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Meeting God In A Safe Place

Date: 
February 7, 2016
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson

 

 

MEETING GOD IN A SAFE PLACE

THEME: “Moments of transformation begin with moments of prayer.”

INTRODUCTION

  • Today’s gospel lesson – the story of the transfiguration – is not my favorite story from the Bible… it’s a difficult story to understand, and it’s difficult to explain… it’s a strange and mysterious story that raises many questions, but it does reveal to us a bit of the mystery of God…
  • Jesus had reached a critical turning point in his ministry… He was about to leave the region of Galilee and set his course for Jerusalem where he would face suffering and death… it was the “beginning of the end”… Jesus had begun to teach his disciples that: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”  (Mark 8:31)
  • Soon after he had fed the great crowd of 5,000 with a few fish and a little bit of bread, and after he had given sight to the blind man at Bethsaida, Jesus took three of his disciples - Peter and James and John – up on the mountain to pray… and while he was praying, Jesus was transfigured… the word transfigured means transformed or changed – I need you to remember that… to be transfigured means to be transformed or changed
  • As Jesus prayed, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white… and suddenly Moses and Elijah were standing there in deep conversation with Jesus…
  • Moses was Israel’s greatest lawgiver, while Elijah was Israel’s greatest prophet… According to the Old Testament
  • scriptures, Moses and Elijah had both met God on a mountaintop (Exodus 34 and I Kings 19.)      Here upon this unnamed mountaintop, they appeared to be transferring the mantle of leadership to the shoulders of Jesus and giving their seal of approval to his ministry and mission.
  • The law and the prophecy of the Old Testament were being fulfilled in Jesus…
  • Through the clouds on that mountaintop, the voice of God was clearly heard, ”This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him!” …
  • The voice of God was confirming the mission of Jesus – to proclaim the love of God at all costs…
  • Whatever happened on the mountaintop surely made a lasting impression on Peter, and James, and John… they were changed… they would no longer see Jesus as just a great teacher… from this point forward they would see him forever as the Christ – the anointed/chosen One of God.
  • Peter thought, “This is the place where God meets us.”  He wanted to mark the spot to remember it forever by building three booths – one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus – representing the law, the prophets, and the Christ…
  • On the mountaintop Peter experienced the presence of God… he had witnessed the transfiguration, and he was transformed himself… I think most of us are a lot like Peter – when we come face to face with the holy, we want to hang onto it…. (During the season of Lent, my sermons are going to focus upon Peter.)
  • Though Peter wanted to hold onto that moment and stay on the mountaintop forever, Jesus knew that they must return to the “valley,” for that is where the work of God was waiting to be done…

MEETING GOD

  • Did Jesus take Peter and James and John to the mountaintop to bring them closer to God?
  • Do you have to climb a mountain to meet God?
  • Are you any closer to God on the peak of Mount Washington than you are on the floor of Death Valley?
  • Where would you go to meet God?
  • Where do you most feel God’s presence?
  • The best place to meet God is in prayer!
  • Prayer draws God closer to us... and when we experience the closeness of God, something changes us…
  • “Moments of transformation begin with moments of prayer.”   <Hummel>

PRAYER

  • The more I think about the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, the more I see it as an invitation to prayer – especially because we are reading this story on the doorstep of Lent…
  • “Moments of transformation begin with moments of prayer.”
  • Prayer doesn’t change God, but prayer changes the one who prays.
  • Prayer is where we meet God, and where God meets us.
  • Some might define prayer as speaking to God… I’d like to suggest that prayer is also God speaking to us… and I firmly believe that “God is still speaking!”
  • If “God is still speaking,” are we still listening?
  • There is a story about an ancient mystic who was sought out in times of crisis. He would often go off to a private place in the woods and build a fire in a particular way and say a special prayer and return with an answer from God.  When the mystic died, one of his students heard the pleas for help, so he went to the same place in the woods, but he didn’t know how to build the fire, so he prayed the prayer and asked God for guidance. And God answered him.  When he died, one of his students faced a similar crisis. But he didn’t know how to build the fire nor did he know where to find the secret place in the woods. So he prayed the prayer the wise mystic had used and asked God to help him. And God answered him.  In the next generation, they learned that it wasn’t the place that mattered. It wasn’t the fire. It wasn’t even the specific prayer that had been prayed. IT WAS ABOUT PLACING THEIR TRUST IN GOD THAT ALLOWED THEM TO HEAR GOD’S ANSWER. They learned that because no one could remember the prayer – and yet God answered their pleas. <Quinn>
  • Thinking again about the story from Luke’s Gospel - “Peter would eventually learn that it wasn’t the mountain that made this experience special. It wasn’t the particular words that Jesus prayed, either. It wasn’t even about the earnest seeking of God that was behind the way Jesus prayed. The secret was in the relationship that Jesus had with God.” <Quinn>
  • Prayer gave Jesus strength and prayer made his path clear…
  • The secret of a strong prayer life is a healthy relationship with God and vice-versa – the secret of a healthy relationship with God is a strong prayer life… our lives will be made healthier by spending regular time with God in prayer…
  • I believe that God meets us where we are…
  • Let me share with you a paragraph from the book Wonder, Fear, and Longing by Mark Yaconelli:

Prayer is the experience of loving God. Prayer is the effort to receive, return, and enjoy God’s love directly. Prayer isn’t a good deed. Prayer isn’t a religious duty. It isn’t something that God needs us to perform. Nor is prayer a kind of Christian magic that allows us to control life’s outcomes. Prayer is like spending time with a loving friend. Prayer is opening our hearts to the One who is the source of all love. Prayer is like lying in a field of falling snow. Silent. In wonder. Waiting until you hear the One who is even closer than your own breathing whisper what your heart has always known to be true: That you are loved. That your value is incalculable. That you are cherished. That you are a sign of God’s love in the world.”  <Yaconelli – p. 19>

  • When we experience the closeness of God, something changes us… moments of transformation begin with moments of prayer…

CONCLUSION

  • Wednesday is Ash Wednesday… Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent…
  • I want to invite you to make prayer your personal focus during Lent… find a place to pray… find a time to pray… speak to God and allow God to speak to you…
  • We have copies of a Lenten Devotional available to those who might use it to sharpen their focus during Lent…
  • Moments of transformation begin with moments of prayer… for you and me, transformation is not a sudden thing like it was for Peter… for us change takes place more gradually… but I can promise you this - as you come face to face with God in prayer – as your relationship with God deepens - your life will be changed.
  • Prayer doesn’t change things, prayer changes people… Prayer changes us…
  • God meets us in prayer… and it is always good to be in the presence of God…

SERMON SEEDS

  • Daily Study Bible – Luke – William Barclay
  • Water From The Rock – Stephen P. McCutchan – pages 112-113
  • Wonder, Fear, and Longing A Gook of Prayers – Mark Yaconelli – p. 19
  • Weekly Seeds – The United Church of Christ for February 8 – 14 <i.ucc.org>
  • Pulpit Resource – William H. Willimon – materials for February 14, 2010
  • Take Time, Make Time to Pray – a sermon by Dr. Cynthia H. Hummel
  • A Mountain-Top Experience – a sermon by Dr. David Rogne
  • Invitation to Prayer – a sermon by Rev. Randy Quinn
  • Moses or Jesus – a sermon by Rev. Hugh R. Stone

 

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