Sermon Archive

SERMON: Easter Day (Apr 5)

Category: News, Sermon Tags: April 5, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118
1 Cor. 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

Text

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised….And going out they fled from the tomb, for trembling and ecstasy had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”

Listen

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised.”  But they were alarmed—so freaked out, they fled the tomb in ecstatic fear and said nothing to anyone.  They were terrified: the dead man was alive again. Moreover, they would see him in Galilee.  How would that go down?

Don’t be alarmed?  Who’s the young guy think he’s fooling?  Maybe angels are that cool.  Maybe, like Spock, they have ice in their veins.  But even Vulcans die.  Check out Leonard Nemoy: way cool though he was, he’s spending this Easter on the down side of sod.  But, then, what if he were no longer dead?  Suppose when you turn to share the peace this morning it’s Spock there beside you: cool as an Easter angel, flashing his Vulcan salute.  “Peace to you,” says Spock.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he says, “They’re gonna beam us up.”

But that’s the thing.  Maybe Nemoy got beamed, but Jesus didn’t.  Here’s the thing about Christ’s resurrection: on the third day, they didn’t beam Jesus to the warp-speed safety of a star ship. They didn’t zap-tingle him into some distant galaxy, a hidden dimension of the multi-verse.

The risen Jesus didn’t skip off to a perfect paradise like Andromeda 3 or Telexis 7.  That’s what I would have done.  And so would’ve Bones McCoy, James Kirk, O’Hara, and Spock.  That’s what we’d do too.  A little well-deserved R and R seems appropriate following the week Jesus had.  Passion Week’s no picnic:  handed over to the authorities, rejected, abused, humiliated, tortured, and killed.  Who couldn’t use a little beam up after that?

Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.  Take it easy. Take a break.  Take five.  Kick back. Relax.  Enjoy.  You deserve it.  Pamper yourself.  A little post-redemption down-time. But this angel’s no trekkie.  He says, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you to Galilee.”

Galilee?  Imagine Spock risen from the grave, and the first thing he wants is you to see him in Kronos—the dead center of Klingon territory.  Galilee’s no place for rest and relaxation.  It’s the center of revolution, a borderline Gentile nightmare (Galilee of the Gentiles!), a down-home zone fraught with constant struggle.

“Go tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you to Galilee.”  But resurrection’s not supposed to include ordinary Galilee.  Galilee’s the routine we know:  life in the shadow of death.  Galilee is all who have lived and all who have died.  We try to remember them, but we can’t. Their number’s too vast.  Trying to remember all the dead is tantamount to what God said to Abraham:  “look at the stars and number them if you are able.”  Abraham wasn’t able; and, despite our telemetric advantage, neither are we.  Numbering the dead would be like counting the grains of sand on the earth.  It can’t be done.  Numbering the grains of sand, counting the stars, like counting the hairs on our head, is like, well, it’s like raising the dead: impossible.

Impossible for us, but not for God.  For God, all things are possible. The Christ who heads to Galilee is the very One who says we are each known by the God who made us.  That sounds like wishful thinking.  How could anybody know everybody?  Impossible.  But Jesus goes further:  Not only are we each known to our Creator, the Father even numbers the hairs on our head.

Of course, that’s ridiculous; impossible.  Yet, like the resurrection of the dead, it’s impossible for us, but not for God.  Jesus isn’t a professor of science, or a super-hero, or even a philosopher of logic.  He’s more complex than that.  Jesus is science. Christ is the hero of loss, the Logician of impossible.  He’s the Logic of life through death.  He’s the Lord of loss as gain; the Prince of power in weakness.  He’s the Knowledge of unknowing to know, the Science of less as more; the Least forever more than all.

Easter is more than entertaining diversion, a break between games, the televisual soft of non-speak.  Far from soft, resurrection is the hard word of Galilee; the Compass of death into Life, the forever Feast of death’s death:  “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines …. And he will swallow up death forever.”

The Risen Christ skips not the light fantastic.  He skips nothing.  He goes to Galilee, goes ahead into real life, the struggle of life fraught with death.  He goes not to a luxury star ship or an exclusive club, but to mundane Galilee, where everyone has gone before.  And more:  Christ gives a feast for all peoples. A feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines…for all peoples.  For all peoples?  Is that even possible?  Christ is the impossible made actual.

In the deadliest of places (Earth!), the Risen Lord holds the crown-jewel of feasts, the Easter meal of Christ’s own body and blood. We eat and drink him: the fruit of eternal life.  Christ swallows death forever.  He consumes our death, even as we swallow him.  Easter brings ecstatic terror.  The terror of life beyond death.  Since Christ has been raised, what’s left to beam up?  Christ is risen.  Easter beams down.  Alleluia!

Maundy Thursday (Apr 2)

Category: Sermon Tags: April 2, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Listen

Passion/Palm Sunday (Mar 29)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 29, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14:1-15:47

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5 Lent (Mar 22)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 22, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Text

“…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
“….he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Listen

God promises to “remember [our] sin no more.”  It’s not that God forgets—that’s what we do or, at least, what I do.  But the Lord’s amnesia is intentional, a matter of God’s will.  Unlike my own advancing forgetfulness, God chooses not to remember: selective amnesia as divine choice, volition.  The Lord wills not to remember our sin:  speaking with the voice of God, Jeremiah says, “I will…remember their sin no more.”

God’s choice to forget sin forms the counterpoint to forgiveness:  “I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”  In other words, God chooses not to remember what has been forgiven.  In still other words, the Lord remembers our iniquity that he may forget our sin.  God chooses not to remember our sin: (as we say in the Confession) the things “we have done, and the things we have failed to do.”  But, more than that, the Lord forgives the ­way we are.  God chooses to forgive that we are sinful.  This forgiving and intentional forgetting are primary signs of God’s love.  As Paul says:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”   Christ’s death for us equals God’s love for us.

Speaking with the voice of Jesus, today’s Gospel puts it this way:  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  John’s Gospel speaks poetically of crucifixion.  Jesus says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth.  “Lifted up” is John’s image of crucifixion.  When Jesus is crucified, he is “lifted up from the earth.”  John makes this clear in the last line of today’s Gospel when he says, “He [that is, Christ] said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” In other words, the death of Jesus is no accident, no mistake, not a simple overreach of Roman imperial power, nor the vicious result of mean-spirited religious authority.

Jesus was crucified because he intended to be crucified. Moreover, because the Father willed it; being lifted up, being crucified is the Son’s whole purpose (“….it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”).  The Son’s crucifixion is the Lord’s subversive means of “glorifying the Father’s name.”

If nothing else, the crucifixion of Jesus makes us reconsider what “glory” means, and most especially what the “glory of God” means.  How can the brutal and humiliating death of God’s only begotten Son glorify the Father’s name?  Instead of “glory,” common sense (that most uncommon of all human traits), common sense understands the crucifixion of the Father’s beloved Son (in the language of Phyllis Tribble) as “divine child abuse,” the deranged activity of a madman, the opposite of “glory.”

In saving us, the Son contradicts us.  Hebrews says that “Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, to day I have begotten you,’” and “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In other words, the Father’s appointment of the Son, the consecration the Son as high priest after Melchizedek, the mythic King of Righteousness, underscores the intentionality of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, and death.

Left to ourselves, we might imagine a king of righteousness lording it over us and enforcing his rule by means of strict religious authority—a severe righteousness manifest in power both dominant and unyielding, punishing and condemning us for being sinful—for the things we have done or left undone.

But Christ does not rule by means of domineering power; he reigns in suffering, weakness, and death.  Hebrews goes on to say that, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him (read raise him) from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him….”  In other words, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of Righteousness, suffers and dies for unrighteous sinners—for all who oppose God.  The Obedient suffers and dies for the disobedient.  God heard Christ’s prayers and supplications, heard his loud cries and saw his tears, so that the Son might be “lifted up.”  The Father listened and saw not because of the Son’s righteous power, but because of his holy weakness, his reverent submission [to the Father’s will], his submission to crucifixion, his being lifted up from the earth.

Heard in this way, this Lenten Gospel proclaims the Father’s choice, and not ours. In doing so, it echoes Jeremiah’s proclamation of the “new covenant.”  According to Jeremiah, God’s “I will” expresses the new covenant.  In four brief verses, God says “I will” six times and “they shall” twice:  “I will make a new covenant;” “I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” “They shall all know me….I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” In the new covenant the Lord violates our disobedient will, and does so by means of the Son’s holy weakness, his obedient and “reverent submission.”

In Christ Jesus, the Father’s will trumps our will. He draws us to himself by the power of his suffering and death:  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  This is the magnetic power of the crucified Christ. Baptized into his death and resurrection, he draws us to himself.  In him, we die to ourselves, that we might live like a seed buried in the earth, ever rising toward him in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

4 Lent (Mar 15)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 15, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

Listen

3 Lent (Mar 8)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 8, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Eric Jones

The Rev. Eric Jones

Readings

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

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2 Lent (Mar 1)

Category: Sermon Tags: March 1, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

Text

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant with you.”
[God] raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our “trespasses and was raised for our justification.”
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Listen

Genesis says the Lord appeared to Abraham when he was 99 years old, and made an everlasting covenant with him.   Paul tells us God raised Jesus for our justification, but only after Jesus had died for our sins.  God brings life out of death.  Abraham was as good as dead, yet God chose him to be the father of all who believe.  Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was 90 years old and barren, long past the age of childbearing; Sarah was pregnant with death. Yet God chose her to bear a son, to become the mother of nations, a forebear of the Christ.

What is it with God?  The Abraham and Sarah story sounds like something from the National Enquirer:   “90 Year Old Woman Pregnant.  Expecting son: delirious with joy.”  But, of course, only supermarket tabloids credit a 90 year old woman with joy when pregnant by a 99 year old husband.  You don’t have to be a med school professor to know something’s a little off in that story.  You don’t have to be a labor and delivery nurse to know a pregnant 90 year old resides well beyond the range of rare.  About 25 years ago, my then associate pastor asked Mabel, a woman very near 100, how she would feel if told she were pregnant. “I’d rather die,” she said.

Mabel nailed it. Telling Sarah (or Mabel) she was pregnant is a lot like Jesus telling the crowd, “Anyone who wants to become my disciple must take up their cross and follow me.”  As Pastor Pohlman noted when recently quoting the martyred Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  For a 90 year old woman, pregnancy and birth would be tantamount to a death sentence.  But, then, turning 100 is tantamount to a death sentence.  Then, too, being born is a death sentence.  As campus pastor, Eric Jones, said in his Ash Wednesday sermon, birth has a one-to-one correspondence with death.

In any conventional sense, these readings for the 2nd Sunday in Lent are not “good” news, are not “happy” stories.  Put another way, if they are good, they’re only so in the sense that Good Friday is “good.”

The 2nd Sunday in Lent turns “good” on its head.  Jesus tells his followers that the Son of Man must be betrayed, suffer abuse, be humiliated, crucified, dead, buried, and then on the third day raised.  Beyond the distant promise of resurrection, this is not conventional good news.  If good news at all, it’s like telling a double amputee that amazing progress is being made in the design and manufacture of prosthetics.  But to get the amazing prosthetics, you first must lose your limbs.  Such good news is severely tempered by pain and loss.

Before the Son of Man can be raised from the dead, he must suffer many things, be betrayed, abused, crucified, dead and buried.  Is it any wonder Peter thought such news bad?  Any wonder Peter rebuked his master?  The wonder lies elsewhere: Jesus rebuked Peter—called him “Satan,” and told him he was not on the side of God, but of “men.”  Yet Peter was a man.  What other side could he be on?  The wonder hides in Jesus, not Peter:  in Jesus’ suffering death, God comes to our side, God on the human side.

Some things—especially difficult things —may be no less true just because they are painful.  In fact, in the biblical narrative most true things are difficult. Very few (if any) accounts of God’s saving work are told without suffering, pain, loss, and death.  These things form the substratum of life, and in much of life the hard substratum lies very near the surface:  hence, our routine addictions to distraction, amusement, sedation, and half-truth.  In and of themselves, entertainment, intoxicants, and circumlocution are not bad; but they are bad for us when they disable truth or, even worse, prevent us from recognizing truth when we hear it.

Jesus could have said, “The Son of Man is going to Jerusalem to receive a hero’s welcome, be enthroned, and give everybody all they want; he’ll satisfy every desire, and everyone will live happily ever after.”  That’s the stuff of fairy tales.  Had Jesus told a fairy tale, Peter wouldn’t have rebuked him, and Jesus would not have called him “Satan.”  But, in that case, Jesus would have been more like Satan than God, and for the moment, all would have seemed happily copasetic.  Lies are like that: sugar coating on a bitter pill; they hide the truth, but only for a moment.

Jesus Christ is more than a momentary fix.  He doesn’t sugar-coat the bitter truth.  He must suffer death, be buried, and on the third day rise.  Moreover, contrary to all sedation, distraction, and amusement, we too must die.  The only real questions are threefold:  when, how, and for what purpose. Of these three, deepest truth comes chiefly through the latter: for what purpose will we die?

Hard though it may be to hear, it doesn’t much matter when or how we die; the only thing that really matters is that we die with Jesus Christ on our side: in, with, and under us.  There is, after all, no shame in dying—it comes to all.  But true and everlasting life comes through dying in, with, and under Jesus.  Therefore, he says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  Dying like Jesus, dying for others, we live.

Though it may not sound like it, these words bear the gracious truth of everlasting life; like his own life, Jesus gives away this gracious truth freely for us, and for all.  But, even if these words (and the one who speaks them) cause us shame, it’s only for a time.  Like Lent, shame lasts but a little while.  Then comes the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord.  Eternally longer than death, Easter does come: the resurrection of the dead, and there’s no shame in that.  In his death, Christ comes to our side: baptized into him and his dying, we live in him—his risen life.

1 Lent (Feb 22)

Category: Sermon Tags: February 22, 2015 @ 9:00 am

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

The Rev. Brad Pohlman

Readings

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Listen

Ash Wednesday (Feb 18)

Category: Sermon Tags: February 19, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Text

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
“Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.”
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Listen

Isaiah turns religion inside out.  On Ash Wednesday, fasting is an imperative to feed hungry people and house homeless people.  We fast not merely to deny ourselves food, but to deny ourselves.

When was the last time you did something self-consciously religious?  Was it saying grace at table last evening at dinner?  Or maybe you said your prayers before going to sleep last night.  Or (could it be possible?) perhaps you skipped breakfast and lunch today before receiving the Lord’s Supper—as saints of old would have done.

Of course, the very word “breakfast” implies a practice largely vanished from the modern Christian west apart from monastic communities which may refrain from eating until the morning Mass is ended.  But, then, there’s the common (but nonetheless religious) practice of refraining from the consumption of food until after having our blood drawn in preparation for an annual physical.

Gone are the days when most of us would willingly deprive ourselves of food in preparation for eating what the ancients termed “the medicine of immortality” the body and blood of Christ.  We inhabit an era in which we willingly deprive ourselves of food in preparation for a biologically longer life—or at least the physical examination thereof.  In other words, many (if not most) of us will fast to serve our own physical self-interest.  But seldom will we do so in order to benefit our own souls, and we’ll almost never go without food in order to benefit someone else—whether in body or soul.

Isaiah 58 gives evidence of an ancient religious argument:  do we engage religious activity (like fasting) in order to advantage ourselves in relation to God’s judgment?  Or do we discipline ourselves (fasting/self-limitation) in order to benefit others, people dependent on us or less privileged than ourselves?  At least it appears that, in Isaiah’s post-exilic age, the discipline of fasting was actually practiced, albeit for disingenuous reasons.  The Prophet attacks religious practice undertaken for self-gain.  But in our day, the argument about why fasting was practiced at all—whether for selfish or altruistic reasons—will generally fall on ears deaf to God’s voice.

No so, however, when my physician tells me I should exercise more frequently, limit myself to one helping per meal, and cut back on my consumption of carbohydrates, fats, and red meats.  I listen to impressive statistics suggesting that it would be to my own advantage to discipline myself.  When he tells me I should limit my consumption of alcohol to one or at most two drinks per day, he offers compelling evidence that I will live longer if I do.  When he tells me to abstain from tobacco at all costs, he provides unending data demonstrating that the use of nicotine damages my physical health in more ways than I can either count or remember.  In no case (whether in relation to exercise, diet, alcohol, or tobacco) does he argue that self-discipline will either benefit my fellow citizens or please God.  Though I suspect that, at least in relation to the well-being of the human community, strong arguments could be made on behalf of the social benefits of dietary discipline, to say nothing of the negative social burdens stemming from my lack of discipline.

Be that as it may, current arguments encouraging self-discipline seem largely oriented toward my own benefit, and not the welfare of others.  But Isaiah takes the opposite tack, and does so in the name of and with the voice of God.  For Isaiah (and therefore for God) the purpose of fasting is the limitation of myself for the benefit of others—and especially for the benefit of “workers,” that is, for the benefit of those who depend on me and my self-limitation for their very lives.

But Isaiah goes further.  The Prophet moves beyond the literal practice of religious fasting to fasting as a metaphor for breaking (or loosing) the bonds of injustice, for freeing laborers from their yoked bondage, and letting the captive oppressed go free.  Rather than understanding the discipline of fasting as denying myself food for a specifically religious purpose, Isaiah interprets fasting as sharing our bread with the hungry, bringing the homeless poor into our homes, and clothing those who are naked.  Like Luther, Isaiah interprets the command “Do not kill” in terms of “protecting our neighbor and his means of making a living;” Isaiah understands that before God there is no distinction between religious and secular acts.  Fasting that I might please God while ignoring my hungry neighbor is no less sinful than eating less in order to live longer and get more life for me.

On Ash Wednesday, God’s Word declares that, no matter whether we eat or fast, we ourselves remain the essential problem.  We incur God’s wrath whether we eat less to live longer or fast merely to benefit our own greedy selves.  Fasting to get more of God for myself has the same ruinous effect as eating less to get more for me.

Both eating and fasting confront us with the fact that, whether we eat or are eaten, we are dust and to dust we shall return.  True Lenten discipline revolves around the elemental truths that we are mortal, dependent, and selfish.  Whatever serves to limit us—to hold our own greedy mortality and our neighbor’s need before our eyes—drives us to the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of Christ.  The crucified savior is both the model and the goal of life. Eating and drinking him, drives us again and again to the Eucharistic fast that feeds all—in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Transfiguration of Our Lord (Feb 15)

Category: Sermon Tags: February 15, 2015 @ 10:00 am

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

The Rev. Franklin Wilson

Readings

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

Text

“And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
“Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God shines forth in glory.”
“This is my son, the beloved, listen to him….As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

Listen

The Transfiguration of Our Lord is upon us:  Lent’s season of baptismal renewal draws near.  But what draws us? Transfiguration fixes us on the fantastic: Elijah swept up in a chariot of fire; God shining forth from Zion; Moses’ veiled face; Jesus shining like the sun, his face and clothes brighter than new-fallen snow in mid-winter sun.  Yet, each of these bright figures—and perhaps most especially Jesus himself—shines within the shadow darkness, loss, and death.  What draws us?

Elijah swept up means Elisha grieving Elijah gone.  God shines forth from “a raging storm round about.”  Paul sets shining Moses against unbelief:  “those who are perishing,” and minds “blinded by the god of this world.”  And, finally, we read Jesus transfigured on the mountain within the context of Peter’s babbling confusion—his manic desire to do something religious, his frantic eagerness to make meaning of this strange event—an event which defies any meaning we might hope to make of it and, to an even greater degree, anything we might want to do in light of it.

So much so, that the heavenly imperative is neither to interpret nor act, but rather, to listen!  And not merely to listen in general: not to practice mindfulness, nor center ourselves, nor listen to our passions, but rather listen to this and only this, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!” The Transfiguration of Our Lord is more than an abstraction, more than a concept, more than a religious idea.  It’s our Lord: Then, when they looked about, suddenly, “They saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.” They saw him in a different light—not merely the unearthly light of his Transfiguration, nor even the impressive light of his association with Moses and Elijah— two monumental figures from Israel’s history, nor even in the earnest light of discipled friendship—his having chosen them, and only them, to see such wondrous things.  At last, they saw him in light of the heavenly Voice, they saw him in light of God:  “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”  They saw him in stunning silencelisten to him!

The silence speaks:  “He ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”  According to Jesus, the Transfiguration of Our Lord is unspeakable.  Or, put another way, our Lord’s Transfiguration, may be told only in light of Easter.  It’s not merely that we don’t know what to say—though, given Peter’s example, we surely don’t.  But it’s also that whatever we would say apart from Christ’s resurrection from the dead, is beside the point; like going to the Grand Canyon to see fast food restaurants, or like visiting Washington, D. C. to count the crosswalks, or like worshipping at Luther Memorial Church to observe various kinds of litter in the alleyway, or the numbers of students wearing red, or (and this might be interesting) the number of pauses in a sermon.  More pauses, larger silences: fewer words might convey greater meaning.

Therefore, “He ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”  Silence! Listen!  Tell no one….until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”  It turns out the one they knew in familiar terms as “Rabbi,” is the Beloved Son of God.  It turns out the one they talked to and ate with and went about with and fished with, this ordinary guy from Nazareth, this carpenter’s son whose mother bears the ordinary name of Miriam (Mary)….it turns out this one from the back country handed over to the authorities, tortured, abused, and put to humiliating death as a criminal….it turns out this most desired-reviled of ordinary men has in most extraordinary fashion been raised from the dead.

We do not listen to Jesus because he shines brighter than the lights at Camp Randal.  We do not listen to Jesus because he converses with famous religious figures.  We do not listen to Jesus because he exercises miraculous power.  We do not listen to Jesus because we like his politics, or his economics, or his stories, or his crafty ways of outfoxing his opponents—entertaining though that may be.  We listen to Jesus because God raised him from the dead.  We listen to Jesus because even though he was dead and buried, he is now alive. We listen to Jesus because even though (before God) we deserve eternal death and damnation, the crucified and risen Christ has bound us to himself in the watery promise of baptism.  And, more than that, we listen to Jesus because even though we do not invite our hungry neighbors to our own tables, even though we do not welcome and forgive our obnoxious neighbors, even though we do not regularly visit our sick and imprisoned and lonely neighbors….we listen to Jesus because, even in spite of our failure to love God with our whole hearts, minds, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves….we listen to Jesus because the crucified and risen Christ, the Beloved Son of God, welcomes us to his table, and feeds us, and forgives us in, with, and under his own body and blood.

In short, we listen to Jesus not only because he has the words of eternal life, but because he is eternal life.  We listen to Jesus because the Father has commanded it; we listen to Jesus because, in the end, he’s the only One worth listening to.  Beautiful and charming though the rest may be, all other voices (including my own) bear the stench of death.  Therefore, listen to the Beloved Son. Tell anyone you please: the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.


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