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Matthew 17:1-9 "‘Tis Good Lord to Be Here"

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.

Romans 6:1-11 - Dying to Live

Romans 6:1-11

Dying to Live           

The Baptism of Our Lord A

January 12, 2014

This last week, I have been reminded of something this week about our faith which I sometimes overlook.  It seems like whenever this fact is forgotten, that something happens to remind me.  This last week, a member here at Zion Lutheran Church died.  Just off the high of Christmas and Epiphany, celebrating the birth of the Life o the world, death happens.  There is no getting around it.  Christianity is a life and death business. Because Life Itself has come to taste death, and the beginning of the end all starts in the waters of the Jordan River.

Every year we hear about the Baptism of Jesus right after the Christmas season.  It’s is what we need to hear, what we need to be reminded of, what we need to focus on again and again.  How many times have we taken this for granted.  How many times have we thought about how we already know this story? How many times do we try to forget the seriousness of this sinful world and that death comes to us all?  How many times do we take for granted the importance of Jesus’ baptism?

Jesus passes through the waters of the Jordan River, crossing into the Promised Land as Israel reduced to one, living as the perfect Son of God so that we might be sons and daughters of God.  Even John the Baptist recognized that Jesus had no sin to be forgiven of.  John needed to be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around.  Yet, Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness.  “All righteousness.”  Not half.  Not part. Not He’ll save you if you just ask, or if you make a decision, or say a certain prayer, or feel Him in your heart, or be a good enough Christian.  We have no righteousness of our own to earn or deserve.  Do you want to be righteous?  Do you want to be holy?  Do you want to be a “good Christian” and be faithful?  The shortest and best way is baptism and the work of baptism, which is suffering and death.

All too often we jump from Jesus’ baptism to our own. But we don’t get to our baptism from Jesus’ except first by going through the cross and the resurrection.  At His baptism, Jesus insisted on bearing our guilt.  His baptism was not His own.  By His baptism in the Jordan Jesus took upon Himself the obligation of the sins of the world.  His destination was sealed in the water of His baptism.  At the Jordan, the Lord of life stepped into death.  For since the wages of sin is death, the baptism of Jesus pointed relentlessly to His cross and death.  That is where we as the Church point one another and the world.

Everything God wants us to do, He has already done in His Son.  Everything God wants us to do, He has already done in His Son, and He continues to work in us in and through Jesus Christ.  There’s a link between the life Christians lead and their living Lord.  That link is baptism.

This is how St. Paul can say that we who are baptized into His death are also baptized into His life.  When God calls a person to faith, He bids them to come and die.  In order to live, you must die.  “A do-it-yourself approach to the Christian life is doomed from `the start.  Reform a sinner and you get a reformed sinner.  Discipline a sinner and you get a disciplined sinner.  Educate a sinner and you get an educated sinner.  In every case, you still have the same sinner you started out with.  No, the Old Adam will not be tamed or reformed or disciplined or educated. He can only be killed.  And this is just what God does; in Holy Baptism we are put to death and buried. But since it is the death and burial of Jesus, it makes all the difference in the world.  His death and burial brings with it resurrection and new life.  By Holy Baptism the Triune God crucifies our Old Adam, buries our sin, raises us as a new creation, and clothes us in Jesus Christ—thus giving us a whole new life to live.  This is the authentic formula for Christian living.” Harold Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness, p 79.

When baptized into Christ, your reality changed.  Present experience beside the point, Paul urges you to count yourself to be what Baptism says you are in Christ: dead to sin.  And as Christ lives to God so you, like him, are living to God in Christ Jesus. Walking the walk and talking the talk comes only through baptism because through Baptism you are connected in death and in life to the only one who truly could talk the talk and walk the walk.

Baptism is a deadly thing.  Baptism kills.  At your baptism, God’s applies Christ’s death to you so that you receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice.  Baptism connects you with Christ’s work.  Jesus was intent on dying our death.  And die He did. Suffering and hanging on a cross.  It was a borrowed death.  It was our death.  But it brought life to us.  Thus our Baptism is our grave, a watery grave.  Holy Baptism, then, is both our tomb of death and our womb of life. Baptism kills you in order that through Jesus you might be raised back to life.  All that is his by His nature as the Son of God becomes yours by His grace. Faith receives what Christ accomplished on the cross, Baptism delivers it to you.