February 14, 2021

“The Real You!”

(From Scripture Mark 9: 2-9)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could beach them. Then, a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  (Mark 9:1-3, 7; NRSV).

     A few weeks ago, I think it was in a local Wal-Mart store, I saw a lonely box containing an Elf on the Shelf sitting on one of the Clearance shelves.  Weeks past Christmas, there was no longer a demand for this impish little helper of Santa.  For those of you not familiar with this concept, the Elf on the Shelf is a helper of Santa who appears in homes during the Advent Season.  He appears anywhere throughout the house, changing his location often, in order to watch children’s behavior, both good and not-so-good, and reports this information back to Santa.  It should not surprise us that this Elf, as he watches children from his many hidden locations, has a very positive effect on the behavior of the children he watches-you might say that he is an instrument of positive behavior change for many children in whose homes he make an appearance…at least during the weeks preceding Christmas.  Parents can be heard reminding their children that the Elf is watching and reporting on behavior to Santa, and no one wants to receive the dreaded coal in their stocking on Christmas Day.

     Seeing that lonely box on the shelf reminded me of how the Elf on the Shelf is like the Law God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the Hebrew people.  How can that be, you ask?  How is the Law like a   statue, named the Elf on the Shelf, at Christmastime? Well friends, the Mosaic Law, like the Elf himself, could set the standards to guide moral behavior of the Hebrew people.  The truth is, however, that although the Mosaic Law could monitor the people’s compliance to the established standards of moral conduct, the Law alone could not save the offenders from guilt and judgement any more than the Elf himself can prevent errant children from receiving a stocking full of coal.  That, dear friends, requires something more, something greater, than a watchful Elf, or the good and God-given Law of Moses can provide.  

     The Apostle Paul described his understanding of the role of the Law in God’s plan of salvation to the Galatian Church in Chapter 3 of his letter to them.  He states:

     Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.      

     Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.  (Gal 3: 23).

     With these words, Paul made it very clear to his Church in Galatia, one of the churches founded on his first missionary journey, that all people are sinners, and that they are the guilty prisoners of their sin.  Through the Law, people became aware of their sins in falling short of its tenets. Paul shared this message to make it abundantly clear to all that salvation comes from God alone.  It cannot be “earned” by any works resulting from good and moral behavior.  No matter how “good” we may be at any given time, by ourselves, we will never be good enough to fulfill all of the Law.  The Law revealed sin that it might prepare people for the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation, a plan for human redemption by God’s loving grace through faith in Christ Jesus. 

     Today is Transfiguration Sunday, as well as Valentine’s Day.  Transfiguration Sunday celebrates the time when Jesus took his trusted Disciples with him to a high mountain place, and there he was revealed to them, in all of his glory and majesty, as God the Son.  There was no doubt, and nothing was left to their imagination.  The scripture reveals to us that Jesus’ clothes became a dazzling white, far beyond the capability of any bleaching agent.  As if this sight was not enough to convince them of just who Jesus really was, the voice of God was heard by them saying, “This is my Son. The Beloved, listen to him!”   

     As we center our thoughts on love this Valentine’s Day, the transfiguration of Jesus reminds us of just what love, true love, really is. Love is not the syrupy verse of a Hallmark Greeting Card, nor is it Cupid’s love-dipped arrows of attraction flying at us through the air.  True love, the love God gave to us in Christ Jesus, is an agapé love.  This love is the unselfish, self-giving, and deeply sacrificial kind of love found in acting on behalf of the welfare of others.  It is the love of Jesus, who, though he was equal to God and was revealed to the Disciples as God the Son at his transfiguration, stepped down from that mountain and onto a suffering, dying cross.  He did this in obedience to God’s plan for our salvation, and to show us the healing and forgiving salvific love of God, which has the power to conquer even sin and death for all who believe. Therefore, there is now nothing in all of creation that can separate believers from the love of God, as revealed in the life, death, resurrection and ultimate ascension of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  It inspired Paul to share with the Galatians, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal. 3: 25-28).

    When we embrace our faith, accepting God’s plan for us and for our salvation, that is when we are revealed as our most authentic and true selves-the people God intended us to become.  We are no longer living as those under the Law, but as a people saved by grace.  The Law of love now rules our hearts and minds. By the power of God’s Spirit working both in and through us, we now go forth as children of God, building God’s kindom right in the present time.  With loving thoughts and words, and a commitment to loving actions toward peace with justice guiding our lives, we do not need to watch for love’s arrow to come and claim us.  We are already so deeply loved by God that God sent us Jesus to accomplish true love’s mission.  He was revealed on the mountain top as God the Son, yet, he lived and died for us as the compassionate and loving sacrificial Son of man.  As Christ died for us, let us each now live our most authentic and true lives for him.  Reveal to the world the real you by your acts of sacrificial agapé love this Valentines’ Day!  Amen.

“Majesty, Worship His Majesty”

(words and music-Jack Hayford)

Majesty, worship his majesty, unto Jesus be all glory, honor and praise.

Majesty, kingdom authority, flow from his throne unto hi own, his anthem raise.

So exalt, lift up on high the name of Jesus.  Magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus the King.

Majesty, worship his majesty, Jesus who died, now glorified, King of al Kings.