St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-11-2018

St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-11-2018

My How Things Have Changed

Deuteronomy 18:15-22*, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Our gospel reading is Marks account of Jesus’ “Transfiguration”. By itself, it is one of the harder Gospel stories to fully understand. We already know that Jesus is the Son of God, we’ve already witnessed God’s power working through him in the healing stories, and later in the Gospel, at the empty tomb, we will make the connection between the mighty power of God, even over death, and this “Beloved Son”. So just what is Mark trying to tell us by relating this remarkable story, here in the middle of his Gospel account?

One thing to notice is the words of the voice coming from the cloud, “This is my Son, the beloved: listen to him!” We read similar words near the beginning of the Gospel, when Jesus was Baptized by John, Jesus “came up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”” (1:10-11 NRSV).

But then there’s something more to take notice of. Jesus is seen talking to Moses and Elijah, two Old Testament characters, but we’re not told what they are saying to each other. And then there’s that cloud overshadowing them; what does that have to do with what is being revealed?

Just as the voice saying “This is my Son…” takes us back to the beginning of the Gospel, the voice from the cloud and the presence of Moses takes us back to the Exodus story.

This brings in the change in the Old Testament reading that I asked Nancy to make today. In that reading from Deuteronomy we find the words, “This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”

And then, if we trace back the reference to “Horeb” we find these words in Exodus “Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” (19:9) And, just a little after that we read, “When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” (20:1819). It’s not that God told them they would die, God wanted them to hear his voice so that they would know that Moses was his messenger, a true Prophet; but the people were too afraid, fearful of dying fear.

As Moses was the Prophet sent by God to save the people of Israel from Egypt, Elijah was the Prophet sent to save the People from their own corrupt king, Ahab who married the Baal worshiping Phoenician woman Jezebel; who was leading Ahab and many of the people of Israel away from God.

You may remember him as the one who challenged the prophets of Baal to a duel of burnt offerings; having them call on Baal to light the fire. He, of course, won the duel when God lit his sacrificial fire after he had gallons and gallons of water poured over the wood and, subsequently, cleared the land of Baal worshipers including Jezebel.

Through Moses, God brought the people out of slavery into their own land and gave them the covenant and the Law. Through Elijah God saved the nation from corruption, the breaking of the covenant and disobedience to the Law.

Now, like history repeating, we come back to Jesus on a high mountain; in a land ruled and its people enslaved by a foreign power that worships false gods; overshadowed by a cloud; with Peter, John, and James fearful of the sights and sounds; hearing the voice of God saying “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Then, after all this, we come to another curious part of the reading; the very last verse you heard today that reads, “As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead”.

We can connect this to Peter’s reaction to the wonderfully amazing event; where he blurts out something about building dwellings because, as the writer tells us, “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified”!

As I mentioned earlier, we’re working in the middle of Mark’s Gospel here; there’s a lot more to learn from Christ’s words and actions yet; the story isn’t complete. So, rather than allow his Disciples to blurt-out something out of fear with incomplete information, Jesus warns them to not say anything.

I’m reminded, here, of the old adage that tells us “it’s better to appear a fool in your silence than to speak, and remove all doubt”.

This thought is reinforced immediately after the transfiguration in Mark’s Gospel. As they came down from the mountain they found a crowd gathered around the other Disciples arguing with them because they could not cast a demon out of a child brought to them. They weren’t quite ready yet; there was still more to learn.


Today we life in a troubled world, just as it was in Jesus’ earthly time. Today, however, the story of Christ is complete; Jesus has taught us all he can and he has been crucified, dead, and risen again! Now it is time for us to tell the story; to fearlessly spread the Good News of God’s covenantal love for all people, and to show them how wonderfully amazing life can be if we recognize God’s presence in it, live by his Law of love for one another, and offer all people freedom from anything that oppresses them.

Peter, John, and James as well as the remaining Disciples did this after the resurrection of Christ. We, as Disciples of the resurrected Christ, are called to do so also.




Deuteronomy 18:15-22 *changed from the assigned reading of 2 Kings 2:1-12 to fit this message.

15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet a like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.

16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”

17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.

18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.

20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”

21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?”

 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.
Psalm 50:1-6
50:1 The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
50:3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
50:4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
50:5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

2 Corinthians 4:3-6
4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
4:6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


Mark 9:2-9
9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
9:4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
9:5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
9:6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9:9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.