Matthew 17:1-9 "‘Tis Good Lord to Be Here"
Transfiguration Sunday March 2, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Oh it is good to be here. In fact, none of us would probably be here today if we didn’t recognize that it is good to be here. It is good to be here first and foremost because Jesus is here. Here is where Christ comes to meet us through His Word and through His Sacrament. It is good to be here because the glory of the Lord revealed through Jesus is being revealed here. It is good to be here because we behold the beauty of the Lord fulfillment of the promises of the Law and with sweetness of His Gospel.
We see this so clearly at the Transfiguration. For a moment, in front of three of His disciples, Jesus is transfigured as He displays His divine glory. As he sees Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, Peter speaks out to Him, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
People of God, do we act like it? Do we act like Jesus is actually here with us, and that it is “good”? When you came into the church building today, did you say to yourself, “I am coming into the presence of God Himself”? Did you make an effort to make ourselves presentable both spiritually and physically when coming into the presence of God? Shouldn’t you have? Should we not make the extra effort in the way we dress, the way we act before church starts, the way we participate in the service in order bear witness that it is good to be here in the presence of the living God and before His holy altar?
This isn’t a question of dressing the best, or being all put together, it is a question of laziness. Do you act like you are coming into the presence of the almighty God, or not? Being prepared to be in the presence of God does not rest in outward appearance, but in repentance and faith in Christ’s Word and Promise. This is why we begin the Divine Service with a Confession and Absolution. This divine and comforting truth that Jesus is present with us should cause us to confess with our thoughts, words, and deeds what exactly we believe about the God who is truly coming among His people to be with His people in love, mercy, and in the forgiveness of their sins.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his children’s book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, something that fits very nicely with the Transfiguration. There’s a part in the book near the beginning when children go through a magical wardrobe into the land of Narnia. They meet some talking animals there who are telling them a little bit about Narnia. One of the children, named Susan, is speaking to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who explain to them about Aslan.
“Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh," said Susan, "I thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly." "Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."
At the Transfiguration we see that Jesus isn’t safe. Here He stands upon the mount with Moses and Elijah in all His glory and majesty. His face shines like the sun. We all know that looking directly into the sun will cause you to go blind. It is too much for us to see.
The same glory and majesty radiating from Jesus is that which God reveals to His people as He calls Moses up to the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments. Exodus 24:17 states, “Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire.” It is clear that approaching God is no small thing, nor necessarily a safe thing, nor is it possible for just anyone to approach. A group of seventy-plus men begins the journey up the mountain. By the end, only the one whom God has appointed and designated may enter the cloud.
Exodus 24, and its fulfillment in the Transfiguration give us a sense of the holy fear of God. Do you remember the beginning of the explanations of the 10 Commandments from Luther’s Small Catechism? “We should fear and love God…”
God is not casual. He is not nice. He feeds the sparrows; he brings the rain; earthquakes and tsunamis, too, are in His hand. God is not tolerant of sin, of self-righteousness, of rejection or rebellion. At the sound of the voice of God coming from the bright cloud, the disciples were so overcome with fear that they fall flat on their face.
No, God is not safe, but He is good. And that is why it is good to be here. It is good because God’s goodness is here. In Jesus, with whom God the Father is well pleased, God is putting the good back into creation. God knows that we cannot approach Him and live because His glory, His holiness, His goodness is too good for us poor, miserable sinners. If Old Testament Israel needed a mediator, the one named and appointed to approach the presence of God on behalf of the people, how much greater is our mediator, the Son of God.
And so God comes down to us. The very Son of God humbles Himself to become a man so that we might be in His presence, that we might see God face to face, and live! So that when we are face down in the mud and dirt of our sin, unable to stand before a holy and righteous God, Jesus comes to us through His Word and His Sacraments to touch you and say, “Rise, and have no fear.” Your sins are forgiven by Christ crucified, the Good One.
Yes, it is GOOD that we are here, because here in His Word and Sacraments we see Jesus only. Amen.