Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sermon for the last sunday after the Epiphany year A

“Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One.”

I speak with you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, in whom God is well pleased. Amen!

I am going to try something different with this sermon. I’m going to give you a one sentence synopsis of the sermon right here at the outset. I hope you will listen to the rest of it, because I believe it will help you understand the synopsis. However, at least hear this much: Recognizing Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Savior, answering his call to follow him, to be his disciple, will take you to the mountain top, it will also cost you your life, and it will be the best deal you ever make. So that’s the short version, the skeleton of what I’m going to say today. Now, let me put some meat on those bones.

In our gospel proclamation today the first line reads, “Six days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ,…” This time stamp refers to an important moment in Matthew’s gospel precede our reading where Peter makes a public affirmation of faith. Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is and Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This was Peter and the Apostles’ confirmation service, their faith was already present and active within them, but in this watershed moment they plunged deeper into the waters of salvation by affirming Jesus as the Christ.
Six days later, Peter, James, and John are taken up on the mountain top to witness the transfiguration of Jesus. Basically, they got to see God. Now Peter, James, and John had to know something big was going to happen as they climbed the mountain. See, they were Jewish, they carried the great stories of the Jewish faith in their hearts. They knew the story of the Exodus and Moses taking Joshua up on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. In the Jewish tradition, big things happen on the mountain top. Peter, James, and John had to be tingling with excitement and anticipation on their way up. I can just hear them. We’re going up the mountain with Jesus? What’s going to happen? What’s Jesus going to do? Dude this is so cool!
Indeed transcendent moments when we know God and what is beyond us on a deeper level are extremely cool. So it is for Peter, James, and John. They are overwhelmed by what they experience on the mountain. The vision of Jesus with Elijah and Moses with the voice of God from the heavens proclaiming Jesus as God’s son and well pleasing drives them to their knees. They are overcome.

But this joyous experience costs them. Specifically, it costs them their lives. After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection they do not go back to being fisherman like nothing ever happened. They don’t get together every few years and reminisce how cool it was to be on the mountain Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. No they are compelled to proclaim God’s love shown in Jesus the Christ as far and wide as they can. The experience of God in Christ is too great a thing for them to keep it to themselves. Any goals or benchmarks they set for the growth of their fishing business, any plans to increase their market share, were trivial compared to spreading the good news.

Deciding to follow Christ as Messiah, Lord, and Savior will take us to the mountain top, it will cost us our lives, and it’s the best deal we could ever make. We have the opportunity to publicly proclaim Christ as our savior each and every time we gather for Eucharist. We come to God’s table and receive the body and blood of Christ we are renewing our baptismal vows to follow Christ and seek justice in the world.

This will indeed cost us our lives. At the lowest level, their a plethora of other things we could be doing on a Sunday morning, but yet we are here in God’s house offering up our praise and thanksgiving, pledging allegiance to God alone, and giving of our time, talent, and treasure. At the highest level of cost, every breath that we take and moment of our lives is an opportunity serve God which requires denial of self and a sacrifice of our worldly ambitions and desires. Lived to the max there is no telling where this discipleship will lead us.

Finally, though this will cost us our lives it is the best deal we could ever make, because being in line with what God is doing in the world is the most satisfying thing one could possibly do. God is about the reconciliation of all creation to God’s self and to be a part of that work is more fulfilling then any accomplishment we can imagine; beyond any amount of money we could earn, beyond any house we could buy, any power we might wield, beyond putting our kids through college, beyond being a faithful spouse, beyond anything we can imagine.

I hope you will yet again today acknowledge and pledge to follow Christ as your lord. I hope you will join me at God’s table to receive the body and blood of Christ so that we may then go be the body and blood of Christ in the world. Following Christ will take you to the mountain top, it will cost you your life, and it will be the best deal you ever make. Amen!

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