The Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
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.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: So, this morning I am going to focus on a word that we use often in worship which I believe has the potential to be either one of the most creative or one of the most destructive words in our English language. You might be surprised to know that I talking about the word "glory."
If we look at our Collect and then the texts for this morning the word glory appears on a constant basis. Now, since each time it is used, it refers to the Lord you may be thinking how can it possibly be seen as a destructive word?
Well, let's stop and consider for a moment what the word glory means, or maybe what it implies. What do we associate with glory? Or what is the challenge for us in our understanding of glory?
A couple of definitions might help us here. First of all, I would like to look at glory from an earthly or human standpoint. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines glory in a variety of ways I chose these three to us an idea of what it means: 1. praise, honor, distinction extended by common consent, 2. something that secures praise or renown, 3. a height of prosperity or achievement.
So you can see that glory indicates achievement and success. It represents a certain status or level of importance in society. Someone might be said to be basking in the glory of their position.
Now from a religious or theological perspective, glory has a similar but slightly different connotation.
First, Glory (from the Latin gloria, "fame, renown") is used to describe the manifestation of God's presence as perceived by humans according to the Abrahamic religions.
Or secondly, from the Hebrew meaning of glory, the word Kavod is a term with both social and moral implications, and stems from the root word for weight. It can mean glory, honor, respect, distinction, and importance.
So you can see that the word - glory - has a lot of significance or importance, both from a human standpoint and from a religious one. It indicates someone who should be shown respect or honored in one way or another.
Then we often refer to the Glory of the Lord in our worship, don't we? We associate it with God our Heavenly Father and also with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
So, now that we have a clear or at least a clearer picture of what Glory is I would like to ask you, and I am asking myself at the same time, what can we learn from how Jesus handled glory?
As I was preparing this message, I found myself asking: "What can we learn for our own lives and be challenged in our Christian faith and walk from the passages we have to read this morning? What can we see from Jesus' life and teachings about how he approached or dealt with glory?"
You will have noted as you heard the readings this morning that these are the readings which are generally read for Transfiguration Sunday. Even the Collect refers to the fact that Jesus went up on the Mountain. We will come back to that question and we will examine the fact that what Jesus, and his disciple's experienced on the mountain, is linked to the expectation of Jesus' passion. This event is, in fact, a part of Jesus' preparation for his crucifixion and his death.
For now, let's start at the beginning. Jesus goes up on the mountain and God the Heavenly Father recognizes him as his son. This event is significant, in its own right. But is also significant because it is very similar to the events that happened when he was recognized as God's son, at his baptism.
One of the words closely associated with this moment and the moment of his baptism is the word glory and its associated power. There is an anointing which takes place, and the glory of God is very present. The power of God is very much in evidence.
This is also very similar to what happened with Moses when he went up onto the mountain in the account from Exodus this morning. Moses prefigures or gives us an example of what happens when a human being comes in close contact with God. God's glory shines from that individual after the encounter.
When we come to the account in Matthew we are challenged to accept the fact that from that time on Jesus embodies God's glory in human form. God's glory is personified in Jesus.
It is no wonder that Peter wants to memorialize this event. After all, isn't that what we do when we experience a significant moment in our lives? How many times have you sat with a family and looked through their photographs of the significant moments in their lives? Births, baptisms, school graduations, engagements, weddings, vacations, deaths, funerals. We have all done it haven't we? Or we have taken the opportunity to share those moments with our friends and relatives when something significant happens in our families.
So, here we are this morning looking at what Jesus has experienced on the mountain. He has experienced the glory of God, God has spoken and proclaimed that he is his son, and his disciples have witnessed the event. He is now the embodiment of God's glory in a person.
He then comes back down the mountain.
What I would like us to think about this morning is what happens when he comes down and begins reconnecting and interacting with people. Having experienced all of that glory, what could he have done, how could he have acted?
Now, the easy answer is: "well, he was Jesus, and of course, he acted with dignity and grace. He continued to be the gentle teacher he had been up to that point, full of gentleness and peace.
But, I have to admit that I like the idea of a Jesus who may have struggled with the issues of power and recognition. I believe he was someone who was aware of what he could have done with the power, the authority, the presence that he now possessed and he chose not to. He could have exercised those things and drawn attention to himself and his own position. Why do I say that? I believe I can draw that conclusion from reading Hebrews 4: 14-16
"Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Right in the center of that reading is this statement: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. "Being tested as we are" means that Jesus faced the question of submission and obedience just like I do, just like we all do, every day.
But he chose to exercise humility, he chose to submit his will to the will of his father. Ultimately that meant that he would be arrested, he would be beaten, he would be crucified and he would die the death of a criminal raised up on a tree.
Going up on the mountain meant that Jesus was anointed for and with glory and then he chose to use that as preparation for what he was about to go through.
What can we learn from this? How can our lives be shaped and formed by this mountaintop experience? Well, I think it shows us that we need to choose. I hope it brings greater truthfulness for us when we read the words that Paul wrote to the Philippians.
Philippians 2:1-8 NRSV
"If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross."
Perhaps we are back to talking about grace? Glory or grace? Grace or glory?
What is that phrase we use when we talk about Christ Church? Christ Church is a place of.....
Bishops & Father Mike