Luke 9:28-36, Transfiguration Sunday
Focus: God sends his Gospel through conversation.
Function: that the hearers would engage in conversations of hope.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This is the final sermon in the series developed by Dr. David Schmitt, “Hope Rising,” and in it we’ve explored biblical hope through the lens of Luke – where it comes from, what it points to in the future, and then finally what it makes you change in the now. Sermon five of five is Hope in Holy Conversation, and we follow Peter, James and John as they go up the mount of Transfiguration to see Jesus, first praying, then wrapped in light, with the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, and a voice from heaven booms. And in this beautiful unearthly mountaintop experience we find all kinds of hope flowing from the holy conversation that happened up there.
But first, a word about conversation. Conversation can build up, or it can break down. We know that well, especially in recent days, that the small town living can be either a blessing or a curse, where people know all your business and they use it to hurt you, or they know your business and they come around you to support you.
As Americans, we love it. Case in point, I’ll go ahead and spoil every episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” for you right now. This is a drama where the a couple of detectives track down major cases and they inevitably come up with the guy by the middle of the episode, and although the guy doesn’t crack at the beginning, the lead, Vincent D’Onofrio rachets up the pressure on him until in an emotionally scene the accused cracks and yells “Alright I did it, and here’s how.” And the episode ends, every time.
Now, real life doesn’t work like this but I tell you that to tell you this: in our culture, we hold pretty closely to the idea that conversation is powerful, and our storytellers take this to an extreme. In most movies, the bad guys don’t lose because the good guys have better guns. No, usually they have worse ones. The bad guys lose because the good guys win the argument.
So, what kinds of conversations does a Christian have, and to what sort of hope does it lead?
Three parts to our meditation today, from the three points of conversation in our text. First, hope found in prayer. Second, hope found in holy conversation. Third, hope found in correction.
First, hope found in prayer. Let’s look at this interesting detail that Luke gives us at the beginning of the story. This is a story that we find in Matthew and Mark as well, but at the beginning, we find that Luke inserts this little detail: that Jesus was transfigured while he was praying. Jesus had made a habit of prayer, and he often went out alone to pray. At his baptism, during his ministry, when the crowds were following him, before Peter confesses him as the Son of God and many other times in between, Jesus has made a habit of prayer.
Prayer is conversation with God, and it works two ways. First, we make our requests known to God. That’s Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” And second, when you pray, you let God form you.
Just look at the Lord’s Prayer. Hallowed be thy name? His name is already holy. Thy will be done? His will is certainly done. Lead us not into temptation? God tempts no one. It’s a prayer as much about delivering requests to God as it is about aligning what you desire with what he desires.
The kingdom of heaven is like a seven o’clock phone call from a mom chasing her son to the hospital. She can’t breathe. She can’t think. She doesn’t know what’s going on. But slowly and surely, the calm voice of her pastor helps her to put all her cares on her savior, and when she opens her eyes again, she knows what she can do and what needs to be done.
Second, hope found in holy conversation. We turn to the conversation of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Up on the mountain, they talk about Jesus’ death which will lead to life. They talk about it as – and this is the Greek – his Exodus. His departure. His death on the cross. But remember too what Exodus was in Jewish history. It was life. It was freedom. The place of Jesus’ death would be the place of his resurrection.
We see this Holy Conversation centers around Jesus. In their time together, they are speaking the Gospel. They are speaking together words of encouragement, of hope, words of faith and of trust. They are saying everything that was needful to be said.These words are the heart of the Christian message and so they should be the heart of our every conversation, every look, every day, every word, every action.
The kingdom of heaven is like a man coming into a pastor’s office to confess his sins. He can’t look that pastor in the eye as he shares the guilt that’s been on his heart. And with tears in his eyes as he lowered them to the ground, he asked, “Well, Pastor, what do you have to say?” And the pastor said, “The only thing God would let me say – I forgive you.”
Third, hope found in correction. Follow me now to the disciples. They’re heavy with sleep. They awake, disoriented kind of like my son when he wakes up for a nap, you can imagine them wide-eyed and confused to Jesus’ glory and immediately Peter says what’s in his heart to say. He says, Master! – He doesn’t call Jesus Lord, Kyrios but he calls him Master – it is good that we are here. Let’s build booths for you and for Elijah and Moses.
And then catch the next part. While he was saying this. While Peter was speaking, that’s when the cloud enveloped them and God interrupted Peter. Now, stay there for a little bit. God interrupts Peter. How many people could say that they’ve been interrupted by God?
Holy conversation with God means being interrupted by him when he turns you back to the one thing needful. Now, even in Peter’s life it was pretty rare for God to envelope him in a cloud and speak to him. But you better believe that God used the likes of Paul and the other apostles to correct him when he wandered.
Holy conversation means taking correction humbly whether you understand it at the moment or not. Holy conversation means knowing that your Good Shepherd’s rod and staff are there to gently guide where you should go and to keep you from where you shouldn’t. It means that when either joy or tragedy strike in small towns like this one, the people of God would respond in a way that is slow to gossip, quick to help, and happy to stand alongside any – any – who are in need.
The kingdom of heaven is like a group of moms that decided to make a freezer full of meals, so that whoever, whenever, whether they made some mistakes or life just dealt them another blow, can have a meal in the oven, a friendly neighbor at the door, and a knowledge in their heart that the Gospel is much, much more.
So, what do these conversations teach us?
First, holy conversation calls a thing what it is. It is hard for hope to grow when lies about ourselves and others would choke it out. It is hard for hope to grow when your field is full of rocks. And if you’re a marshmallow kind of person like me, you need to hear this. Holy conversation pulls weeds and picks out stones so that the word of God is planted in deep and rich earth.
Second, holy conversation doesn’t withhold God’s grace, ever. Whether a person has done wrong once or a thousand times, all equally deserve God’s punishment. But God gives grace anyways. That’s why it’s called grace. As often as sinners would cry out in their sinfulness, that often God lets grace overflow. As often as the full counsel of God is preached, that often is the universal, untamable forgiveness of God unleashed on a people that absolutely needs it.
Third, holy conversation not only expresses its requests to God; it works to form us to God’s will. He corrects. He guides. He aligns us with who he is, so that he makes us to look like the hope he holds out for us. We begin to look like what we long for now, until the day of our death, and even on to eternal life.
Amen and Amen.
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