affords the opportunity to leave the cares of the world behind for a bit as we focus on worship; in the partaking of communion, may we catch a glimpse of the King in his beauty.

Let’s look at today’s readings in light of the Feast of Transfiguration. When Moses brought the covenant down from Mt. Sinai, he was unaware that “his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Exodus 34.29; NRSV). The people were afraid to come near Moses; they had apparently run away from him, for the account says Moses called to Aaron and the congregation, and they returned to him.

Moses had been in the presence of God for forty days and forty nights. Exodus 34.5 tells us “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with Moses there, and proclaimed the name, ‘The Lord’” (NRSV). This settling of the divine presence of God and the manifestation of God’s glory, is referred to as the “Shekinah.” The Shekinah glory of God was manifest in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that preceded the Israelites as they departed Egypt (Exodus 13.21). It was also manifest in the way Moses’ face shone.

The psalmist, having proclaimed, “The Lord is King,” and noted the greatness of the Lord, states, “Let them confess his name, which is great and awesome” (Psalm 99.3). He commands the Israelites to “Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and fall down before his footstool” (Psalm 99.1a, 5; NRSV). The psalmist then calls to mind Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, points to God’s presence in a pillar of cloud, praises God, and again commands the people, “Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One” (Psalm 99.9; NRSV). Note the emphasis the psalmist places on confessing God’s name, proclaiming God’s greatness, and worshiping God.

The Gospel of Luke tells us how Jesus took his inner circle, Peter, James, and John, up the mountain with him to pray. While praying, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Luke 9.29; NRSV). Again we see God’s glory made manifest. Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory, talking to Jesus. The account tells us they were speaking of Jesus’ departure – of forthcoming events in Jerusalem. As Moses and Elijah were leaving, Peter exclaimed, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Luke 9. 33; NRSV). While saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; they were terrified as the cloud enveloped them. And then they heard a voice, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9.35; NRSV)! The account closes with these words: “And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen” (Luke 9.36; NRSV). In Matthew’s account of the transfiguration, we are told, “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead’” (Matthew 17.9; NRSV).

Let’s now look at the Epistle. 1st and 2nd Peter fulfill Jesus’ commission given Peter in response to his avowals of love – “feed my lambs . . . tend my sheep . . . feed my sheep” (cf. John 21.15-19). We see these actions in a beautiful passage which leads into today’s lesson. Closely attend to these words:

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us byhis own glory and goodness.  Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1.3-4).

 

Once again, the words of the Collect are brought to mind: “Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world may by faith behold the King in his beauty.” When we become participants of God’s nature, when we behold the King in his beauty, God’s glory descends upon us. Peter continues:

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.  For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.  For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

                        Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you (2 Peter 1.6-12; NRSV).

It is easy to gloss over this list of goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc., because of the way the passage is written.

The emphasis on making every effort to support these attributes becomes clearer, though a bit more cumbersome, if we rephrase These verses as follows:

You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness.

You must make every effort to support your goodness with knowledge.

You must make every effort to support your knowledge with self-control.

You must make every effort to support your self-control with endurance.

You must make every effort to support your endurance with godliness.

You must make every effort to support your godliness with mutual affection.

You must make every effort to support your mutual affection with love.

 

That is a lot of effort! We are called to be active participants in this process of transformation. Ultimately, these attributes, and all this effort, tie back to love; it is our display of love which makes our life in Christ effective. It is our love which reflects the presence of God’s glory in us.

Given that Peter is about to be executed, he reminds the addressees of some critical things. First, the disciples were not following a set of “cleverly devised myths” when they preached the coming and power of Jesus Christ. To the contrary, they were “eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty” (2 Peter 1.16; NRSV). Second, our Lord Jesus Christ “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” (2 Peter 1.17; NRSV). These words were spoken at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus had not yet called the disciples, but as Peter notes, “We ourselves (i.e., Peter, James, and John) heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1.18; NRSV).

Peter further reasons, in that they were eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty, in that they heard the voice and were with Jesus on the mountain, the prophetic message has been more fully confirmed. For these reasons the Apostles and disciples proclaimed the greatness of the Lord. Peter calls them to be attentive to this fuller confirmation, to look upon it as “a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in their own hearts,” that is, to the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The prophecy of scripture, Peter points out, is never a matter of one’s own interpretation, for prophecy never comes from the human will, but only as men and women are moved to speak by the Holy Spirit. Peter is feeding the sheep.

May we behold the King in his beauty; may we confess his name; may our lives show forth his glory so others may see and believe; and may we proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God.

Amen

 

Comments are closed.