The cost of Love- Mark 9_ 2-9
I have some things here that were once an important and integral part of our congregation. Some things that represented who we w
ere and what we believed in. (school banner). As you look at this banner, perhaps it reminds you of the sounds of kids running through our church grounds; reminds you of the laughter and also of the part you, as members here, took in the nurture and growth of your children’s faith. But now it is gone; it has been surpassed.
(use the hymn books over head and song)
The Hymn book of your Lutheran church. The book your parents used to sing all the great Lutheran hymns, like ‘Almighty Fortress is our God’ and ‘The church’s one foundation’. Perhaps as you now see this, it reminds you of the time your mum or dad held it in front of you to help you sing; or of the time at Christmas when there were not enough hymn books to go around because there was so many people here; even the balcony was full. But now it is gone, it has been surpassed by the PowerPoint. Same songs, only its up on a screen.
When we see these things again, we are reminded of how attached we are to our environment. Attached to the things we see, experience and use as normal in our lives; normal parts of our worship life. The things of our church become part of us, in fact they symbolise who we are and what we stand for. For us, these are not just things, not just another school they are who we are…our very being. We are some how attached to what we are used to and as we use it we remember the people, the good times and the excitement of using it.
When changes come about or there is no longer any use for what we have, we mourn the loss. We mourn that fact that part of who we are, part of our history, our world view and belief system has been taken away from us. We long to remain the same; remain in what we know and what is certain; in the tried and tested. Change brings uncertainty and so a desire to hang on to what we know.
Jesus brought uncertainty and change to the people of Israel. He upset and challenged the way they saw God. He spoke against the Scribes and Pharisees who many thought, had taught the truth about God. He talked about God in a new way. He was different from any other religious teachers. He talked with and associated with sinners and outcasts. Jesus even claimed to be the messiah, the Son of God…which was OK except he said ‘The Son of man must suffer many things and that he must be killed and on the third day rise again.’ Radically new stuff! With Jesus, change was in the air which meant many people felt uneasy and uncertain; felt that a part of them was dying.
The disciples were also uncertain and uncomfortable about the changes Jesus was bringing in. Sure, most likely, when the disciples where first called to follow Jesus, it was sort of fun to pick on the Scribes, it was sort of funny to see the Pharisees fumble and fail to find an answer against Jesus’ teachings. But then Jesus began to change their environment and started to make their life feel uncomfortable they started to pine and morn for the way it was; the normality of their Jewish faith. Jesus said and commanded radically new things like ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ With new teachings like this, the disciples were probably having second thoughts. We hear this in Peter’s confession after Jesus spoke of his death ‘surely this will not happen to you’; a good indicator that he was not prepared to let go of his old belief and old way of thinking.
Is it no wonder then, when they witnessed Jesus transfigured and glowing like lightning, Peter and the other disciples became afraid and shook with terror at this new development. It is no wonder then, when they then saw Moses and Elijah standing there, Peter tried desperately to cling to the past; to what they knew and said ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters– one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’
Peter and the other disciples wanted to hold onto Moses and Elijah an anchor point, a stable part of their faith they knew and felt comfortable with. ‘If we build a house or place of worship for you three guys, Peter thought, then we will have certainty and be back in our comfort zone because things will be like they were’.
Just then, while planing and hoping to keep things the same; just the way it had been before Jesus, in an instant it was all gone. Moses and Elijah vanished from view; no longer needed. And along with them, Peter’s hopes and plans, his security and certainty. Moses and Elijah, the men of old have been replaced and surpassed by the only man remaining…Jesus. Only Jesus the Son of God remains. Only Jesus and his word will remain from now on, as he says ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’
Peter and the disciples had been given a graphic lesson in what it means to follow Jesus. Their past faith, while important and essential, and as personal as it was to them, was going to change and move indirections they would not want to go. Jesus would lead them into foreign lands, into dangerous places, to whipping and beatings and ultimately to their own death for his name’s sake.
The certainty that the past brought, will no longer be their anchor point. Jesus had a mission and was on the move to save the world, to seek and to save the lost. Peter and the other disciples would soon understand what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus for the sake of saving others.
(names) you are followers of Jesus and you also, like the disciple are taking up and carrying a heavy cross. Following Jesus means there will be changes and uncertainty for the sake of the gospel; for the sake of Jesus’ mission. We have now sold this church building, the very building which has seen you grow up in the faith and has played an important part in your life; a tried and true security point for you and the community of Gilgandra. This difficult time has, as it did for the disciples on the mountain, graphically demonstrated to us that nothing on earth will ultimately remain other than the man Jesus.
Yes, we can try to keep the past alive by talking and remembering and yes that is a valid and natural part of grieving, just as it was for Peter. Yes, we can be sorry things turned out the way they did and try to find answers and focus on hindsight, all very important steps in mourning such a loss. Yet as followers of Jesus, even in the midst of change we can join Paul and say ‘I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’
Today can be our transfiguration; a time when we are changed into people who only see Jesus. A time when we are transfigured into people who leave what they dearly love and gladly take up our cross and follow Jesus, just as Peter, James and John did; just as the rest of the disciples.
Now is the time to be on the move with Jesus; now is the time to be joint missionaries with him in seeking and saving the lost. Now is the time to be the salt and the light of all Australians driving the Newell Highway. Now is the time to know that the Pastors of NWS are praying for us; praying that the cross we now carry for the sake of the gospel will not be too heavy; praying that it will bear fruit in the new church building on the highway.
To leave behind what we cherish for the sake of Jesus is no simple task; it takes courage and it takes faith. Together we have made the right choice and the only choice, which is the call to follow Jesus. Our Lutheran heritage has always put the gospel of Jesus before personal benefit.
So now hear and be encouraged by the words of our Lord ‘I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.’ Amen