Transfiguration Sunday – C LSB #’s 414, 645, 912
Text – Hebrews 3:4
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
THE BUILDER OF ALL THINGS
I’d like you to think about some of the traditions in your family. What I’m asking for is something that’s relatively unique. Celebrating Christmas & Easter aren’t really traditions in that sense because so many people do it. What is something your family did, while you were growing up, that was different from most everyone else?
In the family I grew up in, from the grandparents on down, building houses was our tradition. It began not long after I was born. My dad’s uncle was a carpenter & he offered to build our house in the hours after his normal work day. Other family members would pitch in & around the time I was 2 or 3 years old we moved in.
I vaguely remember when I was 5 years old “helping” to nail down subflooring at the new home for my mom’s parents. Again, the whole family pitched in. When I was nine, an uncle on my dad’s side built a new home & that was especially memorable. My Aunt’s birthday was the day after Christmas & I clearly remember using the outhouse there when it was cold!
The old house did not have indoor plumbing, but my uncle splurged & put it into the new home. That was 1968. After that two more uncles on my mom’s side of the family built homes & by then I was in my teens. I spent a lot of hours on Saturdays helping to install insulation, hang drywall & nail shingles to the roof. Those were good times & fond memories.
After my stint in the U.S. Navy I moved back home & got into the electrical contracting business. I spent a lot more hours in the building industry & one day the carpenter on that job was telling me how carpenters are better than electricians. He asked if I knew why. When I didn’t have the answer he told me, “Jesus was a carpenter you know!” However, a clever reply came to mind & I told him that God was an electrician before He became a carpenter. Do you know why? Yeah, in just the 3rd verse of the whole Bible, Moses wrote, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ & there was light.” The carpenter had to admit I had him there.
The author of the book of Hebrews tells us, “…every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” The Bible never refers to God as an electrician, but it does call Him a builder – the builder of all things! For conservative Christians that naturally brings to mind the six 24 hour day creation of the world.
Yet, the author of Hebrews is speaking of far more than the ‘mere’ creation of all things in the universe. He also speaks of building the family of faith, the house of living stones. You may recall these words of the apostle Peter:
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV)
Compared to building a family, building a house is actually quite simple. In spite of needing plumbers, electricians, drywall mudders, carpet layers & painters, building godly character in spouses & children, in church members & church leaders, is infinitely more complicated. That Yahweh is the builder of that house too gives us courage & hope.
You will need that because you are part of that building program. In my family we spent a lot of time & energy on houses that one day will be gone. As part of God’s family you can help build a house that will last forever. We are not here in this house of God just to sing songs & say our prayers. We are here to be about the business of building God’s kingdom.
Here, in this service, our heavenly Father removes our sins of the past week. Then, He strengthens us for service in the coming week, because He knows of the temptations & the trials that Lucifer will be sending our way. God allowed Peter, James & John to witness the transfiguration of Jesus because that was a foretaste of heaven. They needed that to strengthen them for what was to come. Upon descending from this mountain Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem because the time has arrived for Him to ascend the mountain of Calvary to die. Jesus Himself would need strengthening from angels as He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Devil was tempting the Son to resist the Father’s will, but Jesus submitted to His Father anyway. The disciples fell to the temptation as they slept while their Savior was praying. Christ helped His Father build the house by submission to the Father’s will. Satan does not want you or me to submit to God’s will in building the kingdom.
As with Adam & Eve Satan tempts us to try building our Lord’s kingdom in the way that we see fit. Human beings simply love to believe that they know what they are doing. Jesus submitted to His Father because you & I are incapable of doing so. Because of sin the Creator of heaven & earth has had to become an unconventional builder.
Our work, even when done on God’s behalf, always fails inspection – every time. The joy of working with Yahweh is that His wisdom & power are so great that He can work with our failures & still forth bring His will from them. That gives you freedom to work without fear of your failures. We don’t try to fail, but we don’t have to be afraid either.
St. Paul emphasized that point as he wrote to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power & love & self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV) Self-control, love & power – those are qualities which our heavenly Father builds into His house. “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house…” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV) God is the builder!
Believing in Jesus is not merely about believing that He’s real. It is also about believing in what Jesus is doing, right now, here, in this place, in your heart & in your day to day life. Whether you see that life as one of successes or sorrows, Jesus is working every day, each hour, as the clock ticks off one minute after another. “The builder of all things is God,” & as the builder of the living stones, it involves each aspect of your life. Jesus orders & directs your life & mine to bring forth His will, through us & often in spite of us. Do you believe that? Do you find peace in that? In fact, the most common command in the Bible is this, “Do not be afraid!”
Our lives are driven by our fears, & they should not be. That’s because most of us don’t really pay attention to what is going on here in God’s house. By our Lord’s design, we share in the process of building God’s church on earth, which is effectively also the building of God’s church in eternity. The two cannot be separated even if we don’t see them clearly.
Listen to these words from the Gospel reading, “Now Peter & those who were with him were heavy with sleep, (doesn’t that sound like church) but when they became fully awake they saw His glory & the two men who stood with Him.” He was experiencing a taste of heaven & St. Luke records what was going through Peter’s mind:
“‘Let us make three tents, one for you & one for Moses & one for Elijah’ – not knowing what he said.” (Luke 9:33b ESV) With all the time & energy we spend in this life, don’t we just assume, that for the most part, we know what we are doing & saying? Peter wanted to make tents, while Jesus was making an eternal kingdom. What are you building? Will it last?
There was a priest in the OT named Eli, who acted as though he was building an earthly kingdom. His sons, who were in line to take over after him, were wicked men; scoundrels who paid no attention to the Lord. Since Eli did nothing to stop their wickedness, the Lord had them killed on the same day, by the Philistines, along with 30,000 Israelite soldiers.
You see, as God builds His house He does not hesitate to tear out any of the walls that are no longer serving their purpose. And yet, as Samuel prophesies to Eli that his sons will be killed, He also gives Eli this promise, “And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart & in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, & he shall go in & out before my anointed forever.” (1 Samuel 2:35 ESV) If you don’t know, you should be able to guess whom that faithful priest would be. He’s introduced by the writer of today’s Epistle:
“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle & high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him…” (Hebrews 3:1-2 ESV) At the transfiguration, Peter, James & John are shown to be part of the new tabernacle. They’re called to share in the glory of God’s Son; deriving their identity from Him.
But Messiah does not simply put them in a personal relationship with His Father; He brings them into a community to live together with one another & with the Holy Trinity. They do not only serve with Jesus as their High Priest in His heavenly sanctuary but are themselves, with Jesus, part of God’s heavenly temple. That’s what happens in God’s house each week.
You & I are brought together to live with Father, Son & Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God has come. It’s why the pastor speaks these words in the prayer right before the Sanctus: “Therefore with angels & archangels & with all the company of heaven we laud & magnify Your glorious name.” (LSB p. 208)
We say that because we believe & teach that they are participating with us even though we can’t see them. Gathered here in this place we are the household of God. Though our struggles & trials & temptations cause us great harm in this life, they cannot destroy us. At this moment, & all the days of our lives, we are living stones being built into the temple of God.
As long we lean upon Christ, nothing can destroy us. No one can snatch us out of His hand. It’s what Jesus was talking about when He said to Martha, “I am the resurrection & the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25 ESV) You see, our hope in Christ is not only that we will be set free from sin once we reach heaven. As members of His household we look to, & long for, the day when Jesus will make everything right & new again. On the last day God will finish recreating the entire universe as it was meant to be. And in that perfect world your bodies will return to life transformed in such a way that sickness & pain & fear will never be able to touch you again.
The house God is building even now will rejoice for eternity as death & decay will be no more. Until then we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of faith. He is the Way & the Truth & the Life. He is providing refuge for us in His house. Let us, the living stones, encourage one another, & all the more as we see the Day drawing near. Amen.
We are God’s house of living stones, built for His own habitation. He through baptismal grace us owns, heirs of His wondrous salvation. Were we but two His name to tell, yet He would deign with us to dwell with all His grace & His favor. Amen. LSB 645:3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet