Dear Savior, we know that in life “honesty is the best policy.” Being open and honest when we deal with others never obscures the truth. Today as we consider the truth of Your Gospel, may we use simple words to honestly convey its saving message to all we meet. For then, not only are we staying out of the Spirit’s way, we’re also honoring You and everything You’ve done to save us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR BROTHER WHO SHINES IN GLORIOUS BUT APPROACHABLE LIGHT!
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6
Dearly Beloved By Our Glorious Savior:
I don’t play the lottery, but I know how it works. For every winner there are probably thousands, millions—when it comes to “Powerball,” losers. And yet people willingly engage in this “voluntary taxation” on some vague hope. Meanwhile, if I were to tell most of those same people that by embracing Christ’s forgiveness for every one of their sins they would be winners now and receive the certainty of heaven, well, they would and do scoff! I can hear it now: “It’s too good to true” emanating from their lips.
In theology, the careful study of God’s Word, we have a name for this attitude. It is called: “The theology of glory” vs. “the theology of the cross.” That is, people want heaven with all of its pleasures and joy right now. They don’t want to wait. Meanwhile, because we’re still glued to this earth we must live out “the theology of the cross” or patiently wait for heaven while marveling at the light of God’s love, care, and life-changing protection. Moreover, what people really don’t like about the cross is that while it conveys glory to us in the here and now, that glory is veiled, hidden if you will, in the simple words of the Gospel, in baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper. All those vehicles of Godly grace give real glory because they give us the benefits won by Christ for us on the cross. And yet, to the human experience they appear weak, worthless, and not worth bothering with. But, of course, Transfiguration Sunday tells us otherwise.
Like all faithful preachers of God’s Word, St. Paul was roundly criticized by many people. I’ll bet each of you has either had someone say to you, or you could tell they thought this: “What’s your angle, everyone has a hidden agenda?” People think Christians are “goody two shoes.” They think Christians are on a power trip and want to control their lives for them. They think all that we’re after is their money. And they truly believe that we’re using God talk and God stuff to manipulate them for our own egos sake! Welcome to the club of St. Paul! This is exactly what he faced among the Corinthians. They expected him to deliver glory today or tomorrow because if he really had the truth, why should anyone have to wait? Why this “earthly veil” separating them from glory, power and riches right now? This ushers in Paul’s words: “Even if our gospel is veiled; it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Think about that. The simple, humble, non-descript Christ Who was put to death on an awful cross, that Christ is the “image of God.”! This is a paradox. It is a heavenly truth that confounds earthly senses. And yet, the truth of what occurred on the Mount of Transfiguration before Peter, James, and John reveals how God hides, or veils, Himself under the earthly shell of Christ’s humanity.
What is the Christian agenda? It is love, isn’t it? It is concern, care, and compassion for hurting souls. It isn’t about earthly riches, money, power, or fame—it is about humble hard work and heart-felt service to God conveyed to those in need. Yes, as long as we draw breath on this earth we live under the “theology of the cross.” Paul now says the exact same thing when he writes: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants (slaves) for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Remember John the Baptist? Remember when some of his disciples came to him and asked him whether he was the Messiah, or if they should follow Christ instead? What was this great preacher’s response: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It was: “After me will come one whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.” Paul and John would have gotten along quite well. Do you feel the same way?
Every morning when I prepare Debra Ann’s sack lunch I spoon out some yogurt to go with her fruit and put it in a Tupperware container. As I do so, I sing the “Yogurt song” for our dog, Tori, to inform her that she will get to lick the spoon! She comes running when I start singing! She loves yogurt. You can see it etched on her face: “I want my yogurt, give it to me right now!” And then she’s happy. Then she’s in dog heaven, as it were.
Human beings operate the exact same way. We want our prayers answered right now in the exact way we phrased them. We want our worries banished right now. We want pure happiness right now. We want all our wishes (theology of glory) complied with right now! We don’t want to wait. And if God makes us wait a bit, we start questioning His goodness. We start doubting His love for us.
Today we stand on the verge of Lent.—The ultimate season of cross theology. Likewise, we stand in the midst of winter with its heaviness weighing upon us. We want relief from the heaviness, the heaviness of sin, right now! And yet, God says “wait a little while.” Meanwhile, on this Transfiguration Sunday God gives us a small slice, actually a pretty big one, of the glory awaiting that is but a hair-breath away from our reality. Heaven may appear very distant, but in reality it is closer than the blink of an eye! Christ proved that when He shed the cocoon of His humanity to reveal the Divinity lying right underneath it.
So, be patient, my friends. Don’t second-guess God in anything. Continue to: “pray, praise, and give thanks.” Continue to “walk by faith and not by sight.” The ultimate pay-out will come sooner than you think. Amen