Sunday, February 10, 2013

Transfiguration of our Lord (C) 2013

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Luke 9:31
Theme: Lord of the Harvest

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Jesus stood on the mountain of transfiguration preparing for the harvest of the end of the age. It was a dramatic preview. Still, the glory of God remains hidden in the humanity of Jesus. His human nature was witnessed by all. His divine nature cannot be comprehended by sinners. So what was His mission? To reach sinners! “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”1 It’s a messy task.

The reason our sins seldom appear sinister in our own eyes isn’t only due to our arrogance. Many sins are so familiar to us they simply seen mundane. We become desensitized, even numb. Our apathy then leads to a sense of unfairness for being rebuked. Isn’t God being too harsh? What’s the big deal? As with declining vision we lose sight of the clear picture of our condition. The foggier our grasp the greater our need to be driven to repentance. We can easily be convinced we are self-made people and a self-made society. How readily, on this Harvest Thanksgiving, do we recognize we are still dependent on God even for our daily bread?

In the same way the spiritual harvest is dependent on His word. St. Peter says, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For ‘All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.”2

God causes the seed of the sower to germinate in the Mallee soil. The Holy Spirit causes the seed of the word to germinate in the human heart. Both require a divine power. Science may have delineated the ideal conditions for germination- the temperature, the moisture, the sunlight- yet the deeper cause of a seed’s sprouting is, and will remain, a mystery. So too is the miracle of faith’s germination- as well as its establishment and maturity. And the maturing of our faith as an activity of the Holy Spirit is no small matter to overlook. The heavenly Father doesn’t see to the conception of believers and then send them out to fend for themselves. They have a mother; the church.

When faith becomes self-reflective it is in immediate danger of decline. Here we don’t mean the faith as reference to the content of the church’s teaching- the creedal confessions about the Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ and His work of sacrifice, suffering, resurrection, enthronement, and promised return- these truths are the very foundation of godly reflection. Nor does it mean that we cannot question. We wonder, we query, we ponder, we want to know why- God’s motives and rationale. We want to understand better. The Scriptures are an inexhaustible treasure house teaching us the wisdom of God.

We are referring, rather, to personal faith. When faith becomes too self-reflective it may be inclined (tempted) to become self-supporting- even independent. Risky questions may be asked. How is my faith measuring up? Is it strong enough for the next challenge? Is it keeping pace with other believers I know? How will I muster the courage, the energy, the ingenuity, the strength to keep my faith vibrant? So we look for new barometers to give us the sense that we’re still doing enough, maybe even doing better than others. People can go on for some time in this delusion. Tragically some eventually come to believe they are saved because they have faith in their faith rather than faith in Christ.

The disciples thought their faith was so strong they would die with Christ rather than deny Him. We know how that ended. In the time of trial they abandoned Him. But they were restored! His first post-resurrection words to them were words of absolution. You are not justified- declared righteous and holy in God’s sight because your faith is strong enough, or because it is stronger than others. You are justified because of Christ’s sacrifice and this is appropriated by your faith which simply is. Your faith exists as a Spirit-given miracle.

Yes, your faith does grow and mature. It is tempered by trials and refined by challenges. But you can only recognize this in retrospect as you look back on all the ways God has carried you through the difficulties of life. Like the sun, you cannot look directly at your own faith without being blinded. Yet it is immediately self-evident and generally clear to others that it is there- reflected in your life in countless ways.

Don’t fret about the condition of your faith. Focus intently on Christ. This is precisely the implication for the disciples on the mount of transfiguration today. The heavenly Father says, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”3 This is the sum and substance. In your illness, in your grieving, in your brokenness don’t sigh and throw out a desperate prayer that your faith will be good enough. Take refuge in His promises. Can you demand healing? Can you demand joy? Can you demand immediate restoration? No, but you can be certain of His presence. You are baptized. You can be sure Christ has planned for you more than a transfiguration, He has planned a resurrection. You will be elevated to the place and purpose for which you were created. His power to do so is already foreshadowed for us.

Just as Jesus wined the water of Cana lifting it beyond the ordinary, so He consecrates the wine of the vineyard investing it with the sacred. In the sacrament the wine remains; but present in, with, and under it is the blood of Christ. It is the same with the bread. Surely there is no better way to celebrate God’s bounty at Harvest Thanksgiving than to receive the nourishment that also benefits us for the life to come. Our spiritual life is not sustained by the yield of orchards and paddocks but by the fruit of His veins. The Garden of Eden is re-entered through this sacrament opened by His death and resurrection.

It is only through these appointed means that we can see God in faith. We hear Him in the promise of forgiveness. We taste His mercy in the bread and wine. We learn His voice in the word proclaimed. We are foolish to try and construct an image of Him with our own opinions. The little girl was working furiously during craft time at Sunday School. The teacher came over and asked, “Suzie, what are you so intensely working on?” Suzie replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “But Suzie, we don’t know what God looks like,” said the teacher. At that Suzie said confidently, “Well you will when I’m finished!”

Dear friends, the farmer who sows the seed does not know what the harvest will look like. Will it be poor? Will it be prosperous? The final harvest at the end of the age is shrouded in mystery too. What terror and what rejoicing when Christ comes again! The extent of both we do not know. But we know Him who will separate the wheat from the tares. We know the glimpse the disciples had on the mount of Transfiguration was but a shadow of what we will experience when we see Him face to face.4 When Christ reveals the finish we will know.

Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”5 He was speaking of His own death. The royal Seed of Abraham was buried in the soil of Golgotha and in His death provided the power for new life to spring. The tomb of Jesus was no crypt, only the seedbed for the firstfruits6 of the resurrection. In that resurrection we have our part. The man who dazzled on the mountain, hung from the cross, and walked out of the grave is the Lord of the harvest. His already, we look forward to being kept safe in His granary forevermore. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Transfiguration of our Lord
(Harvest Thanksgiving)
10 February 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 10:2
2 1 Peter 1:23-25
3 Luke 9:35
4 See 1 Corinthians 13:12
5 John 12:24
6 See 1 Corinthians 15:20

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