St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-26-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-26-2017

No One Left Unchanged

Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

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

I read an article this week titled “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds”. It was recently published so, of course, it incorporated our current political situation here I the United States; but I chose to look at it from a theological standpoint and found it most interesting and most insightful.

The writer incorporates several scientific studies of the way people think and how the thought process is often flawed, especially when they weigh their own beliefs; their own “truths”; into reasonable thinking and the accumulation of knowledge.

In one study, each member of the research group was given a set of notes written by someone about to commit suicide and another set of made-up suicide notes. Their assignment was to distinguish the real notes from the made-up notes. After they completed their task a half of the participants were told that they did exceptionally well, having gotten 24 of 25 correct; the other half were told that they had done exceptionally poorly having gotten 24 of 25 wrong.

Then, after this had sunk-in, the participants were told that the notes were, indeed, real but their score results were mad-up and, in fact, no one was significantly better at discerning the real from the fake.

Then, each participant was asked to self evaluate their performance. Now, this is the good stuff; those who were originally told that they had done exceptionally well consistently reported that they believed that they had, indeed, done better than the average; those told they had done poorly in the beginning consistently reported that they believed that they had done worse than the average. This, in spite of having already been told that the scores were made up and that no one did significantly better or worse!

First impressions stick; even in the face of contrary information.

In another study, a group was assembled with equal numbers of participants believing that capital punishment was a deterrent for the most horrid crimes and those who were opposed. Both sides were given two study reports to read, one arguing for capital punishment and the other arguing against. Both were chosen to be equally compelling.

After reviewing both reports, those on both sides of the argument believed the report that supported their view was highly credible and that the report challenging their belief was unconvincing; both reports were made-up. Yet, even after being told this, those who’d started out pro-capital punishment were now even more in favor of it; those who’d opposed it were even more hostile toward it.

First impressions stick; even in the face of contrary information.

 I’ve only given a cursory review of these reports and there are others cited in this article one of which gets into the confidence one gains in their beliefs via agreement from other people; the more they find in agreement the more adamant they become and the more dismissive they are to contrary evidence even when such evidence is overwhelmingly credible.

First impressions stick; even in the face of contrary information.


As I said, the author made the connection to our present political situation, and it’s easy to see how and why. But what about the theological connections I chose to see. Think about Jesus in his life and ministry. Who was he continually fighting against? What was he continually fighting against? And why was he continually fighting.

As for who; Jesus was most often engaged against the religious authority of his time; Scribes and Pharisees mostly. And, though there were a few exceptions, he never changed their minds even though he could quote scripture with the best of them. They were set in their ways; confident in their beliefs, had their peers beside them; and, when their dismissiveness failed to resolve the issue, they had military power to back them up.

As for what: Jesus was usually arguing over interpretation of the law; he was fighting to overturn its use as a tool to oppress others instead of using it to lift up those who needed lifting.

And, as for the why: Jesus fully understood the part of human nature that the above mentioned article reveals; our first impressions stick with us and we resist changing our minds even to the point of dismissing evidence. Jesus himself was the evidence to support his views, yet he was dismissed by many of his time who just could not have their minds changed into thinking that their way might be wrong; or, at least, to think that his way might be better.

In spite of all the evidence Christ presented; healing many, casting out demons, gaining thousands of followers and even raising people from death; there were still those who would not, could not, believe. Notice, even the three Disciples with Jesus in today’s reading; Peter, James, and John; first-hand-witnesses to his transfiguration, and what is their first concern after seeing this incredible vision?! They ask, we’ve been told; we believe; that Elijah will come first, before the Messiah; what about that?

And, if you think I’m not giving them enough credit for their understanding, read the next few verses where they fail at healing an epileptic and Jesus say’s “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me… … if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move…”!

The Disciples were still trying, unsuccessfully, to un-stick themselves from their first impressions.

The Disciples did, eventually, change their minds; perhaps better stated they had their minds changed; but it took their witnessing something even more incredible than the transfiguration; it took witnessing their Lord’s death and then seeing him alive again and then personally receiving the Holy Spirit! That’s what it took to break the bonds of their first impressions so they were free enough to move into serving Christ, God and others as Christ taught them to do.


For us, today, we have to look back and realize that these things have already come about; Christ was transfigured, Christ was put to death, Christ was raised from death, and Christ sent the Holy Spirit! Through all this his Disciples were transfigured.

Now it’s our turn.

No one should be left unchanged.



Matthew 17:1-9 (I have chosen to add verses 10-13)
17:1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.
17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.
17:3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
17:4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
17:5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”
17:8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things;

12 but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.”

13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.


2 Peter 1:16-21
1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
1:17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
1:18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
1:19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
1:20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
1:21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Exodus 24:12-18
24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”
24:13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.
24:14 To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”
24:15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.
24:16 The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.
24:17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.
24:18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.