Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

Although lots has been written about the Transfiguration of Jesus, my thoughts this week were occupied with a single verse from the Gospel.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice -- This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.

Why this command from God to -- Listen to him?

Did God wake up that day and think -- Well, a few weeks ago at his baptism I already mentioned that Jesus was my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, so I think today I will add: LISTEN TO HIM. Good message. Why not?

Was this command of God arbitrary, universal and timeless or did something cause God to command specifically Peter, John and James to listen to His Son? Let us look at what precedes the Transfiguration account:

He began to teach them that the son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly.

Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at the disciples, rebuked Peter and said -- Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them -- Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Up to these passages in scripture here is the view of things from the disciples perspective -- particularly Peter who has been with Jesus from very early on: They have received a personal call to follow Jesus, they have witnessed the miraculous cure of numerous individuals with extensive ailments, they have been defended by Jesus against the cutting words of the Pharisees, they have watched Jesus one-up the Pharisees every time he was challenged, they have been taught through parables and through private instruction, they have watched Jesus both calm a mighty storm at sea and walk on the water, they have been charged with the authority to preach and drive out demons, they have helped Jesus feed thousands upon thousands with a handful of loaves and fishes, and they have watched Jesus raise a young girl from the dead -- just to name a few highlights!

Not a bad ride. Who would not want to be a part of that?

Then comes the end of Chapter 8 -- The First Prediction of the Passion and the Conditions of Discipleship.

Ouch. Peter now wants to slam on the breaks. Peter wants a time out and he pulls Jesus aside and actually REBUKES him; for this seems like a serious detour in the road they have been paving to build the kingdom of God. In turn, Jesus REBUKES Peter and says to him -- Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

I wonder that if after this run-in Peter was questioning weather Jesus was still plugged into the divine -- to the heavens -- to his Father. After all, they have spent weeks conquering suffering and death, and now it is to happen to Jesus, himself? Impossible.

Is Jesus on the right road? Ah, the confirmation of all confirmations comes and Peter is utterly overwhelmed and reduced to an incoherent simpleton. What does he see and hear? Dazzlingly white light coming from Jesus. Yes, Jesus is glorified more than ever. A conversation with two mammoth figures, Moses and Elijah. Yes, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. The voice of God from heaven -- This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God and he should be listened to.

And as quickly as the spectacular events on the mountain top come it all seems to leave and now it is time to descend the mountain and return to work -- to heal a boy who is suffering greatly.

HOMILY: Who of us here has not felt like Peter at some time in our lives? Who of us here has not wanted a confirmation that this whole following Jesus thing is where it is really at? Who of us here has not questioned the conditions of discipleship? Crosses? Losing lives? Who of us here has not questioned the road to salvation for Jesus? rejection? death?

Let us take the words of our Heavenly Father for ourselves this weekend. Let us hear them as if we were alone on our mountain with Jesus -- dazzlingly white before us -- as we hear: This is my beloved Son. LISTEN TO HIM.

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