Monday, March 3, 2014

Get Up. Don't Be Afraid

          How many of you looked in the mirror this morning and didn’t like what you saw? How many of you have wished that you could have someone wave a wand or something and all the wrinkles and moles and splotches would be gone? How many of you have wished that you could be transfigured, transformed outwardly into something better?
          Our gospel lesson from Matthew is about that day when Jesus went up the mountain with his three friends, Peter, James, and John and they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. 
          They’d been with Jesus for quite a while now. Six days before they went up the mountain he’d told them about the suffering and persecution and death that was waiting for him in Jerusalem. 
          I wonder what they thought they were going to do on top of the mountain. They knew that many times Jesus went away to the mountain to be alone with God, to pray. Maybe they thought that’s what they would be doing there, praying.
The trek up the mountain wasn’t easy, apparently, since Matthew doesn’t record any of their conversation. They may have been too out of breath to talk. I know what that’s like.
Matthew doesn’t say how soon after they arrived that the transfiguration took place he just says, ‘2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.’ 
That’s quite a change from the Jesus they’d been with. But it didn’t end there. As they looked they saw two other men with him who they decided were Moses and Elijah. How’d they know that? There weren’t any pictures of either of them and yet they were sure that’s who they were.
But the scariest thing is still to come. After Peter said that he thought it would be a good idea to put up three tents or memorials, this bright, white cloud settles over all of them and from deep within the cloud there’s this voice that says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
That drops them to their knees. They were kind of like the shepherds were when the angels appeared and told them about the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. They were sore afraid. I think that means they were scared to death; so scared they fell to the ground.
And when they looked up Moses and Elijah and the cloud were all gone. They were alone again with their rabbi, Jesus.
He touched them and said, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” A little anti-climatic don’t you think? Get up. Don’t be afraid.
And then he instructs them to not say a word about all this until after his death. Like anyone would have believed them anyway. 
But the question I want us to think about today is, “What do we believe.”  Do we believe that they actually saw what Matthew wrote about or did they dream it or was it a vision? Have any of us ever seen or experienced anything like Jesus’ transfiguration?
The closest I can come to seeing anyone transfigured, glowing with light, is seeing the face of a mother holding her new born baby for the first time, or maybe the face of a bride as she walks down the aisle toward the love of her life.
In this story, notice that Jesus says nothing about anyone’s sins or failures. He just tells them to get up and don’t be afraid.
Isn’t that the same thing Jesus says to us when he calls us to service? Get up, arise. Don’t be afraid.
I know most of you have heard this gospel lesson many times. And you’ve probably heard many pastors give their interpretation of Matthew’s words.
Today, I’d like you to hear Jesus’ words, “Get up. Don’t be afraid,” as a call, a call to service for Him, a resurrection if you will, maybe a transfiguration.  I don’t know exactly what Jesus is calling you and me to do or be but I am hearing him say, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.”  And I trust him enough to believe that he will be beside me as I answer his call, whatever that may be.
What about you? What is Jesus calling you to do or be? Listen to him! Get up and don’t be afraid!

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