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Worship Theme: The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sermon Theme: Now We Can See Glory
The poor girl was lost and all she wanted was to find her way home. Frustration turned to panic turned to outright fear, that is until she was told of one who could help her get back home. She followed the directions that were given her and made her way to the place where the one who could help her was. It was a long tiring journey, but she made it. She made some friends along the way, though they weren’t very compassionate, brave, or smart. They journeyed together came through adventure and reached their destination.
You maybe recognize that as the plot of the story The Wizard of Oz! Dorothy, joined by the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion followed the yellow brick road to Emerald City to go and meet the Wizard, The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. He was her only chance at getting back home, at least that’s Dorothy was told.
So, they went in search of the Great and Mighty One. They went and sought out the one they were told had the power to help them. How shocked they were when Toto pulled back the curtain and they found that it was all a sham! The Great and Powerful Wizard was just a middle-aged man hiding behind a curtain with a microphone. He scurried to save face when he was found out: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” But it didn’t really work. They were looking for someone great and what they found was someone normal. Things were not as they appeared to be! Dorothy was expecting greatness but all she found was ordinary.
Jesus’ disciples were looking for someone great! And though they had seen glimpses of greatness in the miracles, the healings, raising a man from the dead, Jesus knew what was coming! He knew that it would look kind of ordinary. In fact, it would look less than ordinary – it would look like weakness, it would look like defeat. Jesus knew that his disciples would be scattered, shaken and stricken with fear! Jesus knew that his humility would cause a great deal of doubt that they were following the Great and Powerful Jesus. The cross was coming. Jesus humility would be on full display He was - and would be even more so - clothed in humility as he journeyed toward the cross. He would even give his life and rest in a stranger’s tomb, but things aren’t always as they seem!! They might not understand that these things were necessary for Jesus to be Great and Powerful and the Savior of the world. They might forget who he was or think that they never knew him, so Jesus planned a glorious reminder for them that things aren’t always as they appear to be! Jesus was moving toward the cross and the disciples would follow him. So, before the journey, Jesus pulled back the curtain and showed his disciples who he really was.
Jesus told Peter James and John to keep quiet about seeing his glory, at least until his saving work was accomplished. But the work was completed. The restriction was lifted and the disciples have shared this truth. The Spirit opened their mouths and our ears so that we too might join them on the mountaintop. Scripture records this event – the Transfiguration of Jesus – and Now We Can See Glory, too!
Things aren’t always as they appear. What Christian won’t say “Amen” to that? And things aren’t always as we think they should appear. We look at our lives and say “unfair!” We think that we shouldn’t be struggling to make ends meet while the godless around us live in luxury. We feel like we shouldn’t be the ones that sit in doctor’s offices or hospital beds. We feel like our relationships should be smooth and reliable, but they are anything but!! “Doesn’t God love us more than that?” “Does God even care about us?” “If he does, why does he allow such pain?”
The lives that we live are often less than glamourous or glorious. We don’t have the lives that we think we have earned or that we think that God should give to those who are faithful to him. Don’t we deserve better.
In three days, we will begin our march to the cross. Ash Wednesday begins our 40-day journey with Jesus to the cross. In the season of Lent we humbly recall and confess that we are the ones that put Jesus on the cross. Our sins caused his death. We follow his footsteps and see him making his way to Calvary for us. We see him willingly take our sins on his back and willing endure the wrath of a righteous God. We see him beaten and bloodied for us. We see him as Savior. He was willing to endure it all, for us. He was willing to suffer in our place. He was willing to die that we might live.
And on his way and especially on the cross – it’s true that it’s not as it appears. It looks as if Jesus were defeated. It looks like it was a good run come to an end. As the soldiers dragged his body from the cross, as Joseph carried him to his brand-new tomb, it certainly looked like the miracle worker had met his match. But things aren’t always as they seem!
At Calvary, Jesus was every bit the Great and Powerful Savior that he was at the tomb of Lazarus. He was as Great and as Mighty there as he was when he multiplied Bread and Fish. He was the same Great and Powerful One that cast out demons and restored the cripples to their feet. He never changed, though his appearance did! He didn’t look very strong as an onlooker was forced to carry his cross. He didn’t look like a victor when he was bound and led here and there by a Roman guard or as he was nailed hands and feet to a cross of wood. But that is exactly what he is and that’s exactly how he showed himself to be the Great and Powerful Savior. It’s there that he defeated the devil’s power. It’s there that sin was paid for. Jesus won his greatest victory there. There he showed his greatest act of power and love! He showed his greatest glory on that cross, because there he gave his life for the world! The scene didn’t look very glorious, but it was! Things are not always as they appear!!
Jesus gave the disciples a glimpse of his glory. He reminded them who he was and what he had come to do. He strengthened them for the times that their own crosses would get heavy. He built them up for the times that they’d be tempted to give up. He reminded them that though it was humility for Jesus now, that he really still was a Great and Glorious Savior!
And Transfiguration does the same for us. He strengthens us for the journey of Lent we are ready to embark upon. He reminds us that though the cross will be our focus for this season of 40 days, that even in the cross there is glory, in fact in the cross is the greatest glory.
At the grave of Lazarus, on a mountainside filled with 5000 people, on the Sea of Galilee, in the upper room of Jairus’ daughter - in those places Jesus showed us what he could do!! On the hill outside Jerusalem Jesus showed us what he was willing to do – the lengths to which he was willing to go to show us his love! That’s what makes the cross glorious!
Jesus tells us, it’s actually six days before he was transfigured that he said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
Following Jesus to his cross, means bearing a cross of our own. There will be trials and there will be pain. It’s not fun to think about or easy to endure, but it’s the reality of a walk with Jesus. But as we walk to the cross of Jesus - and as we carry our own – never forget what he shows us today! Never forget the glory of being a disciple. Remember the glory that shines forth from the cross and glory that he promises us will be ours one day in heaven. Remember that with Jesus Now We See Glory, in his life and in ours.
Jesus knew that his cross would obscure the glory in the eyes of his disciples. He knows that often our crosses get us frustrated, upset, even angry. He knows how easy it is for us to forget the glory that is in our crosses, too. As we bear a cross, as we walk with Jesus, we share with him, not just trial, but victory, not just pain but peace, not just hardship but eternal reward in connection to him. After the cross came glory for Jesus and so it’s true for us. Through the cross his glory shone, and through our crosses shines God’s glory too. Whatever his plan or purpose for us, it’s to bring him glory. Whatever the crosses he lays before us, he strengthens us to carry them and to overcome.
My friends don’t let your crosses obscure the glory that lies within them. Don’t let them weigh you down or cause you fear or doubt. Jesus carried the biggest cross for you and because of that, unending glory is yours. Jesus rose from death and one day we too will rise – to perfect bodies, to a glory filled existence, and to eternal rest with Jesus in heaven.
Today Jesus gives us a glimpse of his glory! He does it that we might be reminded of who he really is! He does it that we might be filled with joy, even in times of sorrow and pain. He does it that we might see in his cross his great and glorious victory. He does it so that we might see in his glory - our own glory, our own hope and our dear and everlasting life! Rejoice my friends. He has made us ready for the journey of Lent. He has made us ready to continue to press on in the journey of life because we know that both end in the same place. The glory of a living and victorious Jesus! And because Jesus wins, so do we!!! A glorious message from a glorious Savior! Amen.
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