Archive for February, 2016

Well meaning friends

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

 

Luke 13:1-9of

StMarksIn the book of Job, Job after suffering tragedy after tragedy is visited by his good meaning, but unknowing friends who suggest
he must be suffering such events because he is not right with God, and in today’s Gospel, Jesus feels the same sentiment from those who bring him the news of Pilate’s murderous actions against the Galileans.

News from Galilee of the murder fellow Jews, God’s people murdered as they were before God offering up sacrifices! Why Jesus, what did they do or not do to deserve such a horrible end to life?

Jesus responds, but not as was expected. He does not question over the details of this horrific tragedy and nor does He make a statement over the actions of Pilate, but asks those bearing the news: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?”

Before Jesus stood sinners who saw not their own sin, but only the sin of the Galileans who most surely must have greatly angered God to deserve such a death and so, like Job’s friends they clearly see this must be a logical cause and effect situation.

They must have deserved it.

Sorry guys but in Jesus statement “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans?” He has cut straight to the real issue he sees before Him, not the problem of those in Galilee, but rather the problem of those in His presence who know of sin, but know not their own. Jesus, not judging or breathing fire and brimstone, but rather out of His concern for them jolts them out of such flawed thinking and dangerous state of mind by stating to those around him, ‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish!’

Brian Jones: founder and original leader of the Rolling stones at age 27 was found dead in his swimming pool with greatly increased heart and liver size due to years of drug and alcohol abuse with the coroner’s report stating “death by misadventure”, and shortly after Peter Townshend from the band “The Who” wrote a poem titled “A normal Day for Brian, A man Who Died Every Day.”

Jim Morrison lead singer of the Doors and Jimi Hendrix in song also wrote and sang his tributes. Both would be dead within two years. Jim Morrison found dead in his bathtub from heart failure, said by many due to cocaine abuse and Jimi Hendrix choking on his own vomit. Both were 27 years old.   Kurt Cobain: lead singer of Nirvana found dead next to his shotgun. Amy Winehouse: alcohol poisoning and Janis Joplin from drug overdose, all only 27 years old with Janis once writing that she endures 23 hours a day only for the 24th when she can be herself, perform and feel happiness. A statement that makes those words from her number 1 hit (written by Kris Kristofferson) Me and Bobby McGee seem hauntingly appropriate:

“One day up near Salinas, Lord, I let him slip away,
He’s looking for that home and I hope he finds it,
But I’d trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday
To be holding Bobby’s body next to mine.
Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing, (and yeah) that’s all that Bobby left me.”

All 27 years old. Tragedies-I think so. All caused from their own actions-pretty much. Selfish in death and deserving our judgement?

“There bar the grace of God I go.” As with us, did God know them before they were created in their mother’s womb? As with us, did they not come from their mother’s womb in the love of the Saviour? As with us would they not have grown with a desire for life and happiness? And why, why are so many people who have trod the same path of abuse and recklessness still be walking this earth? Some still under the curse of self-abuse, and some still with the scars but restored.

It’s a long way down and a long way out and the difference between life and death at the bottom can sit on a knife edge. “There bar the grace of God we go”, and for some of us, there through the grace of God have we come out.

Did those who spoke of the Galileans repent and be saved? God knows but we don’t.

Did these talented musicians repent and be saved before the age of 27? I don’t know. But what I do know is that God says to me, and to you “Repent” that we not perish but be saved, and if that be a dying bedside repentance or a daily lifetime of repentance. Be it repentance from the heart of Jimi Hendrix, a world dictator, Judas Iscariot or from us here today-God’s grace shall not see us perish but in His forgiveness and salvation have eternal life in heaven. The Grace of God that we trust in to receive eternal life. A never ending life that I expect we need as we see come to grips with and understand just how in all things and in all situations was God doing His stuff to save.

A Pastor, scholar and teacher asked us third year theological and pastoral students “How our prayer life was going.” More out of fear than anything else did we nod and reply “”pretty good.”

And he, more out of knowing the human heart and mind than his observations replied, “No it’s not. But don’t worry about what you haven’t been doing, just re-start and keep working on it.”

If he was in our congregation today, he could ask the same of me in regards to repentance and I’m guessing both my and his responses would be like that of ours to each other those six years ago.

Repent of not repenting?

And what of the statement of Martin Luther in his letter to his friend and fellow theologian Phillip Melanchthon saying, ‘Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one.’ And again, ‘God does not save people who are fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly but believe and rejoice even more boldly… As long as we are here in this world we have to sin.’

Then there’s Paul in Romans chapter six, verse one who after telling us that “in Jesus’ obedience that many are made righteous. That the law came in to increase trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” but then to us, as like Jesus knowing the confused thoughts of those before him, Paul likewise answers against what human logic would make of such a statement with so:”What shall we dot then? Are we to sin that grace may abound? By no means.”

No way.

“Sin Boldly”, and yet, “by no means sin?”

I am really starting to see myself at the base of that hill in Jerusalem 2,000 ago and hearing a guy called Jesus on the cross ask His father to “forgive them for they know what they do.”

Truth is Luther in stating to “Sin Boldly” is talking of matters of conscience. A bad conscience of those who the devil has successfully tempted to sin so that he can then accuse, ridicule and mislead that they’ve finally gone too far. To get them to doubt and wonder if they are really saved in Faith in Jesus alone. Lies of deceit and trickery to which Luther answers: yes you’re right, I did sin, but I am forgiven. And guess what, no matter what you say in your lies, when I sin again I am not going to listen to you, your lies and words of damnation, but to the Words of truth of that the Saviour and know, that in my confession, my desire for forgiveness from Him has been granted.

Repentance, it is a change in direction, where one stops doing what they are doing, about faces, and then finds themselves on the correct course of action.

Repentance, is that not was Luther was talking of, turning from one’s lies to the truth of the Lord?

Repent of not Repenting enough. By no means sin, but still falling to sin. Statements akin to those who ask through worry of having fallen to the unforgivable sin. Statement’s or thoughts that clearly show that the one thinking it is clearly repenting, clearly uncomfortable with their sin, and clearly not to have broken the unforgivable sin, which is basically not wanting forgiveness. Clearly not broken because if are they worried about it, in itself shows they haven’t. Repenting of not repenting enough not wanting to sin, but sinning, same thing.

After that last merry go round are you know as confused as I am?

Yes, again I see myself at the base of that hill in Jerusalem 2,000 ago and hearing a guy called Jesus on the cross ask His father to “forgive them for they know what they do.”

Truth is, we pretty much  do know what we do and that is why we are no longer at the base of a hill, but now at the base of a cross where an innocent man named Jesus has been murdered. A tragic death not at the age of 27, but pretty close at only 33.

Those mentioned earlier in the 27 club as it’s called and Jesus not much older. Did they all have a hand in their death. In a way- yes. Were those in the 27 club and Jesus loved by God, absolutely.

The same, maybe in those two things but that’s where it ends because the reality of repentance is not that of our often seemingly logical yet false conclusion that unless first we repent, then will only God come to us.

The reality is that God did not call humanity to repent so that Jesus might come. He was sent to be with sinners, dying for them, so all might repent because of him, and now, now He comes amongst those He calls to repent, and because He is amongst us, we repent. To daily hear those words from Romans Chapter six.  That: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death. We were therefore buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the Glory of The Father, (that) we too might walk in newness of life.”

Three days after we stood at the foot of that hill and then the cross of a man Jesus do we know He was raised in Glory.

There at the base of that hill do we no longer stay that we hear a man named Jesus “cry to His Father that he forgive us because we do not know what we do”

But there at the base of the cross of Jesus Christ our Saviour we do we remain for though He came when we knew Him not, there at the base of that cross no longer do we see a just man named, but hear the very son of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour cry to His Father that we receive forgiveness for what we now know. That we know the greatest story ever told and know the man who walked the greatest life ever lived.

To kneel before our Saviour on bended Knee and know and accept the grace and forgiveness of God the Father because of faith in His Son Jesus Christ who lived and died, so that we too daily will be raised here on our earthly journey to walk in a newness of life.

To daily repent, receive His forgiveness and know that in faith in Jesus Christ alone it to be so. To know that when we are called home that we will then with Jesus, remain in the newness of life eternal, as we too most surely know now, that He will remain with us here as we run, limp, crawl or in need, be carried towards that great day. Amen.

The Fox and the Hen

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

“The Fox And The Hen”

(Based on Luke 13:31-35)

 

Grace, Peace and Hope to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

StMarksLet’s Pray: May the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you Lord-Amen.

Today’s Gospel begins with one of the Pharisees going to Jesus, and telling him to leave that place, because Herod wanted to kill him.

It sounds like he was trying to do the Lord a favour, but I’m not so sure.

The Pharisees are mentioned fourteen times in Luke before we get to this chapter, and all but one refer to the conflict that was growing between them and Jesus.

In 11:42 Jesus says:

“Woe to you Pharisees because you give a tenth of your Mint, Rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God…”

That’s a huge indictment against them.

In the following verse he says: Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the market places.”

In 11:53 “The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law began to oppose him fiercely, besieging him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he said.”

And in 12:1 Jesus says: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy;”

another strong indictment against them.

There’ a sample of Jesus’ last four interactions with the Pharisees leading up to today’s text, so you understand why I doubt that particular Pharisee was trying to do Jesus a favour.

In fact it’s far more likely he was trying to scare him off, which is a more likely fit for how the rest of the Gospel pans out.

Jesus’ response adds to that likelihood.

“Go tell that fox ‘I cast out demons and perform miracles today, and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. Yet today, tomorrow and the next day I must be on my way, for it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’”

Jesus gave his itinerary to the Pharisee, maybe to pass on to Herod if he wished, but more likely to call his bluff,

because he knew his life wasn’t in Herod’s hands, but the eternal hands of his Father…

Jesus called Herod a fox, and I’m sure that has to do with the bad reputation foxes have always had for killing unnecessarily.

I remember hearing how a fox will chase a tiny lamb until it bleats, then bite the lamb’s tongue out, leave it to die, and move on to the next one.

It’s not a pretty picture, and reminds us of another fox, another Herod; the father of the one we’ve heard about today, the one who chased the lambs of Israel and had the baby boys under two years of age killed, after the Magi came enquiring about the new born “King of the Jews.”

So much senseless death!

It also reminds us how this particular Herod had John the Baptist’s head cut off and presented on a plate.

More senseless death!

He was a fox…

and then a little later,

Jesus is cast in the role of a Hen, whose natural enemy is a fox, and who will lay down her life to save her chicks… and we’ll come back to that later.

Notice the shape of the itinerary.

Jesus says he’ll be casting out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day he will reach his goal.

Then he reinterprets it to say:

“Today and tomorrow and the next day I must be on my way, because it is not possible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.”

The symbolic language Luke uses here is doing very much the same thing as the passage we heard a month ago when Jesus went to Nazareth where he was rejected.

Where they led him to a cliff, to throw him off and kill him, yet fortunately for us all, he walked away through the crowd and went on his way.

And that particular Gospel is a précis of Jesus’ earthly ministry right up to his death and resurrection.

His ministry that cast him in the role of the prophets, who were well received at first, then rejected and killed.

There’s a very similar thing happening here;

Jesus tells of his plans to carry out more ministry; casting out demons and performing healing miracles,

then he superimposes his movement toward Jerusalem, and the fate he knows awaits him there, to be rejected by his people and killed.

The part about him reaching his goal on the third day looks past Jesus’ death and alludes to his resurrection. And that’s been unanimously agreed on by biblical commentators as every other time Luke uses that formula;

‘on the third day,’

he’s referring directly to Jesus’ resurrection.

So the elements of Jesus’ mission in the world, his miraculous works, followed by his rejection, death and resurrection are all here, just not in chronological order.

And finally the last verse for today, where Jesus says: “You will not see me until you say ‘blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.’”

When do you think that might have taken place?  It happened on Palm Sunday in the city that kills the prophets-Jerusalem.

Today’s Gospel is like a jig-saw of Jesus’ mission in the world, with Luke gathering all of the miraculous things together;

Jesus’ driving out demons, his healing ministry and the allusion to his resurrection are mentioned in the first itinerary statement,

With the second itinerary alluding to his rejection, suffering and death in Jerusalem.

Now this mightn’t seem so, but this is vitally important,

because those two aspects of Jesus’ ministry;

his glorious works, and his suffering and death,

validate him as God’s true Messiah.

He must have a glorious ministry, or it would be said that God hadn’t come in Jesus’ flesh.

But a glorious Messiah who doesn’t suffer for his people, could never bring the Gospel of God’s grace to us.

A glorious Messiah who didn’t suffer could only heap more condemnation from God’s Law on his people, which would only serve to inflame the war between Heaven and Earth.

There wouldn’t be any peace with that kind of Messiah, only death and destruction…

and yet how ironic it is; that is exactly the kind of Messiah the people thought they wanted!

But what really stands out for me today is the fox and the hen, because when you think about those two,

the fox is the aggressor,

and the hen is its prey.

So I wonder, what have hens ever done to foxes that might cause them to attack?

Absolutely nothing!

It is purely and simply the nature of a fox that it wants to kill and eat any hen it comes across… and their chicks.

The way Luke has cast those two creatures;

humanity in the guise of a fox,

and God in the guise of a hen,

really does capture the natural animosity that humanity has for God,

And this picture that Luke has painted with these words, helps us to see how that animosity is only one-sided because we all know that hens do not go around attacking foxes.

A couple of weeks ago a newspaper ran an article about the plan the South Australian Attorney General has to remove the Bible and references to God when witnesses take the oath and swear to tell the truth in court.

There’s some more degradation the current culture is imposing on us.

But what was also worrying were the comments about that in the opinion column on the editorial page.

Comments full of bitterness poured out on God and the Church.

Seriously, the malice that some of our fellow citizens feel free to express in those sorts of forums now, is frightening.

But what has God done to deserve it?

 

What God has done-deserves nothing but our thanks and praise.

Now, if it’s not bad enough that the unbelieving world maligns God,

worse though,

is that it wasn’t the unbelieving nations of the world who killed the prophets, or Jesus Christ.

It was the holy people of God; the people God had actually bent over backwards to bless.

A new low so to speak that emphasizes the appalling nature of human sin that just cannot be overstated.

And in that, we see the depth and wondrous beauty of the Gospel.

God in Jesus Christ wasn’t blind to any of this.

The Gospel shows us very clearly how his eyes were wide open to the treacherous nature of the human heart:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem; the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

He knew them through and through, and yet when Jesus answered the Pharisee he said:

“Today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.”

Why would he even bother with such unfaithful people?

Would we not just turn away in disgust.

Some of the foul treatment that I’ve seen that’s handed out to my loved ones, friends colleagues and brothers and sisters in Christ

Can make it be very, very tempting to take a stand against those people and sought them out both verbally and physically in a like manner to their own,

fortunately though for maybe both them and me did these thoughts of re-actions only come in hindsight        and when it was too late to do it.

Hindsight that gives us the time to remember or even realise, that just as for us, so it is for them.

As with us, God comes for them and not against them like the hen gathering her chicks.

We might like to punish them.

He comes to set them free

and to bless them.

The grace of God is breathtaking,

and fortunately so,

because if it wasn’t

then there would be no hope for us either.

So Lord,

we do thank and praise you for your loving kindness to us;

that you haven’t turned away,

but come to redeem us and embrace us as your beloved children.

And so we pray,

That in the days we have left,

That you help us

to grow in faith, hope and love of yours eternal,

and serve and love

regardless of actions, colour or creed,

serve and love those you place before us, as you have most certainly have too us.

In Jesus name, and for Jesus’ sake do we pray.  Amen.

AND The peace of God

 

which passes all human understanding

 

keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Amen.

 

With thanks to Pastor Keith McNicol from which this message has been provided (with alterations)

Don’t be tricked

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Luke 4:1-13

 

Dear heavenly Father, lead us by your Holy Spirit so that we may remain faithful during our trials and temptations, through StMarksJesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Lead us not into temptation’.

We know God doesn’t tempt anyone, so when we pray for our Father not to lead us into temptation we’re really asking God to keep us safe from the devil, from our own sinful nature, and from those who are against God.

We’re praying God won’t let them trick us into losing our faith, giving up all hope, and doing other unsavoury things, yet while also praying that even though we are attacked, that in the end, we will win the victory.

Unfortunately we’re tempted often. We’re tempted in ways that are deceptive and attractive. Even though the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, he loves to dress up as a harmless lamb. He doesn’t wear a red suit, have horns and a spiked tail, and carry around a red fork. He dresses up in things that are attractive and desirable. He’s the king of deception and more likely to test and tempt us through things that seem good, right, and reasonable, just as we here he did in todays Gospel reading.

Jesus was hungry! He’s been in the wilderness without food for 40 days. The stones around him would look pretty tempting even after 4 days! Why not just turn them into bread? Surely God wouldn’t want Jesus to go hungry, would he? Don’t we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’? Well, through a miracle, God may want to give Jesus his daily bread through these stones! Wouldn’t that seem good, right, and reasonable?

We too are often tempted to satisfy our physical desires. We want to gratify our stomachs, our pleasures, our lusts, and our passions and as it seems everyone else is doing it, it can seem a little unfair if we miss out, and just like those famous two people in a garden who were given everything it had-except of all things an apple:  Now I might be getting a bit ahead of myself, but I reckon I could have handled turning down that piece of particular fruit, never mind if the temptation was of the vegetable variety. But what if “the don’t go there” food was a mixture of ingredients that in our modern world we would label a pizza. And that’s the point-we are not tempted by things we don’t want, but things we do want and if it’s not fleshly gratifications, the powers of darkness endeavour to take our eyes of the Lord through the allure power and possessions

Think how much we crave the things of this world. We’re not happy with what we have and always want more. Our TV seems smaller than the one in the shops or in someone else’s house. Our mobile phones don’t look as flashy or sound as good as the person next to us. We want the latest car, the latest gadget, a bigger house; we want the next best thing. More than this, we don’t want to wait. We want glory, power and riches now.

Now I’m not standing up here as a hypocrite, because I fall for a mixture of those worldly things all the time. We probably all have and besides what’s wrong with having these things. Absolutely nothing. The problem is when they become our gods, because when they do, no matter how many things we gather around us, we’re never really satisfied. There’ll always be a new thing we want. We’ll never have enough money. We’ll never be fully satisfied with what we have.

The more we fill our lives with things, the emptier and lonelier we feel, while then being told by the deceiver knowing of how selfish we are, how we’ll never be able to make up for lost times with our families, friends, or with God. Tempt, accuse and tempt the same stuff again through telling us it will then take the pain away from our guilty conscience by doing the same things and all of a sudden, we go from a going to work to buy a beer scenario, to needing the beer to get through work.

We are tempted to put the kart before the horse just like Jesus was by the devil in today’s Gospel.

And Jesus reply, although starving and given a seemingly straight forward and appropriate suggestion given that he hadn’t eaten for forty days certainly had the power to turn the rocks around him into bread, or even Pizza if He wished.

But no, Jesus knew this was not about the devil feeling sorry for Him or caring for Him. This was the devil endeavouring to undermine His Father and the plan He had put in place to save the one’s he cared for and so with even with such a mouth-watering temptation, Jesus quotes a verse from Deuteronomy, saying “Man shall not live by bread alone”.

The context of the verse he quotes is the people of Israel were just about to enter the Promised Land. Before they enter that land, Moses reminds them of God’s law, saying “Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8:2-3)

For the Israelites, their hunger was to teach them the value, importance and necessity of God’s Word. Food will sustain you briefly, but the Word of God will sustain and satisfy you far longer. No one really lives, no matter how much food they have in their belly, without the Word of God. The testing and the hunger were necessary lessons. Jesus submitted himself to this lesson.  He would not be deceived by any desire for instant gratification. The Word of God sustains him.

So will we learn from our temptations and tests? Will we learn to resist the temptation to gratify our fleshly desires right now, or will we learn to wait patiently for what God wants to give us? Through our times of testing, we may learn to be more discerning between what seems good, right, and reasonable, and what really is good and right and reasonable for us.

These temptations are real. They’re real for us, and they were real for Jesus.

Jesus was tempted to abandon the road to suffering and receive the whole world and its inhabitants, but to do so would have meant turning his back on his Father. We are given the same temptations through whatever manner to do the same, to put the kart before the horse, to put things ahead of God.

Things that can be good, but only if subservient to what is truly, good and trustworthy and that is our triune God: God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and the Holy Spirit.

The dark side’s temptations and deceptions are for one purpose. The purpose of taking our eyes off God by manipulating his Word. To take our eyes off Jesus and seeing our self-first.

Not what a great gift and blessing that the Lord has provided me with employment, a roof over our heads and food, clothing family and friends.

Not what a great gift, but turns it to you deserve, it’s your right, if people are in the way cut them down: whatever form it takes is not for the persons care, happiness and a life gained, but the exact opposite.

It’s a “I will tempt with drugs, and once hooked, I’ll tempt to overdose so that they cannot hear the hope and life available to them through the true Word of God.”

So what to do when tempted and with the power of the Holy Spirit hold out. Praise God.

And if you fail, like so many times I do: Then we return to the true Word of God more than ever if that’s possible. Not the Word of God that’s been eroded to maybe’s, if’s and but’s. Not the maybe I’ll be forgiven and saved in Christ version that destroys the truth like a movie director using their creative licence. No we listen to God the Father and the one who lived it Jesus Christ. Jesus who battled and won that even if we do succumb to temptations, by faith, believe God won’t abandon us and doesn’t lead us into temptation. No matter what trials or temptations we face, either in times of abundance or times of scarcity, we can trust in God. He will prove true and faithful to us. We have been set free to put our trust in Jesus who has already walked through many trials and temptations and has proved victorious over them. Through trusting his obedience and victory we are saved. We can trust he’ll give us what we need to endure and persevere in your own times of trouble. We can be certain he will save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.

 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Listen to Him

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Transfiguration                                                      

Luke 9:28-36

 

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may listen to your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

StMarksWhen pastors are at Seminary/ Australian Lutheran College, they are taught to ask a number of questions which can be very helpful when looking at bible texts.

One question is: What’s the picture?

This question helps, because many people learn and work visually. We like to visualize something in order to fully understand it. Then, when we understand the picture, the Scriptures aren’t just words on a page, but become real scenes and real people who live and breathe and still talk to us even today. Once we understand the picture, and even put ourselves into the picture, we can more easily apply it to our own life.

For example: in regard to this text, it can be helpful to put ourselves into the shoes of the disciples, who saw Jesus start glowing (which we’ll come back to later), standing with two men, who were understood to be Moses and Elijah, who hadn’t been around for hundreds of years! On top of this, a cloud suddenly appears and a heavenly voice commands them to listen to Jesus because he’s God’s own Son.

Can you imagine what that would look like?

With this picture in mind – and if you’re a little familiar with God’s Word – you might also start seeing some things which are more than coincidences. These things were happening on a mountain, and other important revelations of God have also happened on mountains, such as Moses receiving God’s commands on Mount Sinai, and Elijah seeing the back of God on a mountain.

Hang on! These men are the same ones who have heard God speak previously on mountaintops! Maybe it’s more than a coincidence these particular men are here! They’ve received God’s commands and God’s prophetic Word, and right now they’re speaking with Jesus about his departure. Or do they in fact use another word? In the Greek, they call it his ‘exodus.’

Well, that reminds us of the great salvation event in the Old Testament where Moses leads God’s people out of the land of slavery to the point of entering the Promised Land – that land which was flowing with milk and honey. And here they talk to Jesus about his exodus. Is he going to lead people from slavery into a new land of perfection and peace?

These are just a few examples on how all these pictures start coming together to help us understand more deeply what’s going on.

Another question pastors are taught is: What’s unexpected here?

This is important because for many of us who have heard God’s word for many years, we don’t find God’s Word surprising anymore. We’ve heard it all before. Sometimes we even consider it boring! We’re tempted to switch off and think about something else.

So, it can help to ask ourselves what’s so surprising in our text, and we don’t have to go very far before we realize something was happening to Jesus which would have totally freaked us out!

I mean, when was the last time you saw someone’s face start glowing? And I’m not talking about that proud glow of a pregnant woman, but a literal white glow coming from inside a person as if the sun was inside them!

Wow! No wonder the disciples didn’t know what they were saying, because we don’t usually have a ready response to seeing someone glow!

I mean, if someone sneezes, we might respond ‘bless you’, or if someone asks ‘how are you today’, you might respond ‘fine’ (even if you’re not), but because people’s faces don’t generally start glowing from within, we don’t know how to respond (except, you could say ‘hey, nice glow, man!’).

It’s unexpected. It takes us by surprise. It should still surprise us today because it doesn’t normally happen!

So, what does this glow mean? Does this mean Jesus is more than just a man? Was this glow to show he’s more than what meets the eyes? Did it show a glimpse of his divinity? And if so, why now?

And, how come Moses and Elijah were there? Weren’t they supposed to be dead? Or does this indicate God in fact isn’t a God of the dead, but a God of the living? Why were they there and not Noah, David, or Jonah? What do Moses and Elijah represent? What did they do which is similar to what Jesus was about to do? Why were they the people of the past sent to encourage Jesus on his journey to the cross?

You see what I mean? When you start asking what’s unexpected in a text, you start asking interesting questions. It’s like unlocking a mystery. You become curious and hungry for more because you want to hear some answers.

It doesn’t mean you’ll always receive a satisfactory answer, but in your digging and looking for what’s unexpected, you might find some hidden gems which lead you to grow in your faith and understanding.

Another question, which is helpful in devotion or sermon preparation is: what human problem is God speaking to here?

Well, one possibility is that we humans just don’t get it, and because we don’t get it, we miss the mark in our response to it.

Now, what on earth am I talking about?

Did you notice the disciple’s response to this most amazing and unexpected encounter with our God in human flesh and his deputies Moses and Elijah? What did they want to do? They wanted to build structures so this once-in-a-lifetime moment would last.

We humans just don’t get it!

No sooner does God give us a glimpse of his divinity than we immediately want to enshrine it. We want to capture it, keep it, and market it. The disciples thought this was a pretty important moment in history and wanted this moment to last.

We do the same.

For example, have you ever been on a holiday or camp and received such inspiring moments you wanted to bring it back into your daily life so you can receive a high whenever you want?

Have you ever visited another church, or heard a moving song, or heard some charismatic speaker and wondered why we can’t package them up and bring them here so we can experience this again and again?

Have you ever been disappointed whenever you’ve tried to re-create something and it didn’t work the way you hoped, and it may have even lost it’s ‘specialness’?

Then, if it doesn’t work like before, do you beat yourself up because you must have done something wrong, or you take it out on everyone else around you because it has to be their fault your special experience isn’t as great as it used to be?

Do you then unfairly judge and criticize people because they don’t want to do what you want and therefore they’re stopping you from receiving the spiritual highs you had previously?

If only we could capture the spiritual highs and re-create them with the right traditions, the right freedoms, the right buildings, the right speakers, the right music, and the right places! Why can’t we re-live our spiritual highs whenever we want?

Because we don’t get it. We think it’s about keeping a gift as if it’s ours to keep, rather than receiving it and thanking God for that moment and looking forward to his next surprising revelation.

Instead of enshrining this precious moment in history, what’s the one instruction God gave the disciples at the extraordinary event?

‘Listen to him.’

What do we struggle to do most in our life?

Listen to him.

We’d rather sing our favourite hymn or song than listen to him. We’d rather the sermons and readings were shorter so we don’t have to listen to him. We’d rather do something else on Sunday than listen to him. We’d rather read the paper or get on with our day than read the bible for a couple of minutes in the morning. We’d rather watch our favourite soap or the News or something else on TV than listen to him at our evening devotions.

We don’t get it, and sometimes we don’t want it. There’s a spiritual battle going on, and our faith is the casualty.

One of the biggest problems facing the church today is biblical illiteracy. This means those who come regularly to worship might listen to the readings and the sermon, and yet still don’t know the story of salvation. Many people have their own bibles (maybe even more than one translation), but hardly ever open them to see what’s inside them.

God said to his disciples, ‘Listen to him’, and unfortunately many good Christians fail that simple instruction! Most of us have lovely bibles at home, but not every page has seen the light of day!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we believe all Scripture is breathed by God and is given to us for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). The Word of God is our life-breath as Christians. As we hear what God’s saying to us in his Word, listening for what’s unexpected, understanding the pictures he gives us, and allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire us, we slowly start to get it.

We start to get what Jesus was about to do in his exodus; how he was going to the cross in order to die in our place and grant us forgiveness of sins through the shedding of his innocent and holy blood; how he was going on a journey to lead his people from slavery to sin through the wilderness of suffering and death into the Promised Land of eternal life with him in heaven; how he will sustain us in our own earthly journey through life by speaking to us through his Word; how he will also sustain our faith through his physical gifts of grace of Baptism and Holy Communion, which have been touched by his living and powerful Word; and how his Words still give us direction and comfort.

Can we all take up the challenge this coming Lenten season to listen to him? Can we dust off our Bibles, open them, read them, meditate on them, discuss them, and respond in prayer to what he’s saying to us? His Word is the life-breath for our faith and salvation.

May we all learn to listen to him so that…

the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.