Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 26, 2017

Sermon: “You Shouldda Seen It!”

This past week I spent a few days in Arizona at a ministry conference called Best Practices with a few other staff members from Bethany and you shoulda seen it. 

It is an annual conference hosted by Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix and attended by almost 2000 people from all across the nation. 

Let me tell you a few things I witnessed.  
  • I watched as church workers jumped off a perfectly good two-story tower.  
  • I moseyed in the grass with a herd of fake cows. 
  • I got a Klondike bar from a pastor dressed up as a cockroach. 
  • I ate fajitas surrounded by a Mariachi band. 
  • I watched three people dressed as ketchup, mustard, and a hamburger run a race. 
  • I received a warm doughnut from a parrot. 
  • I heard Darth Vader play the trumpet. 
  • I was called into a session by a gorilla with a bullhorn.

No, I’m not playing Mad-Libs all this really happened.  But besides all of that, we did hear some amazing speakers, were inspired in worship, made some awesome connections, and saw the hands and feet of God serving, sharing, and learning together. 

We heard and experienced the sweetness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and truth be told, we were fed very well, both spiritually and physically.

You shoudda seen it!  It was amazing!  It was like nothing I have ever witnessed.  It was almost unbelievable. I almost wanted to set up a tent and just stay there.

It reminds me of the account in our Gospel reading (from Sunday morning). 

Today we remember the events that took place on the mountain of transfiguration.  Let’s look at the text again from Matthew 17, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.  Jesus’ appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll put up three tents here—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  He was still speaking when a bright cloud overshadowed them. Then a voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am pleased. Listen to him!” 

It was a “you shoudda seen it” moment.  Peter was entranced by the notion of seeing Moses and Elijah and then the radiance of God Himself in Jesus Christ shining in the darkness. 

It was almost unbelievable.  It was like nothing He had ever seen and what did Peter want to do?  Yep, set up a tent and stay there.

If you were not at the Best Practices conference you might never believe the sights and the sounds I witnessed, but you might catch a glimpse by looking at pictures on Facebook or you could ask the others who were there with me.  Eyewitness accounts can be powerful testimonies of actual events.

It would be nice to sit down with Peter, James and John and talk to them about what they witnessed that day.  How great it would be to see their Facebook posts or tweets about the event.  But we can’t.

Not only was there no social media at the time, Jesus told them to keep the events to themselves until after He was brought back to life on Easter morning.

And Peter did just that.  But later he records his eyewitness account in our New Testament reading from today.  Listen to part of it again, “When we apostles told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we didn’t base our message on clever myths that we made up. Rather, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes.  For example, we were eyewitnesses when he received honor and glory from God the Father and when the voice of our majestic God spoke these words to him: “This is my Son, whom I love and in whom I delight.”  We heard that voice speak to him from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.  So we regard the words of the prophets as confirmed beyond all doubt. You’re doing well by paying attention to their words. Continue to pay attention as you would to a light that shines in a dark place as you wait for day to come and the morning star to rise in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 1:16-19)

Peter is the eyewitness that we yearn for, the one we desire, the one that will help us contemplate the enormity of the event from that Transfiguration Day and indeed the entire incarnation.

Peter’s words preserved for us in the pages of Scripture make his witness, sure, more believable and can strengthen our faith in the one true God who revealed His nature on that day.

But how often have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? 

When doubts creep in, when the devil starts to whisper his lies in your ear that the accounts of the Bible are too outlandish to believe let alone trust in, when you start to wonder if this story is really true, ponder the events of Transfiguration, rest on the words and witness of Peter, hear the powerful Word. 

For the witness of Scripture is not something that was fabricated by humanity...Hear the witness of Peter again, “First, you must understand this: No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.  No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction.” (1 Peter 1:20-21)

“You shoudda seen it!”  I’m not sure those are the exact words the followers of Jesus used when they started talking about the work of Jesus but I’m sure it was something like it. 

It was almost unbelievable what they did to Jesus on the cross.

The open and empty tomb was like nothing that had ever been witnessed before.

But it’s absolutely true.  It’s not a fabricated fairy tale or antiquated worldview.

And you too can see it today.  As the Word is proclaimed, as the water and Word combine in baptism, when the body and blood of Jesus are in with and under the wafer and the wine and when we witness the work of God’s people, we see Jesus!

It’s a story that continues today as the Word comes all the way to you, to dispel your fear and doubt, to bring forgiveness of sin and to remind you that the witness accounts contained in this book are true, all of ‘em. 

At the very end of the conference yesterday afternoon we had a service of sending in the sanctuary of Christ Church where we were encouraged by fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, we sung hymns, heard Scripture and at the very end we got, what I believe was a brief glimpse of the glory of heaven once again. 

It was not the dazzling white radiance of the Lord but was His light shining in all of us as hundreds sang the Doxology a cappella in multipart harmony. 

I had goose bumps as I felt the presence of God in that place. I wanted to set up a tent and stay right there in that place. You shoulda seen it! 

And you will one day because you see, there is more to being a follower of Christ than an earthly convention, for there will be an eternal convocation of all the saints who will all see with their eyes the brightness of God in all his radiance and splendor for all eternity!

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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