Transfiguration Sunday – B LSB #’s 908, 496, 414
Text –2 Corinthians 4:1
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
NOT LOSING HEART
One of the best stories of the Detroit Lions’ season has been Taylor Decker. He’s been on the team longer than any other player – a total of 8 seasons. During his first 7 seasons the Lions won 44 games out of 114. With that kind of record, any player could easily lose heart. However, Taylor hung in there through all the suffering & this past season it finally paid off.
Given how many people are dropping out of church, it may be that some feel like they’re playing for the ‘old’ Detroit Lions. They’ve grown weary of facing constant futility. Many preachers focus on all the things you should do to be ‘good’ Christians. After the initial start people find out that it’s an impossible task to live the life of holiness, so they lose heart.
That’s exactly what Martin Luther struggled with, the feeling that God wanted him to earn his place in the kingdom. Yet, no matter how often he disciplined himself, he never seemed to make progress toward the life of holiness he thought God was demanding.
However, I think the majority of people today just don’t see a need to be involved with a church. They aren’t sure that God is even real, but if He is, they certainly do not acknowledge His authority in their lives. Rather, they tend to see things along these lines:
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath & tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds & shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
Those words are from the poem Invictus, written in 1875 by the British poet William Ernest Henley. His poem gained notoriety when it was chosen by Timothy McVeigh as his final statement before his execution in 2001. McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Most people who refuse to acknowledge God’s authority don’t go so far as to kill 168 people, yet, the poem by Henley does express the sinful desire to be one’s own god.
People as such do not lose heart in the way that Luther did, nor in the way St. Paul wrote of it. However, you & I may lose heart when it comes to witnessing to, or to suffering at the hands of, people who believe they are their own god.
For example, in my opinion, I believe that Donald Trump & Joe Biden both suffer, to a significant degree, from the delusion that they are the master of their fate & the captain of their soul. As sinful human beings, you & I also suffer from that delusion to at least some degree. It goes right back to the very first temptation in the Garden of Eden:
“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, & you will be like God...’” (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV) You & I do not lose heart over being god. We lose heart, we struggle with life in a broken & sinful world because we are not God. We lose heart because we are not in control of our lives.
Take the example of Peter on the mount of transfiguration. Jesus reveals the glory of God, like we’ll see it in heaven, & what does Peter say? “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses & one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:5 ESV) Then the Gospel tells us: “He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.” (Mark 9:6 ESV)
Peter was not in control of what was going on, so he was freaking out. All of us know what that’s like, that kind of brain dead moment, or longer, when we are not up to the task at hand. Maybe you’ve hit black ice & are spinning out on the freeway. Maybe someone you love dies unexpectedly. You get fired at work or served divorce papers with no warning.
You smash your thumb with a hammer or drop a jar of pickles on the floor & it
shatters; you find yourself being confronted & verbally attacked because of what you believe the Word of God says is good & right, your child rejects the clear teachings of Jesus Christ & finally, you just want to throw in the towel. You lose heart & you wonder where is God anyway, & what on earth is He doing to you? To all of that & more, St. Paul writes:
“But when [you] turn to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, & where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18 & 4:1 ESV)
As Christians, our entire lives are a ministry. That means every single aspect of your day is ministry, not by the command of God, or your pastor, or your spouse or your child or your parent. Your life is a ministry by the mercy of God. He’s not about beating us up when we’re down, or criticizing when we’ve failed or done wrong.
Romans 8 applies here, “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (8:28 NASB) Jesus gives His disciples the experience of the transfiguration to help them not lose heart. The transfiguration is not meant for us to look at Jesus. It is meant for us to see His work through His glory.
Without faith all we see is the corruption & brokenness of this world. Without faith, all we see is what Adam & Eve left for us in their rebellion against God. Without faith, all we see is what Satan shows to us – sickness & death & evil corruption. For Americans, without faith, all we are going to see is nine more months of presidential campaign commercials.
Instead, looking through the transfiguration of Jesus, looking through the glory of Jesus, with faith in Jesus, Paul writes, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold!” (2 Corinthians 3:12 ESV) Without faith, life is all about results. What have you done for me lately? How many Superbowl rings do you wear? Without faith in Christ, all of your life is like playing for the ‘old’ Detroit Lions. On the other hand, with faith in Christ life is all about Christ; life is all about what Jesus has done & about what Jesus is still doing, even today, right here & now, in this place, in this house of God, as He lifts you up & strengthens you for the ministry of your life this week all by the mercy of God.
Children of God do not lose heart because Jesus never fails. The cancel culture may be destroying our people & our nation, but they cannot cancel Jesus Christ. People may see no need for being in God’s house, but they face all the sufferings of life that we do. Eventually they will be crushed by this sinful world & then you may have an opportunity to love them.
If you do have that opportunity it will be by the mercy of God & so we do not lose heart. Being a servant of Christ is not a burden like some Christians make it out to be. Rather, it is a gift, given to us through Jesus’ death for our sins.
And God prepares in advance all the works that He desires to do through us. Those works are how He is transfiguring the world around us today into what we will see one day in heaven. Yahweh is working right now to transfigure the soul of everyone who is sitting next to you, in front of you & behind you.
In heaven we will see their glory with our own eyes, but it is the glory of Christ that we will see in them. None of us have any glory of our own. The poem Invictus is not speaking from the perspective of our heavenly Father, but from that of unbelief. Our calling is to not lose heart even when interacting we unbelievers, but to love them with the love that Christ gives. Amen.
Holy Spirit, light divine, shine upon this heart of mine; chase the shades of night away, turn the darkness into day. Holy Spirit, power divine, cleanse this guilty heart of mine; in Thy mercy pity me, from sin’s bondage set me free. Holy Spirit, joy divine, cheer this saddened heart of mine; yield a sacred, settled peace, let it grow & still increase. Amen. LSB 496:1, 3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet