Transfiguration of Our Lord 2018 – Mark 9:2-9
Greenfield Lutheran Church – Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
There have been lots of movies made about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The most famous is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I understand that he is in the process of making a sequel that will be called Resurrection. Some are already saying it will be the biggest movie of all time. But in my mind, the one story from Jesus’ life that lends itself well to the movies is our story today- the Transfiguration. Picture it in your mind- Jesus with Peter, James and John making their way to the top of a mountain. Suddenly two other figures appear – Moses and Elijah. Somehow, the disciples recognized them and were appropriately awed by these giants of the Old Testament. And then Jesus begins to shine with an otherworldly light. A cloud overshadows them all and a voice booms from the cloud. It would make quite a movie, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine what Steven Spielberg or George Lucas would do with this movie?
Now I’ve preached this story dozens of times over the years. But I noticed something different this year. It wasn’t the visuals that got my attention- it was the soundtrack. There on the mountaintop, Peter, James and John heard the voice of God. “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him.” That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Have you ever asked anyone to write a letter of recommendation for you? Well, this voice was Jesus’ recommendation from God. Six weeks ago we heard that same voice at Jesus’ baptism. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The voice spoke primarily for Jesus’ benefit. He needed to know who he was, and he needed the strength that voice gave him to meet the temptations that would follow. Have you ever had someone shout out your name to cheer you on? Come on, you can do it! God’s voice gave Jesus the encouragement he needed to carry out his mission. But the voice at the Transfiguration is different. “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him.” This time God’s voice wasn’t speaking to Jesus. God was speaking to the disciples so that they would know who Jesus was, and knowing him would trust and follow him. It’s as if God were recommending Jesus to us. Something greater than Moses and Elijah is here. Don’t listen to them. Don’t listen to anyone else. Listen to Jesus.
It’s good advice, isn’t it? We get in trouble when we forget to listen to Jesus. And there are a lot of voices out there vying for our attention, voices from our past and present. If we could hear the soundtrack playing in your mind, whose voices would we hear? Maybe it would be the voice of a spouse? Maybe it would be a boss or a teacher? Maybe the voices in your head are from peers pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right? Maybe the voices in your head are from a bully trying to intimidate you? Maybe the voices playing in your head are from the media telling you what to think or believe? Maybe your voices are from the advertisers trying to shape you into their image and buy their products? Some of the most powerful voices in our heads are from our parents, for good or for ill.
And then there is the voice of Satan. The Bible describes him as a liar and the father of lies. He is called the accuser of God’s people. He will whisper things in your ear like- How could God ever love you? You’re a phony, a hypocrite. You’re a failure. Into the midst of all these voices playing in our heads God’s voice cuts through like a clear bell. “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him.” There is only one voice we really need to listen to and pay attention to. It is the voice of Jesus. In the waters of baptism Jesus calls us his beloved children. He claims us as his own. He gives us his name- Christian. That is who you are. Those words define you to the core of your being. Don’t listen to other voices trying to define you as something else. You are God’s child.
There is a story about a renter who lived in a rundown apartment. Housing was hard to find and he felt lucky to have a place to stay. But the apartment was expensive, and nothing worked right. The appliances were broken. The ceiling leaked. The carpet was threadbare in places. The windows were drafty and the heat only kicked in sporadically. And every month a mean and demanding landlord stopped by to collect the rent. Most months he announced that the rent had gone up. If the renter tried to object, the landlord would just threaten to reduce what few services he did receive. The renter cowered in fear every month when the landlord appeared. Then one day he heard a knock at the door. Fearing it was the landlord, the renter opened it just a crack, only to discover a well-dressed young man standing there. The man explained that he had just purchased the building. He was the new landlord, and was hoping to get in to inspect the apartment. The renter let him in, and as the new landlord inspected things, he was appalled at the condition of the apartment. He apologized to the renter for how bad things were, and he promised to make all the repairs. In addition, he said he would forgive all his past debts. The renter couldn’t believe the good news. The new landlord left. As the renter was thinking about this, there was a loud demanding knock on the door. It was the old landlord demanding to be paid or he would throw the renter out on the street. The renter began to feel afraid, until he remembered that there was a new landlord. He didn’t have to fear the old one anymore. He simply said to him, “You’ll have to take this up with the new landlord.”
Satan is like that old landlord, always attacking, accusing, demanding, intimidating. Don’t waste your time arguing with him. Don’t listening to his voice, listen to Jesus. Tell Satan to take it up with the new landlord- Jesus. You have been bought with a price. You are a child of God.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Lent is a season where we pay special attention to the voice of Jesus, who invites us to take up our cross and follow him. Our theme this Lent is Loving Across Our Differences. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. How do we love our neighbor who is different from us? I’m not just talking about Viking fans learning to love Packer fans. How do we love the neighbor who is difficult to love? How do we love our minority neighbor? How do we love our immigrant neighbor? How do we love our Muslim neighbor or our gay neighbor? How do we love our neighbor that we may strongly disagree with who voted for the other person in the last election? We live in such a polarized and divided country. Can faith in Jesus Christ help us learn how to get along with each other? The answer is “Yes!” But we will need to listen to the voice of Jesus. During Lent, we will have worship twice a week, on Wednesday evening at 6:30 and Sunday at 9:00. I’m inviting you to make a commitment to worship. Let’s gather together and listen to the voice of Jesus calling us to follow him.
Transfiguration of Our Lord 2018 – Mark 9:2-9