Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Terrified. . .

Sermon preached for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Sunday, February 15, 2015.

    Have you ever noticed how in every disaster movie, someone is always telling people to "Calm down" – but it never works.  People may often seem stupid but they know when to panic.  When we face the strange, the unknown, the threatening we know two things – be afraid and panic.
    Sadly, we have much to fear.  We live in a fearful world.  Though we do not always acknowledge it, God's holiness ranks right up there with the devil, the terrors of the world, and death in our list of fears.  We tend to act as if it were no big deal but guilt is the soft underbelly that feeds all our fears.
    Christ is the answer to our fears.  He does not lead us to calm – He literally IS our calm.  Look at the Gospel for today.  The disciples were terrified.  They thought they knew Jesus and then there He was with Moses and Elijah and His face shown like the brightness of the sun.  They had never seen this before. Who was this Jesus?  Did they ever really know Him?
    His glory and majesty had been hidden in flesh and blood that seemed so darned ordinary.  Yes He could do miracles but others seemed to perform miracles before.  They had to think all the way back to Moses on Sinai to recall somebody whose shown with the brightness of God's unveiled glory. They wanted to run. They wanted Jesus to cover it all up.  The presence of those long dead [Moses and Elijah] in the midst of the living did not help.  This was its own form of terror.  Despite Peter's suggestion that it was good to be there, nobody wanted to be there.  It was pure terror.
    If we are honest, we admit to the same kind of fears.  We are terrified much of the time.  We are fearful of earthly threats.  The news is abuzz with global warming, the terrible acts of terrorists, the lack of jobs, the broken character of the American family, and children who die of cancer.  There is plenty to give us pause and to feed our fears.
    We are fearful of God.  We lie that things are fine but under it all we are broken, hurting, and scared to death.  We have guilty consciences we hide behind the lies of being pretty good people.  We stare into the face of death far too often and live with the threat of our mortality and those whom we love.  How often are we asked how we are doing in the face of illness or grief or death and we say through the plastic smile: “I am okay.”  But the truth is we are terrified.
    We are afraid of life and afraid of death.  How then can we live?  The glory of God seems to be its own terror.  That is until Jesus shows His glory – not just the glory of the mountaintop but the glory of the valley of the shadow.  Until Jesus reveals that He is born to die, to carry the full weight of our sins, and to battle evil to the death, His glory is one more fear.
    It was a profound moment when Moses handed off the Law to Jesus.  It tells us much.  The Law was not some impossible burden laid on us simply to make us feel bad.  It was for Jesus to fulfill so that His obedience and righteousness could cover all of us.  It was the same moment when Elijah pointed to Jesus.  Elijah was the prophet of the end.  How many Passover’s were set for an empty place for Elijah but now he came – not to usher in the terror of the unknown but to point to the One who will prepare our future so that we will be with Him and He with us forever.
    You know what else I noticed in the Gospel reading?  The only point when terror lessened is when everyone and everything else was gone and there was only Jesus.  Their terrors, the terror of Moses and that unbending law, and the terror of Elijah and the great and awful day of the Lord – they all were gone and only Jesus remained.  Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus. . .
    And then there was the voice.  "Listen to Him."  Jesus is truth to the lies, forgiveness to sin, life to death.  Don't listen to the liar and his lies, to the guilt and shame of sin, or to the unknown threat of death.  Listen to Jesus.  He is the answer to the lies, the answer to guilt, the answer to shame, the answer to death.  Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus!
    Heaven is filled with terrified people who no longer are afraid.  People who, like us, were held captive by stresses, pressures, doubts, fears, sins, and the shadow of death.  The real miracle here is not that Christ is Lord of the mountaintop but that He is also Lord of the valley.  Because that is where we live.  In the valley.  Come to Jesus with your terrors and fears, with your doubts and worries, with your ills and death.  Come to Him whose glory it is to carry them all for us and carry us to heaven.  He bids not to scale the mountain but has come to our valley and our shadows and that is where we meet the glory of Christ in the cross.
    Listen to Him. . . and follow Him. . .  We think God needs to listen to us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows fear first hand, and death, and illness.  We do not need a God who listens to us.  We need ears to hear God, who is Lord of our wounds, our fears, our shame, and our death.  We don't need a God who does what we ask but a God strong enough for us to follow Him. . . through all our terrors to His perfect peace.  Amen.

1 comment:

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