We’ve arrived at Final Jeopardy this week…Over the course of this series we’ve been talking about how we can do a better job of helping others find their way into the church…We looked at church language that’s hard to understand…We talked about living our lives to show how our faith has transformed us…We realized that sometimes our behavior or our language seems contrary to what we profess to believe and can actually be an obstacle to others…We recognized the need for us to respect the beliefs of others as we develop real relationships with them…Finally, we looked at our Christian life as being a team effort that includes the goal of inviting others to join our team. It may seem that a lot of this conversation has been about us…Today Paul brings everything into focus to remind us that…It’s not about you; it’s not about me; it’s all about – <JESUS>!
Let us pray…Spirit of truth, open to us the scriptures, speaking your holy word and meeting us in the Living Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The church calendar designates today as Transfiguration Sunday…The gospel lesson for the day tells the story of Jesus taking Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain…Suddenly, Jesus “was transfigured” and his clothes became dazzling white…There’s one of those pesky “church words” again – transfigured…Defined as a change in appearance that glorifies; we might call it an intense supernatural glow. In the midst of this vision, Moses and Elijah are seen having a casual conversation with Jesus – keep in mind they’ve both been dead for thousands of years. The disciples are understandably awe-struck.
The point of the Transfiguration story is that Jesus was illuminated by God’s own light and came to shine that light into the darkness of our sinful world…It’s a story that speaks directly to the identity of Jesus as God.
So, here we are at Final Jeopardy…Paul tells the Corinthians that if the gospel is veiled – or hidden – for some people, it is because they are unbelievers…To our modern culture this sounds a little like the dishonest tailors in the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – “If you can’t see the gospel message, it’s because you aren’t among the saved.” The problem is that our churches and our communities are filled with people who don’t understand the gospel and it’s not because they are damned or blind. I think we need to look at other reasons why the gospel may be veiled in our time. Have you ever noticed how different the sky looks at night when you drive out into the countryside far away from the city lights? There is a sudden realization of the vastness of the universe and the quantity and complexity of the stars and planets we can see. You are tempted to wonder, “Where did those come from?” The fact is that they have always been there; it’s just that our vision is impaired by all of the “light pollution” we have in the city…In town we can only see the brightest of the stars and we lose sight of much of the beauty in orbit above us.
I think this is part of the problem with contemporary Christians and our sisters and brothers who are seeking a meaningful relationship with God…It’s not that we are blinded by a veil that covers the gospel, it is that we suffer from an excess of light that keeps us from seeing the Light.
There are many things that cause a blinding light to control our lives…One writer puts it this way: “One of the brightest human-made bulbs is the light of reason.” It seems like people want proof of everything; real concrete data trumps faith…We elevate our powers of reason to the level of idolatry, believing that if we can only establish the facts – faith will surely follow. We need to understand that faith transcends reason; faith is the belief in that which cannot be proven by facts…We veil the gospel when we seek to set ourselves up as the throne of reason over God’s throne of faith. Another bright light that hides the gospel from us is the light that shines brightly from the cult of self-actualization…Check out Barnes and Noble sometime – you can spend hours at the shelves of self-help, be your best, lose some weight, get organized, and “change now, we can’t wait” books that flash neon “buy-me’s” at you. Apparently, the road to salvation is paved with the right diet, the perfect spouse, the best hairdo, and the neatest closet…You can heal all your physical and spiritual wounds by placing yourself at the center of the universe…Unfortunately, it’s hard to see the Light of Christ when you are standing in the spotlight. There are many such lights fighting for our attention…I’m sure you can think of several things that glare at us and prevent us from seeing the vastness of God’s glory…If the bright lights of culture are in our way, imagine how they hamper the un-churched from seeing the Light of Christ. How are we to deal with this condition and help ourselves and others really see the Light of Christ?
Moving ourselves out of the spotlight is a good first step toward comprehending the gospel message and catching a glimpse of God’s light…Taking the light off of us and shining it on Jesus reminds us of who actually serves whom…We serve God; God is not some cosmic butler sent to give us everything we think we want…God is the Creator of the universe who spoke the Light into being and causes it to shine into our darkness so that the right path might be illuminated for us. God has shown us his discontent with the world as it is…God is constantly presenting us with opportunities to become a greater blessing to the world in which we live that God longs to transform…Paul calls for God’s people to be discontent with brokenness, injustice, scarcity, exploitation, violence, and human suffering…We must believe that God longs for community, wholeness, justice, abundance, peace, love, and life.
The things I want us to take away from this series are really these:
First, God’s message is available to every human being on the planet…We are not part of some exclusive country club where we get to interview potential members and accept only the most desirable…We do not choose our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, “we baptize those whom God has called.” (Book of Common Worship, The Presbyterian Church, page 404.) When we exercise true Christian hospitality, the veil is lifted from the gospel and the Good News is revealed without prejudice or partiality.
Second, we do not need to be eloquent or well-educated to share God’s good news with others…The best we can do is to be honestly ourselves and develop real relationships with people. In the course of authentic relationships our faith will shine through the darkness and put a bright light on the Jesus who has authority over us. This is our authentic witness that focuses all the attention on Jesus and away from us.
Finally, our God dances in the light, not in the darkness. Our God can bring light into every dark corner of the world and of our lives…This light does not demand that our reasoning be sound or that our lives are perfect…This light does not shine on us as much as it shines through us…This light does not reveal who we are, but whose we are and
it is light that changes us forever…This is the light that we must shine brightly so that it points others to Jesus…the source of that Light…So, let your light shine!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen