February 14, 2010: A Glory Glimpse is Hard on Mere Mortals

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day we recall Your glory, revealed to the disciples upon that mountain and to us, today, in Your holy Word. We see just how close heavenly bliss is from us and inwardly we long to see and embrace it. Today, keep that hope alive within us and give us patience to await our transfiguration, too. Amen

GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR GLORIOUS LORD, JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT: Luke 9: 28-36

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

His name was: Martin Weseloh. He was born about 1903 to a Lutheran pastor and his wife. He had about 4 brothers and a couple of sisters. Two of those brothers became Lutheran pastors as well. Yet, Martin did not although he literally wore out about 7 Bibles during his lifetime because he read God’s Word daily. Martin was about 12 years old when that fateful day arrived. He was out horsing around with his brothers in the barn and jumping around in the hayloft. Somehow he slipped and fell and got his neck caught in a rope that was hanging there. Before the horrified eyes of his siblings he was being hanged! Quickly they looked for help and somehow cut him down. Suddenly he began to breath again, and as he regained consciousness he took out his anger upon his brothers! But he wasn’t angry over his near-death experience. No, he was angry that he was still alive! For he recalled being surrounded by total love and total happiness as he died on that rope. He knew, knew with absolute certainty that he had entered heaven, or at least caught a glimpse of it and he was angry he had to leave! For the rest of his life—89 years long—he recalled that day. And during that time, from enduring the depression, to serving in WWII, to handling the death of an infant son, to surviving 7 heart attacks, Martin never really exhibited any fear over life’s tragedies. He knew Jesus had saved him. He knew heaven awaited. And he knew, just a bit, what it would be like. Martin, my wife’s uncle, told me this story, and every Transfiguration Sunday since, I always remember it. Now, you will, too.

Today as we stand on the edge of Lent, we, too, are given a glimpse of glory in God’s Word. And as we ponder this lesson, I want each of you to focus on this fact:

A GLORY GLIMPSE IS HARD ON MERE MORTALS

I

Every year, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, before the very human suffering and death of Christ is laid out in graphic terms, God’s people are provided with a glory glimpse. The story of the Transfiguration is laid out for us. All of you should know the facts of it. Jesus took the “big three” Peter, James and John with Him upon a high mountain. To prepare them for the suffering which was to come and strengthen them, He briefly shed the veil of His humanity to reveal the divinity underneath. By having Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, appear alongside of Him and talk to Him; Christ was showing the disciples just how close and how real glory really is. By shedding, for an instant, the veil of humanity and letting the dazzling light of pure glory shine forth, Christ was showing them His power and glory over sin and all death—by which they later on, after His suffering and death, would be strengthened. Yes, on the Mt. of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed He was all powerful—to forgive all sins, to conquer all evil, and to transport His faithful into the infinite happiness of heaven. In fact, that’s why this lesson has been recorded for us.—To inscribe and imbed these truths into our hearts in order to comfort us.

II

I’ve always smiled over St. Peter’s bumbling honesty at seeing this vision of glory. I smile every time I read his words: “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Note well that Peter gives absolutely no thought to himself or the other two disciples. They have become superfluous to what he is seeing. Luke adds a pithy commentary to these words when he also writes as an aside: “He did not know what he was saying.”

Like my uncle-in-law, Martin Weseloh, Peter doesn’t want to leave glory. He doesn’t want to go back to his wife, children, friends, and relatives. The happiness and joy that surrounds him is overwhelming. Knowing that Moses, Elijah, God Almighty, the Holy Spirit, and all the other saints are just a hairbreath away, fills his soul with delight. He wants to live on that mountain in that moment forever.

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped everyone. They heard the voice of God Almighty say to them: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” With that, the cloud vanishes. The saints of old vanish. Glory vanishes. And only Christ remains with them. A bit of their happiness vanished as well. And the long journey down the mountain and the longer journey of Christ’s passion and cross awaited, followed by the resurrection, Pentecost, and a lifetime of service to their Savior.

III

One of the hardest things in life is to go backwards. If you work hard in your job and rise through the ranks over the years, it’s very difficult to have it all crash to an end and have to start at the bottom again. When you have nothing, or are just starting out in life, you don’t have a lot to lose. But when you’ve reached a certain pinnacle of life and it’s taken away from you, you know what you’ve lost and it’s gut-wrenching. That, my friends, is why God tells us in the Bible to: “Walk by faith and not by sight.” For faith is about hope. Faith is about a better tomorrow. Faith is about trusting in God’s goodness to see us through good times and bad ones knowing that the best is yet to come.

St. Peter, like my wife’s uncle Martin, got a glimpse of glory early in life. In a sense they both reached the pinnacle of human existence at that moment. And then they had to leave it all behind for a while. That was hard for both mortals! And that’s why Christ doesn’t give all of us such glory glimpses, even though we say we’d like to experience them, see them, live them, and pray for them. In His infinite wisdom He spares us from such hardness. And instead, He gives us faith. Or as Scripture says: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

So, today, focus your attention on what you do know instead of what you don’t know. Focus your faith on Christ’s forgiveness won on the cross. Focus on His promises of glory. Focus on the reality of Him triumphing over death. Focus on God’s Son’s eternal love for you. Yes, focus on the glory that awaits you in Christ! Such faith sustained Peter through the rest of his life. Such faith sustained Martin through seven heart attacks. They knew what they were missing out on, but would eventually attain in Christ. And now, you know, too. Amen