Tag Archives: Jesus

Who Are Moses and Elijah? (March 2, 2014)

Matthew 17:1-9

So, Jesus invites Peter, James, and John up a mountain. Just them. All the other disciples are left down below. Now, prior to this in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus walked on water, has been announced as the Son of God, and as the long-awaited Messiah, so this is quite an honor for them. You kinda wonder if they were feeling a little privileged, a bit superior. And possibly curious. What did Jesus have planned? Why is he bringing them up here?

They soon find out. Jesus is transfigured — he changes — right in front of them. His face is like the sun, his clothes are dazzling white. And if it isn’t enough that the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah who walks on water starts glowing in front of them, Moses and Elijah come and are also with him. Like the perfect trifecta. These good Jewish boys have learned all their lives about these great historical leaders of God. Moses, who led their people out of slavery into freedom; who spoke with God and was given God’s law. And Elijah, the greatest of all the prophets of God; who defeated the god Baal, brought fire from the sky, raised the dead, and was whisked away to God in a whirlwind. Jesus is in some pretty good company here.

So Peter makes a very hospitable offer. Tell you what, Jesus, let me build three little cabins right here; one for each of you. I’ll do it right now, if you like.

If you think about it, that’s a pretty gracious, if a bit ambitious, offer. Peter, James, and John are witnessing something amazing: Jesus the water-walking Son of God, right there alongside the two greatest figures in history. The moment needs to be recognized, memorialized, monumentized. They figured Jesus is something special, but to be hanging out with Moses and Elijah is all kinds of impressive. Three little cabins. One for each. Recognizing this historic event.

For James, John, and Peter, the presence of Moses and Elijah validates the significance of Jesus. It proves he is someone special. It makes it OK to believe in him. Moses and Elijah support their belief in Jesus. They can trust Moses. They can believe Elijah. As long they they are going along with Jesus, the guy must be alright.

So I’m wondering, who/what are Moses and Elijah for us? What is it that we have confidence in, that we trust, that fit our lifelong beliefs and understanding, that support our faith in Jesus? Is it a person who makes Jesus credible (if Mom believes in him, he must be alright)? Is it the people we hang out with (lots of people believe in him, he must be alright)? Is it the fact that our life is content, that we are healthy, that we have a good retirement (I’m doing well, Jesus must be alright)? Or is it that the church is a comfortable place for us (the coffee is good at church and the people are nice, so I guess this Jesus is alright)? Or that belief in Jesus is what we’ve always done (so it must be fine). What or who is it that we want to build a little cabin for, right next to Jesus, to support our faith him?…

While Peter is still making his offer to build some cabins, a voice booms from the clouds, “THIS is my son; with HIM I am well pleased; listen to HIM!”

Nothing about Moses. Nothing about Elijah. Just Jesus. Now the three disciples witnessing this are terrified. Moses and Elijah are gone. It’s just Jesus. Jesus alone. It’s Jesus or nothing. And Peter, James, and John are overcome with fear.

What happens when Moses and Elijah disappear? What happens when the things that support our faith in Jesus don’t hold up? What happens when someone whose faith I admire gives up on God? What happens when our culture no longer feels a need to associate with Jesus? What happens when my life is in turmoil, when I am no longer healthy, when I face bankruptcy? What happens when the church is uncomfortable, and makes decisions I don’t like? What happens when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations and talks about things that I don’t understand or don’t want to do? What happens when we fall to the ground overcome with fear?

“…[the disciples] fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.”

When Moses and Elijah disappear, aren’t standing with Jesus, or simply let you down, Jesus stays. He stays with you in your doubt, in your confusion, in your anger, in your frustration, in your disbelief, in your fear. And reaches out and touches you. And he helps you up. And he walks down the mountain with you.

Because when Moses and Elijah are gone; when the things or the people that prop Jesus up disappear; when all the things that make it OK to believe fall short; when you are face down in the dirt trembling in fear and anxiety, Jesus stays.

“And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.” Moses and Elijah are fine, but Jesus is the one who stays with you. On the mountaintop when your life is all shiney and bright. And down in the valley, where life is uncertain, frightening, and chaotic.

“Lord,” says Peter, “It is good for us to be here.”


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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Sermon


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The Trinity Means that Jesus Shows Us What God is Like

John 16:12-15

12‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


This is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. God as Three. God as One. God as three-in-one. Father, Son, Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. This is probably my least favorite Sunday of the church year. There’s no miraculous story to dig into, no exciting historical events to unpack, no drama or humor to tag onto. It’s a doctrine. And, quite honestly, not our best one. Someone once said that whoever has come up with an explanation of the Trinity that satisfies them has just dishonored the Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a doctrine that is simply our best effort at explaining that which cannot be explained. Try as we might, we just aren’t going to really understand it. God is, by definition, beyond our understanding.

But here’s what we do know. The Holy Trinity is the uniquely Christian way of describing God. We trust that God is truly Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father, the Creator, is God. The Son, the Redeemer, is God. The Spirit, the Sanctifier, is God. Not three gods, but One God.These three persons, who are the One God, relate, support, interdwell together. The relationship they share reveals the image of God in which we are made.

I want to think about the implications of the Trinity as a uniquely Christian explanation of God, for what that means in the world and to the world. How often have you heard someone say they think Jesus is fine, but aren’t sold on church? Pretty much everyone likes Jesus, right? Why do you suppose that is? What is it about Jesus that people seem to appreciate? What do you know about Jesus that is meaningful for you?________, ___________, __________, ___________.

If we take the doctrine of the Trinity seriously, we are saying that these things we described about Jesus are what we know God to be like. That’s a uniquely Christian thing to say. Because we know Jesus to be (______), we know that God is (________).

My sister and brother-in-law were in town last week. We took them into Denver to see where our daughter’s wedding reception will be next April. It’s actually an art gallery, which makes it rather unique for a wedding reception. While we were there, I was walking through the gallery and happened on a set of paintings that captured my attention. They were intriguing.

As we kept moving through the gallery, I kept coming back to these paintings, and bringing people with me to look at them. Don’t you find these interesting? Don’t you think they’re beautiful? Don’t you think they are worth $2000 apiece? Wouldn’t you love some of these hanging in your house (I asked Lois that one. Her answer was something about the $2000 apiece, which I think meant “no”)?

After about the fourth time back visiting this set of paintings, one of the gallery employees came up to me and said that the artist was in the gallery and was right then sitting about 8 feet away. Would you like me to introduce you? Yes!

So I had a chance to chat for several minutes with the artist of these paintings that I had found so intriguing. She explained her ideas and her inspiration which came from the emotions she experienced when seeing the morning sun completely change the appearance of the Rocky Mountains. She told me how long she’d worked on them and why this particular style was important to her. I thanked her and asked for one of her business cards.

Next time I walked by these paintings, of course I looked at them again. But this time, they were more than intriguing, more than interesting. There was a depth and a significance that wasn’t there before. I wasn’t just looking at a style of painting that I appreciated, I was seeing the artist too. What I knew about the artist was then part of what I knew about the paintings.

What we know about Jesus is part of what we know about God.

Think about what that means for the next conversation you have with someone who admires Jesus, but doesn’t necessarily go any further. What do they admire about Jesus? Perhaps they know more about God then, than they think. The Trinity means that Jesus shows us what God is like. If Jesus loves sinners, God does too. If Jesus forgave those who hate him, God does too. If Jesus welcomed those who were outcast, God does too. If Jesus showed mercy to those who were poor, God does too. The Trinity means that Jesus shows us what God is like.

This is the image of God in which we are created. This is the God we show to the world. One who loves the world—and loves us. One who forgives the world—and forgives us. One who welcomes the world—and welcomes us. One who shows mercy to the world—and shows mercy to us.

If we believe Jesus died and rose again, the doctrine of the Trinity means that we believe in a God who enters into the darkest parts of our lives and brings forth life. Not because we believe it, but because that’s the nature of God—the Trinity means that Jesus shows us what God is like.

The Trinity is the good news we bring to the world. Not a doctrine that you have to buy into, but an experience of what the God we trust is like. Jesus shows us. Amen.

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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Sermon


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