Thy Kingdom Come: What Glory Shall Be Theirs Above

Text: Matthew 17:1-9
Date: Transfiguration + 2/26/17

In Exodus chapter three we are told how Moses was called by God. “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’” He never found out. But God called to him out of the bush and was ordered to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Where God is there is holy ground. Finally we are told, “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Ex 3:2-6).

God appeared to others in less threatening ways, disguising His glory to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But then recall how God appeared in all His glory to Isaiah who, when he saw the Lord in the temple surrounded by angels and incense and heard God’s voice he cringed in a corner because he knew the command given through Moses, “man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33:20). Isaiah said to himself, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is 6:5). Throughout the Old Testament this was the rule. “Man shall not see me and live.” The Bible says, “the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Dt 4:24).

But now, when the Son of God came down from heaven on His mission to save the world He did not appear in His full glory, but as we have been saying in the Epiphany Proper Preface, “In Him, being found in the substance of our mortal nature, You have manifested the fullness of Your glory,” that is, in a way that we can now look at God and see God hidden in the flesh and blood Person of Jesus, the incarnate Word. That is why we bow during the words of the creed, “He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man,” to confess also His hidden divine nature. Today we give thanks to God that in Jesus’ transfiguration “He revealed His glory to His disciples,” that “with all the faithful [they may now] look forward to the glory of life everlasting.” Today we celebrate the still hidden glory of God, but not as a threatening, consuming fire but as the invitation to salvation, to glimpse “What Glory Shall Be [ours] Above.”

Now come Peter, James and John up another mountain with Jesus. He had done this before to pray. Consider these three men. Simple fishermen recruited by Jesus to become His full-time disciples. His divine glory hidden from their eyes, aside from His miracles, could it be that the disciples became so familiar with the human Jesus that they forgot if they ever knew that He is the Son of God? Well, once we remember Peter in a boat who, at a great catch of fish at Jesus word, “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Lk 5:8). Peter became aware of his shortcomings and sin in the presence of Jesus whom he called “Lord.” Then there were James and John whom Jesus called “Sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17). These were the ones not long after His Transfiguration who still had the misguided bravado, when a village of Samaritans rejected Jesus asked Him, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Lk 9:54).

So here they were with Jesus up a high mountain by themselves. They had done this before. Sometimes Jesus would go up a mountain to pray all by Himself. But this time, suddenly Jesus was transfigured before them. The word is “metamorphosis,” that is his appearance changed right before their eyes, his face showing like the sun, and his clothes white as light. And that’s not all. They recognized Moses and Elijah talking with Him. It is the Evangelist St. Luke who tells us what they were talking about, namely, His “exodus” or “departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem,” that is His crucifixion (Lk 9:31). Still it is interesting that the disciples didn’t remove their sandals like Moses or cringe behind a rock like Isaiah, but just stood there gawking. All except for Peter who thought they were seeing some kind of a side-show. And he began to blather about making three tents, “one for you and one for…” but while he was still speaking another sight and sound. Like the cloud that once covered Moses and Joshua on another mountain, a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud. This is no circus side-show and Jesus is no ordinary teacher or rabbi, but the voice said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And then the command, “Listen to Him.” Finally, it all began to sink in and the disciples “fell on their faces and were terrified.”

Have you ever been terrified? Have you ever been terrified by God, by His Word? As the scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10). For the beginning of wisdom is in true repentance of sin because of the fear of God’s wrath and punishment. It is not for no reason that we are taught the meaning of the Ten Commandments of God with the words, “We should fear and love God….”

But that’s not all. For Jesus immediately comes and touches us, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” The glory and majesty of Jesus’ divine nature they had just witnessed was still filtered in some way so as not to cause death but to cause life. Peter would describe this life when he wrote, “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” that is the light of Christ which is faith.

For now we need to see God’s gift of faith in our hearts as a light giving us the vision of Jesus as true God and true Man. For now He is still hidden to our eyes. But this faith gives us hope because we know that Jesus was proclaimed our King when He was crucified for us and the whole world. It is as St. Paul wrote, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and 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” (2 Cor 3:12-18). “For God, who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Jesus came to the fearful disciples and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” Jesus is our glorious Lord, God and King. But when we lift up our eyes and see no one but Jesus only, then do we see not the fearful wrath of God but the God of grace. As we sing of Christ’s glory, let us also remember the promise of our salvation, in the words of the prophet Daniel, “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3).

Thy Kingdom Come: His Rule is Over All

Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Date: Epiphany VII + 2/19/17

How large is God’s Kingdom? Today Jesus says, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In other words God’s Kingdom comes to all. It’s just that not all receive it aright. We say that God’s Kingdom comes to our benefit “when He gives His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” For the person who rejects God “Here in time” he needs to know that there still is time. God will give His Holy Spirit, His grace to all who hear and do not reject His Word or block Him out. “There in eternity” there will be no more need for all there will have come in repentance and faith. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: His Rule is Over All

Thy Kingdom Come: You Are God’s Building

Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Date: Epiphany VI + 2/12/17

Thy Kingdom Come. When we pray these words we not only pray asking that the kingdom come to us from God, from outside of ourselves, but we also pray that God would make us part of His kingdom. St. Paul refers to you as “God’s Field and God’s Building.” Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: You Are God’s Building

Thy Kingdom Come: Great in the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 5:13-29
Date: Pentecost V + 2/5/17

Thy Kingdom Come. Glorious now, we press toward glory (LSB 578:3).

I wonder how many people, when we pray the words “Thy kingdom come,” think only in terms of the return of Christ on the Last Day, you know, as you often hear these words meaning something is going to continue “until kingdom come,” meaning the Last Day. And certainly, faith is, as we say in the creed, always “look[ing] for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” But the Kingdom of God is more than that as it comes to us Christians even now. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: Great in the Kingdom

The Kingdom of Heaven is Yours

The Kingdom of Heaven is Yours

Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Occasion: The 100th Anniversary of St. Paul, Wood River, IL
Date: Epiphany IV + 1/29/17

For one hundred years God’s Word has sounded forth from the pulpit of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wood River, Illinois and generations of God’s people have believed and lived that Word, and have been given that new life God gives to those who repent and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. First there is the preaching then the hearing, repenting, the living and believing.

I rejoice today with you that I was privileged to preach God’s Word here and live in the God-given fellowship of this congregation from 1983 to 1991 (the 77th-86th anniversary years), and that I can celebrate with you today this significant 100th anniversary. Continue reading The Kingdom of Heaven is Yours

Thy Kingdom Come: The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

Text: Matthew 4:12-25
Date: Epiphany III + 1/22/17

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. The Kingdom is coming because the King has come. This was the proclamation of John the Baptist. Now he was arrested and out of the picture. By Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit John and the world know that this is the Son of God our Savior. And by Jesus’ baptism now you have been captured in your baptism to saving faith. So now what? Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

Thy Kingdom Come: A Man Who Ranks Before Me

Text: John 1:29-42a
Date: Epiphany II + 1/22/17

Thy Kingdom Come. The coming of the kingdom means and requires the coming of the King. But whereas “the kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer” the King Himself comes with the help and assistance of others. He comes in the flesh as the Son of Mary. He comes to you by means of others preaching the Word of God. So now at the beginning of His earthly ministry He comes by means of the one sent to prepare His way, by the revelation given to John the Baptist. John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that THIS IS THE SON OF GOD!” Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: A Man Who Ranks Before Me

Thy Kingdom Come: He Comes, the King Anointed

Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Date: Baptism of Our Lord + Epiphany I + 1/8/17

God’s kingdom, His rule of grace, comes to us in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. There we are buried or identified with the blessed death of our Lord for the forgiveness of our sins. There we receive the forgiveness of our sins, faith to believe in the forgiveness of our sins and adoption as sons and daughters in the family of God’s redeemed, restored, renewed creation. We are baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: He Comes, the King Anointed

Thy Kingdom Come: Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love

Text: Luke 2:21
Date: Circumcision and Name of Jesus + First Sunday after Christmas + The Eighth Day of
Christmas + 1/1/17

The kingdom of God comes to us in just the same manner as the Christ of Christmas: all by Himself without our prayer. Before we even knew we needed a Savior God sent His Son. For “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:8, 10). That’s the first reason that the Gospel of salvation is really good news. God knows our true need. God knows your real need. And He comes to fill and answer your need out of love. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love

Thy Kingdom Come: “Gift from God’s Eternal Throne”

Text: John 1:1-14
Date: Christmas Day + 12/25/16

Thy Kingdom Come.
Now in the manger we may see
God’s Son from eternity,
The gift from God’s eternal throne
Here clothed in our poor flesh and bone.
Alleluia! (LSB 382:2)

In a way Mark Twain’s famous novel “The Prince and the Pauper” parallels the mystery of Christ and of Christmas. The main difference, of course, is that Twain tells of two young boys who are identical in appearance, one a pauper who lives with his abusive father and the other Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII. In Jesus Christ, however, the two are one, He is both the King Himself from God’s Eternal throne taking on our human nature of His human mother, Mary. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: “Gift from God’s Eternal Throne”