This is our last Sunday before Lent. We started this season looking at the Epiphany of Jesus who is King, Priest and sacrifice for all the people of the world, we end this season seeing this revelation of His Divine Glory. He is not just a human King, an eternal priest and the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus is God Almighty. On the mountain Elijah heard God, who spoke to him after the fire and earthquake. On the mountain Moses saw God, who spoke to him in the fire and cloud of His glory. On the mountain Peter, James and John see God Incarnate, who spoke to them in the full burning radiance of His glory, the glory of Jesus Christ. And yet they don’t understand, the truth is veiled to them until the Resurrection, until the Light of the World came out of that darkness of death. Light out of darkness.
Just as at the beginning of this old creation, God spoke, ‘let there be light’, and out of the darkness light shone. As Paul wrote, God is the one who illuminates, shines light, opens eyes, gives understanding and knowledge, at times overwhelmingly so. He shone in our hearts to the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:6). He comes to us, to help us understand Him and this life, that is why He gave His Word to be written, and His church to pass on this wonderful truth guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). From darkness light shall shine.
When you did not understand it’s as if you were in the dark, not able to see what was in front of you. Or perhaps you had rejected the truth, Jesus; and gone you own ways; saying ‘so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else’, or even calling what is evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Perhaps you felt trapped in the dark, without a way out (Romans 6:20; Psalm 40:1). In the darkness of your heart God came by His Word, maybe in preaching, discussion, Baptism, Absolution, Holy Communion, and shone the light of Christ.
Yet today, perhaps you suffer because the ones you love do not know the glory of God. That they do not understand what the transfiguration means for this world. They do not understand how a cross, a torture device similar to impaling on a spike, how a cross is the Glory of God. As they come down the mountain Jesus tells those confused disciples, to tell none until the Son of man rises from the dead (Mark 9:9). They came from the confusing and mysterious heights of God on that mountain, to the death of Jesus on that cross. Yet God has said, From the darkness light shall shine.
Jesus did not stay on the cross or in the darkness of the tomb, but broke out in New Life. The veil in the temple separating God’s presence from the people was torn open (Matthew 27:51). And the veil of confusion among the disciples was lifted when Jesus appeared to them. Then from those first small gatherings within locked rooms, our brothers and sisters burst forth across the world. Where they were killed, martyred for the faith, there the faith flourished. The light shone out of the darkness. And still today, this happens. In your baptism you died to sin and rose in Newness of Life to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:4). My father was dead in sin, living in evil, a slave to wickedness; yet when He was brought into the faith, God brought Him to live and proclaim the wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ to His glory, as a pastor of His church. And so many Pastors in our synod are converts into the faith, from a life in the darkness to proclaiming the light of Christ. From the darkness light shall shine.
If things look hopeless, for you, those you love, for this world; if you are in despair, listen to Jesus (Mark 9:7). As we look together toward our Lord’s suffering and death in the coming season of Lent; remember what comes after. As you take up or focus on one of our Christian disciplines, fasting, prayer or providing for those in need (Matthew 6); as you struggle with temptation and this world, with Jesus in the desert. As you struggle in sickness, stress, anxiety, all the things in this world that can kill you; even your enemies, our enemies, who want us silenced, even dead. Don’t forget, our God is the one who shines light out of the darkness, He converted Paul the murderer of Christians into His Apostle to the world, He converted the Roman empire from slaughtering Christians to defending us. He can shine from the deepest darkness of death, He can bring His glory where we need Him. So don’t give up, pray, and look to Jesus who is the image of God our Father, God who we can see. Look to Jesus in the darkness, listen to Him and pray that He shines even in our lives, in this small congregation, in this fallen, dark and uncertain world.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, despite the darkness. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.