February 19, 2023: Transfiguration Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  open our eyes today so that we may see You as You really are: the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-glorious God!   Then, as we listen to Your Word of truth throughout the service and in our home devotions—hearing of Your love and forgiveness for all our sins, we may truly know that it is all real, true, and amazingly comforting.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 17: 1-9

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          There is one Dr. Luther quote that I hold especially near and dear in my heart.  I believe it comes from a Christmas sermon, but in any event it holds true for any time.  It is this: “I will know no God except the one lying in the manger.”  What does Luther mean by those words?  Well, think for a moment about yourself.  You’re human.  You’re mortal.  You don’t know everything.  You make a boatload of mistakes—in the church we usually call them: sins.  At times you feel guilt-ridden.  At times your pride puffs you up and makes you hard to get along with.  Can you actually admit with a clear conscience that you have anything special to offer God Almighty?  Look around at the universe.  God created it all.  He’s literally light years beyond you, above you, behind you, and in front of you.  Why should He deign to listen to you or to care about you?  Isn’t it the height of arrogance to think that You can go to Him and expect Him to embrace you?  Even your supposed good deeds and holy intentions are tainted by your pride.  Do you really think you can coerce God into accepting you? 

          And yet, that is exactly the attitude that pervades this world among those who even bother to ponder God’s existence.  But, the more they employ that approach to God, the more frustrated they become—if they are honest with themselves.  They continually hope they’ve done enough to insure God’s favor.  However, next to their hope is the nagging worry that it is all a lie, that they are doomed to failure.  And when they look at nature and society as a whole, it reinforces their worry.  “Good” people die horrible deaths.  Nice people get cancer.  The more they pray for signs of God’s power exercised on their behalf, nothing worthy of God—lightening bolts etc. seem to occur.  And as a result, they shake their heads and asK: Why?  Why?  Why?


          “I will know no God except the one lying in the manger.”  Think about what that means.  God is so big, so powerful, so magnificent, and so far beyond our comprehension that we can never know Him by our own power or ability.  God knows that, too.  So, in pure love He sought a way to meet us in a way we could know Him without literally scaring us to death.  He ordained to be born, to take on our flesh and blood, and to meet us in a manger.  He met us in lowliness, humbleness, and amazing simplicity.  Christ came to us.  Christ came to save us.  He came to convert us, to change our hearts by applying the forgiveness and love we so desperately desire.  A cross was necessary to achieve that salvation.  An empty tomb was necessary to drive home the truth of His life and death for us.  HOW DO WE KNOW WHO GOD IS?  Look into the manger and it is all revealed.  A baby isn’t scary.  A baby is meant to be held, cuddled, and loved.  A baby melts human hearts.  Well, this Baby melts the stony hearts of sinners and gives them warm faith instead. 

          And since His birth about 2000 years ago, the simplicity God employs to meet and save lost humans hasn’t changed.  For although we don’t have the Baby Jesus physically staring at us as we hold Him close, He still uses humble things to get through to us.  He meets us with love in the waters of baptism.  He meets us with forgiveness hidden under bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.  He meets us and touches us deep inside our hearts through the simplicity of words, human language, which convey Divine truths into our souls whenever we hear the Gospel.  God never scares us into faith.  He loves us into faith.  That is the reason behind Luther’s statement: “I will know no God except the one lying in a manger.”


          And now we arrive at Transfiguration.  After meeting the disciples in humbleness,  after appearing quite normal and human for all those many months, now Christ decides to give them a preview of His hidden side.  Now, since faith has been engendered in them, they are ready to experience God’s awesomeness.  So, He takes Peter, James and John up on the mountain.  In an instant He sheds the cocoon of humble humanity and reveals the eternal glory that lies underneath it all.  He is transfigured before their eyes.  His face shines like the sun.  His clothes glow like lightening.  The greatest heroes of Old Testament Christianity appear with Jesus and talk to Him—Moses and Elijah.  Peter is so overwhelmed emotionally that he blurts out how he wants to stay and is ready to build three huts for them to dwell there.  Then the awesome majesty of God the Father appears and His voice thunders: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  Confronted with God’s all-encompassing power apart from the familiar Christ, they all fall to the ground terrified.  Humans cannot stand before God’s totally holy presence and live.  And then Jesus speaks to them kindly and tells them to get up.  They do.  And everything is back to “normal” as they know it.  Yes, truly Jesus is the Son of God.  And in Him alone God makes His loving will towards us known.  “I will know no God except the one lying in the manger.” 

          The point is: apart from Jesus we cannot know Who God really is.  Apart from Jesus we can never even conceptualize His infinite love for lost sinners like us.  We cannot know of His forgiveness.  We cannot even begin to fathom why He bothers with us.  But Jesus proves that He did!  And since Jesus gave His all for us and now to us via faith,  a future transfiguration awaits each and every one of you!  And lest you feel it’s so far off that you’ll never give it much thought, His transfiguration also proves that it’s only a hair-breath away.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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