Monday, February 8, 2016

Only Jesus, Sermon given at United Church of Beloit Feb. 7, 2016

 Only Jesus 

Psalm 27 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Today is the Super Bowl....or so I've heard! for me if the Packers aren't involved, there is NO football. So now it's time to wait for baseball...pitchers and catchers report Feb 19th!
Which reminds me, someone was inspired by Steve's sermon series on “why no one attends church anymore” and sent me this:

Reasons A Local Minister Stopped Attending Sports Events
Every time I went, they asked me for money.

The people I had to sit with didn't seem very friendly.

The seats were very hard.

The coach never came to visit me.

The referee made a decision I don't agree with.

Some games went into overtime and I was late getting home.

The band played some songs I had never heard before.

The games are scheduled when I want to do other things.

I don't want to take my children because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.

My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up!

{From the book _Holy Humor_ by Cal & Rose Samra.}

Psalm 27 is a Psalm of David, it may have been written when he was about to be crowned King of Israel, or it may have been composed later when he had been fighting some battles as king. As we see in so many of the psalms, the writer has had strife, but is re-focusing, reminding himself and those around him of the depth of the love and protection of God. He intentionally brings himself back to God...And David writes...sings...”one thing I desire...”to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
This, like so much of the Bible, pertains to the time that it was written; David was praying personally to be close to the Lord always, but it is also a foreshadowing..of eternity in heaven! It's a reminder that while things in life can bring struggle and may seem overwhelming, God's love and the promise of Eternal life, overwhelms even the hardest times we have.

Our Gospel lesson is from Mark..
Passage immediately follows Peter's declaration “You are the Christ!” and these verses are followed by Jesus predicting that he will be killed and after 3 days will rise from the dead! And the disciples just don't understand what that means.

Mark 9 NIV

The Transfiguration

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters―one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

This story, the Transfiguration, is told in the 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is a turning point. From this point on, Jesus is on the path to his final destiny in Jerusalem.
Jesus took his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John. Peter, the impetuous, action first, mouth running before brain is engaged, Peter. John who would refer to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. And his brother James. James and John were the ones Jesus called, “The Sons of Thunder.” So these 3 that Jesus took up the mountain with him, were far from perfect were they? Yet these are the 3 that Jesus was the closest to.

And they were the three that witnessed this moment..this moment when Jesus' divinity was revealed. Jesus, up on a mountain, echoing Moses meeting God on Mount Sinai. Jesus is radiant, with his clothes whiter than could be achieved by anyone! And Moses and Elijah with him, talking to him! And then a cloud and a voice coming out of that cloud!

Why do Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus? Moses is a symbol of the Torah, the books of the law in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible contains books of the Law, the Prophets and the Wisdom. 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.

Elijah was a prophet, who was 'taken up to heaven'- and according to the prophet Malachi, God would again send “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, telling that the Messiah, Jesus, was coming and pointing him out to the people!

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”

Moses symbolized the Torah, Elijah the prophets. But once Jesus arrived, HE was everything. The law, the prophets, the wisdom. Each of these things is an aspect of God. God is so vast, that we, even though we are created in the image of God, we can barely fathom God. So we have these aspects of God, sort of like facets on a diamond or precious stone. Each facet shows a part of the whole and helps us to see the brilliance within the stone! But it is only one facet or one aspect, not the whole.

In the Bible there are many, many names of God, because there are so many aspects or facets of God. And we sometimes can relate to one aspect, or need one facet. Just as we all like different things...ok let's use coffee hour as an example...some may drink coffee, regular, or decaf, some may want it black, some with cream and sweetener. Some may have tea, or juice or a cup of water! We may have a cookie, or a big cream filled donut or piece of fruit. Maybe we're on a special food plan, so we bring an energy bar or cheese or wait till we get home. We all have our own tastes and preferences and it's all ok!!

So just as we have differences at coffee hour, we have differences in the way we think of God and worship God. Some need a lot of quiet to meditate and pray. Some may find God more in nature. Some may sense God's presence when they are busy, taking care of others! Some of us have days of needing quiet and other days of being busy! We all come to God and experience God in different ways and that's good! So we have different names of God to help us recognize God in our need, and in our worship. This is why over time worship changes, and we have different styles of worship.

That's one of the best things about our Community Lenten services. We get to go to other churches, hear other pastors preaching, other styles of music, different orders of worship. But it IS all worship, it all serves God, and can all speak to us, if we are open. And the fellowship afterwards is great too! We can renew acquaintances and make new friends. Our services coming up will have an even wider variety of churches represented than last year!

Getting back to our story, Moses and Elijah symbolized the Law and the Prophets! But when God spoke and said This is my son―some translations say “My Beloved Son” “listen to him!” then Moses and Elijah disappeared. And there was Only Jesus. Because now Jesus is all that is needed. He IS the Law and the Prophets and the Wisdom, because he Is God's own son, part of God, “the Father is in me and I in the Father” he said, present at the beginning of time and will be present at the end.

Savior, Messiah, Redeemer and Friend

Savior –the One who 'saves' us from sin. When each of us says, I want Jesus to be Lord of my life, He is our savior. He is the One who bridges the gap between each of us and God, the one who took all our OUR sin to the cross, so that when we face the judgment of God, we CAN face God. Jesus took it all. He is Savior!

Messiah- the anointed one―the Chosen one of God. The one of whom God said, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him!” the Messiah who delivers ALL of God's people. You see, we need Jesus as individuals, but we also need him collectively. This is how we become the Body of Christ! We go from being a congregation or a nation or an ethnic group, to becoming the Body of Christ because of Jesus the Messiah.

Redeemer. --the One who said “this is my body, given for you, This is my blood, shed for you” because we are saved, (when we are saved, we belong to Jesus for all time!) but, being flawed human beings will still mess up. So we need redemption! This is why we do communion regularly.

Friend...even though Jesus is Lord, he IS God-- he is personal. He is one we can take everything to in prayer. We can share our joys, our frustrations, our grief, our thankfulness! And as we share, the Holy spirit brings us closer to God, helping us to be guided and to learn how to live our faith and to be more Christ-like. That is the ideal, the goal, to be more like Jesus. To love well, to care for all of God's people...which is all people! To acknowledge our flaws and failings, but to know that if we align ourselves with Christ, we can find the joy of having God within every day, to be in the presence of God every day, and one day we will all dwell with Our Lord forever and ever!

Let us pray... Precious Lord, we are so grateful for Your Word which teaches us, for the Law and the prophets and the wisdom books, but most of all we are grateful for Jesus, our Lord, savior, messiah, redeemer and friend.
We ask that we may dwell with You always, and gaze upon your beauty, and help bring your love and light to others, today and every day! In Jesus' Name Amen.

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