Sunday, February 19, 2012

sermon given at 1st Presbyterian, 2nd Cong. joint service

Psalm 50

God Himself Is Judge

A Psalm of Asaph.

1 The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

3 Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge!

Mark 9:2-9

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Transfiguration

2 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, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 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.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

9 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.

OBLIGATORY Opening Joke: I saw this on the internet, so it must be true!

During a recent password audit, it was found that someone was using the following password:
When the user was asked why they had such a long password, the reply, “I was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include one capital.”

This story, the Transfiguration, almost sounds like something one would read on the internet, or see on a cable TV 'magazine” show. “coming up tonight, was Jesus really radiant from within? What did Elijah and Moses say? Tune in at 7!”

In our Bible, this is one of the stories that is in 3 Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The story of the Transfiguration is a turning point in the Gospels. It echoes Moses coming down Mt Sinai after spending time with God. Moses face was shining brightly, so much so that he had to cover up, it was too bright for the others! Yet Moses' glory was a reflection of God.-sort of like the moon reflecting the light of the sun! It is bright, but it is not self-generating! Jesus' Light was shining from within!

God speaks out of the cloud words that echo what he said at Jesus' Baptism, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”

these echo in the Prophet Isaiah The Lord's Chosen Servant

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

the words, “listen to him” come from Deuteronomy, Moses' sermon to the Hebrew people, Deut 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen”

dazzling white (lit., “bright as a flash of lightning”).

Jesus’ physical transformation was a reminder of the glory he had before he became man and a preview of his future exaltation.

Why did Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus? God used Moses as the great deliverer of the Hebrew people. He led them out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt. He led them through 40 years in the desert wilderness. God was with them all the way, in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (hear the echoes of that in our Psalm reading?) Elijah was a prophet, who was 'taken up to heaven'- and he would come back, according to the prophet Malachi, of God sending “Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes”.

Indeed, just a couple verses later, Jesus would remind the disciples of this, so they would understand that John the Baptist had fulfilled that role.

This was a moment when God said very clearly, Jesus was The One! Moses' presence said Jesus was the fulfillment of God's law and traditions. Elijah's presence stated Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecies! And God's statement itself said these things and that we are to heed Jesus!

This moment 'high up on a mountain' was a moment of transfiguration for Peter James and John too. Peter wrote of this moment in his 1st Epistle. This was a moment when a glimpse of heaven opened up right here on earth. It seems that they thought this was the ultimate moment of God coming to earth. Hence Peter's blunder, saying 'let's build 3 shelters for you”.

this experience for the disciples was a moment of seeing and knowing heaven, altho they were not able to fully comprehend it yet! Jesus told them not to share this story, because it would not be understood until after his death and resurrection.

In the Jewish tradition, God was in the Temple. It was THE meeting place of heaven and earth; this moment of heaven opening up must have made the men think that the last day was upon them! Instead it was a preview! And a foreshadowing that one day soon, the Temple would not be the only way to come to God! That sacrifices as they knew them would no longer be necessary.

author D.A. Carson writes:..under the terms of the old covenant, the temple was the great meeting place between a holy God and his sinful people. This was the place for sacrifice, the place of atonement for sin. But..Jesus by his sacrifice pays for our sin, Jesus himself becomes the great meeting place between a holy God and his sinful people; thus he becomes the temple, the meeting place between God and his people. -D.A. Carson, Scandalous

In Celtic tradition one reads about “thin places”-places where the separation between heaven and earth is thin, that is, we more easily perceive the existence of something more than we can know just through our 5 senses. There can be thin moments too, a moment of perception of something much greater than ourselves. We often have this sense in nature, or at special moments of life.

Mahatma Ghandi wrote “There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses”

Thin places" are when a glimpse of heaven breaks through to us here on Earth. It may be a place, or it may happen in worship, and when we are carrying out our mission as followers of Jesus. Times when we experience the joy of the Lord. and when we follow Christ, each of us can find some of that heaven on earth. When we are filled with the attributes of God, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. and ideally we find these thin moments in our churches, especially as we come together and work together to reach out to our community.

We here in 1st Pres and 2nd Cong, find those qualities. Sometimes in worship, sometimes in our music, in our missions. I suspect we will find a lot more of these moments as we come together into one church, however it may all work out! I pray that we find some of those moments even IN our working out of the details! (to that end, I strongly suggest every Work Group meeting begin with prayer...doesn’t have to be fancy, just sincerely praying “Lord bless our meeting and each of us to your service, in Jesus' Name- Amen” works!) When we think and work together, as long as we remember our commonalities and love for the Lord, it will work out as God intends!

Our churches shares roots as old as the city of Beloit itself..1st Presbyterian began in 1848. You're the big brother/sisters!

Second Congregational, began in 1859 on the growing West side of Beloit. Three years ago this week, 2nd Cong kicked off our sesquicentennial celebration! We celebrated through the year...fortunately, since it took me that long to spell Sesquicentennial! But during our celebration year, we said that we were not just celebrating the past 150 years, but beginning the next 150!

we are taking a huge step toward the next 150 years. We are bringing together 2 churches, from the same beginnings, coming together to better serve our Lord. We share the same roots, we share a heart for those who need care. We have a lot to work out, but as long as we remember what we share, our love of the Lord, and our desire to help bring the Light of Christ to people in this area and the world, it will all work out. The Lord will work it out through us.

The traditional church in America is changing. We no longer go to church on Sundays because that's what everyone does! There are now businesses open all weekend, and many folks work weekends or nights, so Sunday mornings are not always an option for folks. People who are in church now have made a choice to be here! And it may have taken a lot out of their week to make that choice. What a blessing we are to each other to be here together!

Author N.T. Wright in his book Simply Christian, writes of what the church can be:

It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for social justice. It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry out that purpose, It’s where people bring their own small faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. No church is like that all the time. But a remarkable number of churches are partly like that for quite a lot of time.”

- NT Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, p. 123

a church that is like that....offers us heaven right here on earth! A church where people are welcome to visit, to find help and hope, is the kind of church that we can have together! We have components of all of these in place now. And together, we can build on what we have and through the power of God working through us, we can have a church that is a beacon of hope, help and healing for today and for future generations! We can allow the transfiguration power of Jesus to transform our church and our lives and let the light of Christ shine through to our community and beyond!

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