Sermon Options: February 23, 2020

January 7th, 2020

AN APPOINTMENT WITH GOD

EXODUS 24:12-18

A man told the story of going to the mountain retreat of a renowned evangelist for an interview. "Upon reaching the end of the meandering road at the top of the mountain, I found the retreat deserted except for the evangelist and God," the man facetiously explained.

Indeed the preacher did spend considerable time alone with God at his mountain refuge, preparing sermons and receiving divine guidance for his ministry. No doubt, he also was given strength for living the Christian life through his visits with God in that holy place.

Moses spent an extended time with God on the mountain, during which God gave him words of truth for Israel to live by. In the process, Moses also was strengthened for the enormous task of leading Israel to the Promised Land. Anyone who seeks to live a life shaped and directed by God needs time alone with God.

I. We Meet God Upon God's Invitation
Moses distinctly heard God calling him to a meeting on the mountain. Only then did he consider the possibility of such an encounter. This trek up a mountain to meet God was as unpremeditated as the previous one when God spoke to him out of the burning bush. People are not inclined by nature to spend extended time alone with God. Whenever that motivation comes to us, we must consider it to be the voice of God inviting us to come to him for guidance, comfort, and strength.

Our Heavenly Father desires for us to spend time alone with him because he loves us and knows that such experiences will cause us to prosper spiritually. The Scriptures frequently state God's invitations to us to come to him. One of my favorites is the merciful call from Jesus: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). A man determined that he would go into the mountains and pray all night if need be in order to become full of God's power. All he got was a sore back, for he did not go at God's invitation; he went out of his own selfish desire to get more of God's power to use for personal gain. We can move into God's presence and we should, but only in response to a compulsion to do so that comes from hearing God's invitation.

II. We Meet God Through Obedience to God's Call
Moses readily obeyed God. He climbed up the mountain and saw the cloud representing the glory of God covering the peak. He knew the Lord waited for him. Then, after receiving the word from God to advance to the summit, Moses proceeded and disappeared into the cloud of God's glory. There he remained in close communication with the Lord for forty days and nights. Through his obedience to God's initiative, Moses received blessings he surely would have missed had he stayed below when God beckoned him to the top.

We should readily respond to God's call to us to spend time with him in close, uninterrupted fellowship. We live such busy lives that we sometimes fail to obey that call. Through our neglect of such opportunities, we miss out on the beautiful blessings God desires to give us. (Jerry E. Oswalt)

WHO HAS THE AUTHORITATIVE WORD?

2 PETER 1:16-21

We live in a world filled with conflicting mesages. We are bombarded by efforts to persuade us to buy something, vote for someone, believe in something. How do we sort through these various "witnesses" that confront us? In this text, Peter notes that the Christian witness is not simply another equal and competing claim on us. Rather, it is rooted in both personal experience and divine presence.

I. The Witness of Faith Is Based on Personal Experience
Today as we make the transition in the church's story from Epiphany to Lent, the focus shifts to transformation. The passage and season speak to the difference Christ's appearing makes in the lives of those who experience it. Such manifestation seeks to lead to transformation. Lent helps us examine such transformation and the difference it is or isn't making in our lives. The emphasis in this passage is the personal experience from which the witness of faith finds expression.

II. The Witness of Faith Is Authenticated by Divine Presence
Peter notes that the witness of prophecy in and through persons is initiated by the working of the Holy Spirit. This text reminds us of a major concern of the early church as to the real source of its authority. In this passage, the Transfiguration is secondary to the real issue of apostolic witness and authority.

According to 2 Peter, authority in witness involves personal experience and the movement of the Holy Spirit. Such authentic testimony and prophecy are thus as a lamp shining in a dark place, as the dawning of the day, or as the morning star rising.

For Peter, there is an indisputable link between authenticating authority and its effect on those who receive such witness. Christian witness fails the test of authenticity if it is not inspired by the presence of the Holy Spirit. In a day and age of convenience, in a time when religion has become prime time, the divine source of our authority must be recalled. For Peter, the Holy Spirit gives to the church authority to proclaim and witness to the experience of God's presence.

In her book Windows to Heaven, Diane Comp talks about her work with terminally ill children. Dr. Comp, in the beginning of her work, was an agnostic. She had grown up in the church and in her upbringing believed in God. However, as she went through college and on to graduate work, God became an outdated idea. In her decision to be an agnostic she believed that the only way she would come to believe in God again would be through the testimony of a credible witness. The book is the story of those credible witnesses who were her terminally ill children and how they became, for her, "windows to heaven." Peter reminds us that the credibility and authenticity of the Christian witness to faith are to be discovered in the Holy Spirit. The church of today needs desperately to hold up that experience as to where the final and authoritative word must be found and shared if it is to be a credible witness to the God who is for us and who is among us. Only God through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit has the authoritative word. (Travis Franklin)

ONE MOMENT IN TIME

MATTHEW 17:1-9

The great Lutheran preacher Paul Scherer reminds us, "One is often amazed at the assumption that everything Jesus said is easy to understand. But what item is there in the record of scripture more insistent than this: that Jesus was being constantly misunderstood?" There is forever this simplified version of the Christian faith that keeps saying all we have to do is to listen to Jesus and do what he says, and yet nothing is so obvious in the Scriptures as the fact that even his disciples keep missing his point.

If the sayings of Jesus are challenging, how much more of a mystery to us and to the church are these stories in Scripture like the Transfiguration? What are we to do with this story of the Transfiguration?

All the Gospel writers include it in their Gospels. What do they want us to see? Does the church tell this story faithfully to show us something about Jesus? To make some claim on Jesus' behalf that he is the One through whom the glory of God is made visible to the world? Or does the church share this story as an example of the power of Jesus to bring us face-to-face with the indwelling grace of God to sustain us when the way is dark?

There was a time, not long ago, when preachers were embarrassed by such stories. This story of the Transfiguration does not fit into the modern scientific view of the universe to which our faith has been most anxious to conform and accommodate. Yet a growing number of the brightest and best of our young people on college campuses and around the world are hungry for stories like this. They have mastered the logic of calculus, they know the advances of biology, and they are smart enough to realize that if there is not the possibility of mystery and power greater than what they already know, we are of all humankind the most to be pitied.

I. The Transfiguration Helps Us Better Understand Jesus
In this story of the Transfiguration, Christian people declare that something in Jesus is beyond our reason. Jesus is not just one of the shining saints honored through the years in every land. He has in him a mystery that is from beyond himself. The disciples report that they saw in Jesus a mystery that transformed history.

And the Christian faith has been struggling to put that mystery into words ever since. This Transfiguration story is the model for all our Christian theology. In Jesus Christ, we beheld the glory of God. In all of these stories, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, there is the story of the mystery of God working in human history, God working and acting upon human life. But what makes this story of Jesus different from the story of the way God acted in Moses?

II. The Transfiguration Helps Us Better Understand God
The story of the Transfiguration is the story of the divinity of God being manifested in and through the humanity of Jesus. God is seen in Jesus Christ working to reconcile the world to himself. There on that mountain is the event that represents the Christian story: God is revealing himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ, not just in the things that happen to Jesus but in what Jesus says and does. The mystery of the universe is at work in the heart of Jesus the Christ.

This story carries our claim that Jesus was the personality of God. Jesus is the human life in which the power, mercy, and grace of God are made visible to us. Jesus is the power of God's love that captures the citadels of our hearts that force could not take.

III. The Transfiguration Helps Us Better Understand Our World
The Transfiguration story forces the Christian faith to keep God's spirit tied to humanity. God made visible in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ affirms that our earthly lives are touched by the eternal. There is a fundamental connection between creation and God. My moments of profound discovery of the power and grace of God will be encountered in historical places. The power of God will become most visible to us in ministry with others.

The Transfiguration makes a claim about Jesus, about the nature of God, and about our world. And the only hope there is for a future better than our past is in the middle of that story. (Rick Brand)

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