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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sermon from March 6, 2011 + The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Sermon from March 6, 2011 + The Transfiguration of Our Lord
The Rev. Rob Ruff

(Text: Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9)

“… and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

The birth of Jesus was announced by an angel to a band of shepherds who were “keeping watch over their flock by night.” The angel’s announcement – we are told - was accompanied by the light of God’s glory which “shone round about them.”

Some time later, it was another light, the light of a star that led wise men from the east to the place where the child Jesus and his parents were, so that the Magi might worship him.

It is fitting that Jesus’ birth – his advent – among us was accompanied in these ways by light because He was and is God’s gift of light to this world, mired as it so often is, in darkness.

In Jesus, according to scripture, was life and his life was the light of all humankind. His light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, can not, overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus was and is God’s gift of light to the world.

“The people who walked in darkness”, says scripture, “have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.” (Is. 9:2)
“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said And by what he said, and what he did, He brought light:

Feeding those whose stomachs were empty, Speaking good news to those who had only heard bad news, Embracing those considered untouchable, Welcoming outcasts, Forgiving sinners, Opening blind eyes, Healing the sick, Restoring to life those whose life had ended.

In these many and various ways, Jesus brought light to our dark world. And even when the forces of darkness conspired to extinguish his light, God raised him up so that his brightness would continue to shine.

And we, brothers and sister, are among those who have been drawn to His light, attracted by its power to reveal the truth, drawn by its ability to illumine the path by which we walk.

And because we have been drawn to the light that is Jesus, we gather here each Easter eve to sit in this darkened room – symbolic of how our world has been darkened by Good Friday, by death, by dashed hopes and lost dreams.

We sit in that darkness and wait, until that moment when a single (albeit rather large) candle is brought into the room, a candle whose light shatters the darkness and rolls back the shadows of death and despair.

And we hear the cry, “The Light of Christ”

And for the gift of Christ and his holy light we sing our response, “Thanks be to God”.

The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.

“I am the light of the world”, he said. “The light no darkness can overcome.”

And today, this Feast day of the Transfiguration, we hear again of how Jesus climbed to the top of the mountain. And there his appearance changed, He was transformed. It was as if his humanity faded into the background and his divinity came entirely to the fore. His face shone as if it was the sun itself. His clothing glowed as if they’d been washed in pure light. And the voice of God spoke from out of a cloud saying, “This is my beloved son, with Him I am well pleased.Listen to Him.”

Brothers & Sisters, here is the good news, the wonder the mystery, the challenge and the joy of our faith: God, in Jesus, became just like we are so that we might become like God.” (cf. Athanasius of Alexandria)

That is, Jesus, the divine one, became human so that we humans might become divine. Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world” also said to you and me, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus became like us that we might become like Him. You are the light of the world, he said. And as Pr. Crippen noted in his sermon a few weeks back, “these words of Jesus are not a command but a statement of fact.

“You. Are. Light.

“Jesus was saying that with you – with each one of you – He is bringing light to the world. “He didn’t say ‘try really hard to do this’. He said this is what you are. “You are light.” (from Pr Crippen’s sermon “Low Sodium and Energy Saving Bulbs No More”)

Jesus claimed us as His own, died for us, washed us clean in baptism, raised us to new life, and has made us his gift of light for a dark world.

“You are the light of the world”, He said. And he added that no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bucket. That would make no sense. But rather a burning lamp should always be set on a stand so its light can shine throughout the room. “So let your light shine”, Jesus said, “so that everyone may see your good works and give glory to your God” who lit that flame within you.

So we are called to shine that light forth, not hide it. And we shine forth when we do the things Jesus did, speak as Jesus spoke and live as He calls us to live: Forgiving instead of seeking revenge, Turning the other cheek instead of striking back, Feeding those with empty bellies, Welcoming strangers, Visiting prisoners, Giving a twenty to the beggar who asks for a quarter, Making peace instead of waging war, Comforting those who mourn. Loving God and neighbor and enemies.

In these good works we are light, shining forth, rolling back the darkness of pain, hate, and injustice. And as we let our light so shine, If we listen, we might hear a voice coming from the heavens, a voice that says of us,

“You are my sons and daughters whom I love very much. I created you in my image, I bought you with my own blood, You are mine. I’ve written each of your names on the palm of my hand and I will never forget you.In each one of you I am well pleased.”

Jesus became like us so that we might become like Him. I am the light of the world, He said. You are the light of the world, He said. Jesus stands on the mountain his face shining like the sun, his garments glowing with pure light.

You shine too, brothers and sisters. Reflect his holy light to the world in all that you say and do.

“Christ, bright image of the Maker,
God, whose glory none may pass,
Spirit, sun of love and splendor,
Bear us into light at last.”
(Susan Cherwien, ELW #306, verse 5)


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