February 14, 2021 – “From Darkness To Light”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Welcome to our worship service on Valentine’s Day – Sunday, February 14th; at West Tulsa UMC.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Transfiguration.
That’s a big word, what does it mean?
Well, it describes the occasion that Jesus took Peter, James & John to the top of a mountain for a holy experience. There, the man Jesus became radiant with bright light in one shining moment, and His followers were given insight into who He really was.
He was a mortal man, but He also was and is the immortal God..
Peter spoke about his mountain top experience this way:
“We did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!
And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:16-19 HCSB)
It can be hard to wrap our brain around something like that. Our hope today is that Jesus, the ONLY Son of God will become more real to you.
Beyond our busyness,
Above the cold winter floor
there is a glory rising born of heaven
and reaching out to each one of us.
In glory Jesus meets us here,
raising us from depths of valley to the height of the mountain,
carrying the weight of our humanity;
to the heights of heavens glory.
Let us worship from the mountain and hear again,
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
The last two Februarys, Theresa and I have escaped the Oklahoma winter by going somewhere warmer and sunnier…
This year we couldn’t go, because of COVID travel restrictions, and with the extreme cold and the dreary gray skies that we’re all stuck in this week, she and I are wishing we could run off to the Caribbean.
I know…That’s wishful thinking. And I know you don’t feel a lot of sympathy for our “problem.” And I’m sure that the five poor shivering souls seeking shelter on the church patio as we speak would laugh in my face if I told them I’m missing my annual beach vacation right now.
But the thing is, after a busy Fall season that included our Church Conference, Thanksgiving, Advent, and then Christmas we find that a little recovery time in the warm sun helps us be ready for the season of Lent and then Easter.
It’s just that light changes us.
Light is a powerful force. We can’t catch it, and we can’t control it. We can’t turn natural light on if there isn’t enough of it. And we can’t turn it off if there is too much of it. It simply is its own force, that we have to reckon with to the best of our ability.
Light enlivens us. We need the Vitamin D that light stimulates. We need the healthy glow it gives us…
And we need the chemical changes it effects inside of our bodies, in order to grow, to digest, to mature, and to feel a degree of happiness.
This dark, dreary weather we’re experiencing right now has the opposite effect. It drags us down and drains our batteries, making us feel sluggish, tired, even depressed.
Scientists now know that there is an actual depressive illness called: “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” It’s acronyms is: “S.A.D.”
People living in places where there is little sunlight have a higher rate of depression.
The treatment for “SAD”: Is light. The more light a person experiences, the more the “blues” are chased away.
But living in the dark doesn’t just bring on emotional issues. Living in the “dark” goes hand-in-hand with a disorder that is truly sad. It’s a spiritual blindness that refuses to see the mystery of God.
It’s a dark world when a person cannot or does not want to see how near God is to us… And it’s BIG trouble!
We witness three of Jesus’ disciples having this “BIG” problem up on top of a mountain in today’s Scripture. They had made the commitment to follow Jesus, and they THOUGHT they knew Him…
But then, maybe they didn’t REALLY know Him. They certainly didn’t understand Jesus’ true nature. They couldn’t yet, they couldn’t see Him from the proper perspective.
Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to describe God, Jesus, and our faith in biblical terms that it becomes a sort of “code language” to people outside of our circle. We use descriptions like: “Light of the World,” or “the Way, the truth, and the Life.”
Or, we ask, “Have you been saved?”
But what do those things mean to someone who is searching for answers? What good does our “code language” do for someone who is “blind but cannot see”?
To tell someone, “God loves you,” doesn’t resonate with people today like it once did. It’s not concrete enough for them.
And what in the world happened on what we call the Mount of Transfiguration?
How can we explain it? We can’t! It’s one of the mysteries of God. The only way to make sense of it for me, for you, or for someone who doesn’t have much Bible study experience is to try to understand what God is saying to us through the story.
I think that’s why the story of the three men who went up to the mountain is important for us. Their story is our story. At first they didn’t understand what was going on. Just six days before the mountaintop experience, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you think I am?” Most of His followers stammered around, searching for the right answer.
Then Peter answered correctly but when he said, “You are the Messiah,” he didn’t really understand what that meant. From his perspective the messiah would be a military hero, the one who would liberate Israel from oppression.
So when Jesus took that conversation in another direction and told His followers that He would would be rejected by the religious establishment, would be killed, and would rise again after three days.
Peter refused to see the messiah in that way, it wasn’t his interpretation at all, and he actually rebuked Jesus for the Messiah’s version of the future.
So, Peter, James and John; and all the rest didn’t have a clue to what Jesus was all about. Maybe they weren’t ready. Maybe all of the talk of dying and resurrection, prophecies and change was too much for them to handle at that point.
Perhaps they were afraid to face who Jesus truly was with their whole being.
Because if they were to truly walk into that place in their minds and hearts, to truly see the “light,” their lives would be changed forever!
That’s where our problem of “spiritual blindness” comes into play…
It feels like an awfully big step, and we’re not so sure that we want to make the commitment of having our lives totally transformed.
At first the disciples didn’t know how to respond to the holy experience they were witnessing on the mountaintop. So, they resorted to their traditions because traditions keep us safe from change. Peter offered to build shrines for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
That way, religious pilgrims could make their way up the mountain in the future for their own experience with the divine nature of the Lord.
From their perspective, they needed to build physical structures for historical remembrance.
But God is not talking history on the mountain. God is talking about the HERE and NOW!
There will be change. Lots of change!! And when God talks change, God cannot be contained! Not in a box, not in a ritual, not in a temple, not in a church!
Hopefully once we come down off this mountain their story will help us to see our own times of darkness as opportunities for Jesus Christ’s Light to shine in transcendent splendor.
God will have a voice among the people, in the world, and in YOUR life.
When you dare to enter into the light, you WILL be changed.
There’s a reason we call this mountaintop experience the “transfiguration.” Jesus is not just looking a bit different. His metamorphosis does NOT signify a change in Jesus’ nature…It’s more than that…
The change in His appearance It is an outward and visible transformation of His appearance to be in harmony with His inward nature. Jesus’ transfiguration emphasizes His divine dimension, but at the same time; Jesus’ humanity remains fully intact…
It’s all part of the mystery of God that we learn to see over time: As Jesus walked this earth, He was both fully God and fully man.
So, here’s part of the solution for people who struggle with understanding who Jesus was:
This is the man who calls us to follow Him. We can always ask, “Which is the real Jesus? Is it the one who gets His hands dirty with a little mud and spit to heal a blind person, OR is it the one who stands on the mountain top and glows with a divine radiance?”
Here’s the answer: “Yes! It is both! It is the human Jesus and the divine Christ.
He is the transcendent one of God the Three in One, and He is ALSO the incarnate human laid down in a manger at birth, and hung on a cross as a man.
He is the one who walked and talked and healed and loved, here on earth just like you and me…
But…NOT REALLY like us…..More than us.
The voice from heaven said, “This is my Priceless Son…Listen to Him!”
The voice DIDN’T say, “This is a wonderful son of mine,” as if there were several sons.
NO! He is, “My Son, the ONLY Son.”
Jesus Christ is the one-of-a-kind God expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father.” (John 1:18 MSG)
He is God’s Authorized Self-Definition.
Wrap your brain around this: Jesus Christ is God’s Autobiography.
Jesus Christ opens our eyes to see a glimpse of what God is truly like, and in doing that we are given a peek of what we were created to be.
That sounds like a REALLY BIG CHANGE, Right?
Regardless of how dark the night is, we are drawn to the Light like moths fluttering around a front porch light bulb. Getting to the porch is the first step.
The light radiates from Jesus…and the radiance of His transfiguration shines from within Him…Will we respond to the Light when we are drawn to it?
On the mountain top, Jesus’ face shone like the sun, His clothes became white as light, and the cloud that descended on Him and the others was a “shining cloud.”
All three of these pictures say, He is the Light of the World.
When we look to the Truth of Jesus face to face….when we come face to face with Jesus with our whole mind, body, spirit, and soul, we will be changed, be transfigured into the likeness of Jesus. This is the promise that we read from Apostle John: if we abide in Christ, Christ abides in us. “Abide” is a favorite word of John’s. And it’s the way he explains what it means to be entirely changed, transfigured and transformed by “seeing” the Truth of Jesus.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, to see God face to face was a dangerous proposition.
A person faced with that prospect usually tried to decline the invitation because they feared death.
They were afraid that seeing God face to face would be too awesome to live through!
But the Scriptures tell us that Moses, Jesus, Elijah, Jacob (as in the Jacob’s ladder story), and others did come face to face with God, they did reflect and radiate the light of God.
And that light would change all of them …entirely and dramatically.
The physical “light” of a person’s face is only a symbol of the change within.
When we step into the Light of Jesus, we will never be the same again.
There will be spiritual changes, emotional changes, physical changes, and intellectual changes.
The “light” of mystery can be frightening. We don’t know what to expect. And once we’ve taken that step from the front porch and through the door into His presence, we’ll never want to go back to the way things were.
But the Light of Jesus is the light of hope, health, salvation, Life. Jesus IS the light of the world, and the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.
Will you allow the mystery to shine through your life?
Will you trust enough to step into the Light?
There is an ancient story that comes from Celtic Christianity.
It goes like this:
One day, long ago – when the faith was new to the Irish – a new priest decided to take his time and visit every house and invite all the people to church. Over time, and with the kind heart of the priest, all the town was in church every Sunday. Soon the priest heard of a man living in a far glen that had never stepped foot into the church. In fact, the man never heard of church. So the priest decided to visit the man and invite him to church.
One day the priest went to visit the man and convince him to visit the church. The man eventually agreed to come to church. The priest was excited, and over the next week, he told everyone he could that the man in the glen would be coming to church the next Sunday.
That Sunday the church was packed as usual. People from all over came, not only to hear the priest but to see the man. As the service started, the man had not arrived, but the priest would not delay the service, and he started on time.
About 15 minutes into the service, the man entered. As he looked around for a place to hang his coat, he could not find anything. Then he noticed a small beam of light coming from a crack in the wall and shining on the wall in front of him. It formed a smooth shaft of light. Since he was in church, the man took his coat and hung it over the shaft of light.
When the priest saw the man hang his coat over the light beam, he stopped the service and walked over to the man and said to the congregation, “This man has a deeper faith than I do, or anyone I know. You now have a new priest. Follow him.”
SO, what does this “code language” that we’re using to try to describe Jesus with mean to a person who doesn’t understand the “Lingo?”
How can we translate it better for them?
The truth is, our lives have to reflect the message and the Messenger, for many people to believe the words. They must see Him…through you.
To be a “disciple” is to trust the Light, to hang your everything on the beams and shafts of light.
To be a “disciple” is to refract all of life through the prism of Jesus, the Light of life, the Light of the world.
Following Jesus is to look at all Scripture and at the entire world through “Jesus glasses.” It’s about learning to see things from His perspective and in His light.
Even with Jesus’ light, the best we can see is “through a glass darkly;” but Jesus doesn’t leave us alone in the dark.
I invite you to come forward today to the virtual altar, and be bathed in the Light of Christ.
I invite you to light a candle at the altar. And as you do, may the light of Christ grow and abide within you.
And may this church be a beacon to the world of Christ’s abiding love and power in this world and the next.
Malachi 4:1-6 GNB
The LORD Almighty says, “The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them.
But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun’s rays. You will be as free and happy as calves let out of a stall.
On the day when I act, you will overcome the wicked, and they will be like dust under your feet.
Remember the teachings of my servant Moses, the laws and commands which I gave him at Mount Sinai for all the people of Israel to obey. But before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes, I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; otherwise I would have to come and destroy your country.”
Psalm 50:1-6 HCSB
Yahweh, the God of gods speaks; He summons the earth from east to west. From Zion, the perfection of beauty, God appears in radiance. Our God is coming; He will not be silent! Devouring fire precedes Him, and a storm rages around Him. On high, He summons heaven and earth in order to judge His people. “Gather My faithful ones to Me, those who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” The heavens proclaim His righteousness, for God is the Judge. Selah
Mark 9:2-8 GNB
Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. As they looked on, a change came over Jesus, and his clothes became shining white — whiter than anyone in the world could wash them. Then the three disciples saw Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus. Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “Teacher, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He and the others were so frightened that he did not know what to say. Then a cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my own dear Son — listen to him!” They took a quick look round but did not see anyone else; only Jesus was with them.