Sunday, January 29, 2012

It Is Good That We Are Here

Dear Beloved of God,

It is good that you are here to hear (and/or) read what God is doing for you today and everyday in His holy Christian Church. To listen to how the Lord opens the kingdom of heaven in the sermon for
The Transfiguration of Our Lord, "It Is Good That We Are Here,"-click on this mp3 audio link.

Have a blessed week in the kingdom of heaven.

A servant of the Word and His people,
Pastor Hering

A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along, or read instead.

TEXT: 1After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:1–4

Dearly beloved of the Father,

It is good that we are here—very good indeed. For just as God opened up the kingdom of heaven to give Peter, James, and John a glimpse of its glory and what was waiting for them on the mountain of Transfiguration, He opens heaven to us in the Divine Service. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit you were baptized into the kingdom of heaven. And so those words as you hear them today declare once again that God has opened the kingdom of heaven to you. And what is more, you have a seat in those heavenly realms with Jesus at His banquet table—even now—eating and drinking with Him and of Him in the Sacrament of the Altar.

For those of you not yet partaking, that is what you are being catechized for and to, that you might know and believe what you cannot see to be true for you.

It was good, very good indeed, that Peter, James, and John were there on the Mount of Transfiguration that day too. Good for them—and us. They needed to see what they saw, for their faith. And they needed to see what they saw to report it to us for our faith—that we might know that this Jesus is the Christ of God and by believing have life in His name.

But even more than they needed to see what they saw, they needed to hear what they heard--because their reaction at seeing only is the same as ours. It is the response of sin. “What can we do for you, Lord?”

Now think about that for a moment. What can we do for the Lord? What could Peter, James, or John have done for the Lord? The fact is, He does everything for us.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

From cradle to grave, from conception to ascension, Jesus is the Christ the very Son of God who does everything He does for us out of love for His Father and ours. And this Father in heaven breaks through the foggy thinking of the disciples and silences their spokesman, Peter, [Who] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5

WOW!!! Talk about being cut short and put in your place. Here they are trying to do something for their Lord offering their very best effort and the Father’s voice thunders from above, ignoring and dismissing their words and work, and directs them to listen to His Son.

No wonder, 6When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. Matthew 17:6

7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” Matthew 17:7
Ah, this is what our Savior does, that for which He came to Peter, James, and John; that for which He still comes today for you and me—to calm our fears and raise us to walk with Him, knowing He is His Father’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased to let all who walk with Him, walk in the kingdom of heaven.

8And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:8

This is the way it should be for every disciple, every believer, every baptized child of God. When we lift up our eyes, when we are examining spirituality, when we are looking at heaven and heavenly things, we are to see nothing but Jesus only. All else is of this world and misleading.

Seeing Jesus is what the Faith is all about

Heb 12:1 2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NKJ)

Can we look to and honor such as Moses and Elijah; Peter, James, and John; Martin Luther and C.F.W. Walther? Certainly, but only insofar as they show us, preach us, give us – Jesus.

I Jn 4:1 3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (NKJ)

Now this is how we should test every spirit, that is every pastor, evangelist, teacher, anyone who would present himself/herself to us as speaking of things spiritual, things eternal, things of God. And it is how we should test our worship practices to see that they are first and foremost about listening to God’s beloved Son. Do they lead you to and give you nothing but Jesus and His Word as did Moses and Elijah; Peter, James and John; Luther and Walther--and that by the means that Jesus Himself in the flesh authorized and instituted to do so?

Here is how our Lutheran Confessions speak of testing the spirits:
“ We must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one except through or with the preceding outward Word (Galatians 3:2,5). This protects us from the enthusiasts (who boast that they have the Spirit without the Word).

“ Enthusiasm dwells in Adam and his children. Its venom has been implanted into them by the old serpent. It is the origin, power, and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the papacy and Muhammad. We must maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit without the Word and Sacraments is the devil himself. God wanted to appear even to Moses through the burning bush and spoken Word (Exodus 3:2 15). No prophet, neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments or the spoken Word. John the Baptist was not conceived without the word of Gabriel coming first, nor did he leap in his mother's womb without Mary's voice (Luke 1:11 20,41). Peter says, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy. Much less would the Holy Spirit have moved them to speak when they were still unholy. They were holy, says he, since the Holy Spirit spoke through them.” (SMALCALD ARTICLES, PART III, ARTICLE VIII: CONFESSION paragraphs 3, 9 13)

For us that seeing “no one but Jesus only” is with the ears:
Rom 10:13 17 For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (NKJ)

Yet, we are always tempted to want more than the hearing, more than the Word of God. So God’s voice breaks into our world with the preaching of His Law, to terrify us and lay us flat. He takes the wind (the breath, the spirit) right out of us and renders us silent, like Peter, James, and John with the realization that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6] And only then are we ready to really see, and hear, and receive Jesus as He is, as He gives Himself to us, as we need Him--hidden now in the rather less than glorious looking things of His Divine Service of Word and Sacrament—where [Jesus comes and touches us and says], ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’":
• in Baptism where we are united with Him in His death and resurrection and made beloved sons of God;
• in the hearing of His Word preached into the ears of congregations great and small, as well as to the ears of individuals who confess their sins and faith privately to their pastor;
• in the eating of His body and drinking of His blood at His holy Supper.

In all these things Christ gives you through the work of the Holy Sp[irit in His holy Christian Church, “When [you lift] up [your] eyes, [see] no one but Jesus only.”

For that is the definition of saving faith-–seeing no one but Jesus only, and trusting that He is enough. Seeing no one but Jesus only with your eyes of faith means you have been delivered into the kingdom of heaven, for that is where Jesus lives and reigns to all eternity at the right hand of God, from where He sends the Holy Spirit to gather you in His church to keep you with Him as He forgives you all your sins

So you, dearly beloved of God, It Is Good That We Are Here--receiving that forgiveness and eternal life-–in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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