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Sermon for Sunday 27 February 2022

First Reading: Deuteronomy 34:1-12

1Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 9And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 99

1The Lord is King; let the people tremble; he is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake. 2The Lord is great in Zion; he is high above all peoples. 3Let them confess his name, which is great and awesome; he is the Holy One. 4“O mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” 5Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and fall down before his footstool; he is the Holy One. 6Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among those who call upon his Name, they called upon the Lord, and he answered them. 7He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them. 8“O Lord our God, you answered them indeed; you were a God who forgave them, yet punished them for their evil deeds.” 9Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One.

Second Reading: Hebrews 3:1-6

1Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses — as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

28Now about eight days after these sayings {Jesus} took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. 34As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.


Where do you go to get your news each day?  A Newspaper, an app on your phone, social media, TV?  What would you think about getting your important information from someone standing in the middle of your neighborhood and shouting out the latest headlines?  Most of us would be annoyed and think the person has lost their mind.  Well, if you’d lived about 1,000 years ago in England, you would have gotten the latest news and headlines from a town crier.  The position of town crier was instituted when William of Normandy and his army invaded England.  Because of this, King Harold hired men to travel from town to town, to remind the citizens of King Harold the Second’s authority.  

Since few people could read in those days, and there was no simple way to spread news among towns, town criers became the source for official news throughout England.  The town criers’ proclamations almost always followed the same pattern.  The crier would choose a central place in town where he would be highly visible, such as the town square or a local inn.  Next, he captured everyone’s attention by calling out (OH-yay), “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,” which is an Anglo-Norman word which means, “Listen, Listen, Listen!”  The crier would then read the proclamation from the king.  Afterwards, he would nail the proclamation to the doorpost of a nearby inn.  Of course, the job of Town Crier today has gone the way of the Pony Express.  And I seriously doubt you’ll see want ads for town criers today.

This information did make me think about our gospel reading for today.  I say this because sadly, there are times when God must wake us up, before we can experience His power.  In the rush and hustle of our schedules, we need something important to break the cycle of our busy lives.  We need something transcendent, to break the grip of self-centeredness.  This could well be one of the reasons Jesus spent regular time on His own in prayer.  And on this occasion, Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John to a nearby mountain to pray.  I believe the disciples needed to be awakened to Jesus’ true identity. 

They needed to be reminded of His majesty, so that when questions and doubts pulled at them, when the road of discipleship became difficult for them, they would remember this moment of awakening, and they would find hope, and courage.  They needed to be reminded that Jesus is both fully Divine as well as fully human.  And this Hypostatic Union is a truth that many people fail to comprehend.    

The doctrine of Jesus’ two natures is related to the Hypostatic Union, the communicatio idiomatum which is Latin for “communication of properties”.  This means that the man Jesus, could lay claim to the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), claim that He descended from heaven (John 3:13), and also claim omnipresence (Matt. 28:20).  All of these are divine qualities Jesus can claim because He is the Word who was ‘in the beginning with God and the Word was God’ (John 1:1) and “was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.”  Jesus can make all these claims because He is both fully Divine and fully human.

One of the most common errors non-Christian’s make, is not understanding the two natures of Jesus.  For example, for those who practice Islam, Jesus was simply a healing prophet.  For those who ascribe to Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings, they focus on Jesus’ humanity and ignore His divinity.  They repeatedly quote verses dealing with Jesus as a man and try to set them against Scripture showing that Jesus is also divine.  On the other hand, Christian Scientists do the reverse.  They focus on the Scriptures showing Jesus’ divinity to the extent of denying His true humanity.  So, to properly understand Jesus and the doctrines that relate to Him, His two natures must be properly understood and defined.  Jesus is one person with two natures.  Not half man and half God, but both fully man and fully God.

This is why He would grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) and yet know all things (John 21:17).  Additionally, the Bible is about Jesus (John 5:39).  The prophets prophesied about Him (Acts 10:43).  Both the Father and the Holy Spirit bore witness to Him (John 5:37; 8:18; John 15:26).  The works Jesus and His work among the people bore witness to Him (John 5:36; 10:25).  Additionally, the multitudes bore witness to Him (John 12:17), and Jesus bore witness to Himself (John 14:6; 18:6). 

St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”   He is our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).  He is our Savior (Titus 2:13), and He is our Lord (Rom. 10:9-10).  And in our epistle reading for today, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is, “the apostle and high priest of our confessions, who was faithful to [God] who appointed him” (Hebrews 3:1b-2a).

  All this is, of course, understood by the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit.  As Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”   This can be hard for folks to comprehend, and this could well be why Jesus brought the disciples with Him that day on the mountain, to awaken them, remind them of His divine nature as well.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was arrested in 1849 for reading banned books.  He was sentenced to die by firing squad.  But his death sentence was a cruel trick.  He was led out into the town square and blindfolded to face the firing squad.  The soldiers raised the rifles and fired.  However, the soldiers fired blanks.  It took a few seconds for Dostoevsky to realize that he was still alive.  His blindfold was then removed.  Instead of death, he was sentenced to four years of hard labor in a prison camp.

This experience was meant to traumatize Dostoevsky.  Instead, it had an awakening effect.  He became more grateful, more attentive, more alive, and joyful than before.  He claims that this near-death experience awakened his sensitivities to the world around him in a way that transformed his writing.  When was the last time God broke into your everyday life and became real to you?  Was it in a conversation with a friend?  While reading a passage from the Bible?  A painful disruption in your life?  During a moment of pure joy?  I hope God speaks to each of us and strengthens us in such a way that changes our life.  That brings us to the second thing we learn from this passage: prayer prepares us to experience God.  Prayer opens us to God’s presence and God’s will for us. 

Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him up to a mountain to pray.  This, as we have come to learn, was Jesus’ regular practice: to go away, often up in the mountains, to pray and spend time with God.  As He was praying, the disciples got sleepy, a human fault that we will hear again on Maundy Thursday as Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.   Now I don’t know about you, but these passages make me cringe a little.   

Here Jesus was enjoying the presence of God.  Jesus was aligning His mind and His will with His Heavenly Father.  Jesus was preparing Himself to do the world-changing work of God, while the disciples were slipping into nap mode.  I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed to hear God’s speak, or to do the work God set in front of me because I was too lazy to pray?  These are questions that’ll make any faithful disciple squirm.  

A woman named Barb tells about an incident that happened in her granddaughter’s kindergarten class.  A boy in the class just wasn’t listening to his teacher.  The teacher got fed up and said, “Since you don’t want to listen, you go sit at that table by yourself.”  A few minutes passed, and Barb’s granddaughter raised her hand and said, “I don’t want to listen either.  Can I sit with him?” 

Someone has said that listening to God is not like listening to a friend or a colleague.  Listening to God is an act of submission.  When we listen to God, we lay aside our own agenda, priorities, and needs and open ourselves to the mind and the mission that God has charted out for us.  Interestingly, the word translated ‘obey’ in the Old Testament means ‘to hear.’  In the New Testament several words describe obedience.  One word means ‘to hear or to listen in a state of submission.’  Another word simply translates obey as ‘to trust.’  Our obedient response to God’s Word is a response of trust or faith.  To really hear God’s Word is to obey God’s Word (cf.  Exodus 19:5; Jeremiah 7:23 and Matthew I 1: 1 5).”

It’s easy to get stressed out or turned off by the subject of praying.  Too many of us have grown up with the belief that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to pray.  We’ve been taught techniques and rules for praying.  Would it change your practice of prayer if you thought of it as simply listening to God with an open heart and mind?  A well-known author who had written many books on prayer was giving a seminar.  During the question-and-answer session, a man raised his hand and asked, “Doctor, how should I pray?”  The noted expert on the subject answered, “It’s very simple.  Ask God.” 

The final thing we learn from today’s passage is that when we experience God, we’re called to share that life-changing experience with others.  On that mountain, Peter, James, and John saw God’s plan for humanity come together.  The great lawgiver, Moses, and the great prophet, Elijah, pointed the nation of Israel to God.  But now in Jesus, God had come in human form to share His truth and salvation with all humanity.  And to add God’s own approval, God spoke from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  This is important.  “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  What did we learn earlier about the words used for “listening” in the Bible?  That they also imply obedience.  Once we hear, we go and do.  The only reason the disciples kept this wonderous experience to themselves is that Jesus told them to.

A few years ago, the British newspaper The Guardian carried a strange story.  A police van had been stolen from an Irish police station, and the police were having no luck tracking it down.  Their investigation was hampered by the fact that the van belonged to their Special Investigations unit that often engaged in undercover work.  Therefore, they couldn’t release a description or photo of the van to the public because they didn’t want the general public to know what their undercover van looked like. Therefore, they couldn’t get the public’s help in tracking down the stolen van.

In Matthew 17, Jesus tells Peter, James, and John to keep this moment on the mountain a secret, until after Jesus has been raised from the dead.  Well, Jesus has been raised from the dead which means there’s no reason for us not to share the truth of who Jesus is with everyone we can.  When we experience God, that’s our opportunity and responsibility to share that life-changing experience with others, so that they can know the truth, the hope, the joy, and the peace of God that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

I want to conclude with something the pastors and I discussed this past Tuesday.  There’s one other thing we need to consider on this Transfiguration Sunday; how does Jesus’ Transfiguration affect us?  In short, the life and path of discipleship is a desire to be transformed from the sinful self-centered human, into the image of the divine Christ.  The more time we spend in prayer, the more time we spend studying God’s words, the more time we spend in worship, the more we receive and are nourished at the Lord’s table, the more we become conformed into the image of Jesus. 

St. Paul in Romans wrote, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (8:29-30).  Paul even clarified how we’re to do this later in the 12th chapter: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (vs. 2).

Discipleship is a lifelong process of transforming and is the process of becoming like Jesus.  We, like the disciples, only see in part most of the time.  However, on certain occasions we get a glimpse of the future, of what we are transforming in to.  Our call is to daily strive to be more and more like the Master that we serve, knowing that as St. John said in his first epistle, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (vs. 3:2).

Jesus’ transfiguration isn’t simply an event in the history of the church, it’s a glimpse of what is to come for every faithful follower of our Lord.  It’s the picture of the hope that we have in Jesus that we too will one day be transformed into the image of the perfect and loving God who will say to us, “you are my child, my chosen one.”


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