Because Pastor Shannon and his family are in Florida, Chuck Vanderscheuren led our service this morning, with Elsa Holmgren taking the pulpit to deliver the message. Chuck began by giving us an update on the Shannon’s vacation that included the adventure of a fire alarm at the hotel where they were staying. No harm, just another bit of unexpected excitement.
1. Covenant Park registration for summer camp… next Sunday last day for discounted rates. See Cheryl Borndal for details.
2. The youth will have pasties here for sale next Sunday, $4 each, to help raise money for CHIC.
3. Wednesday Ash Wednesday soup and sandwich at 6:15 for family time dinner and service at 7:00
4. Next Sunday we'll be decorating the Youth Room after church… Bring an extra pair of clothes you can paint in.
The quartet opened the service with their uplifting rendition of Jesus and Me. Duane officially opened our service with a prayer and then they quartet chimed in again with Heavenward Bound followed by a time of congregational worship with songs from the silver songbook.
As the offering was taken, three young people from the River Falls Covenant, who are here for the weekend, sang the song, “Come, let your glory fall…” After the prayer time they returned to share more special music.
Steve Borndal read from Psalm 50:1-6 and Mark 9:2-13. In the subsequent prayer time there were many requests shared, revealing many needs.
Elsa began by reminding us that this morning we’re celebrating Transfiguration Sunday, a remembrance of that special mountaintop moment on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Here's the passage from Mark from which Elsa gleaned today's insights.
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
The incident is remarkable and profound, but in the middle of it we find Peter saying silly thing about making tents for Elijah and Moses. It's not the first time Peter says things out of left field. Just the week before Peter got Jesus’ identity right… that He was the Messiah. Jesus follows this revelation with comments about going to the cross, being killed, then rising again. Peter exclaims, "Never, Lord! This will never happen to You!" and Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”
The mountaintop experience with Peter, James and John happened six days later.
These three men were present to witness Jesus’ transfiguration, which was described this way in The Message: His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. Then Moses and Elijah appeared and the three disciples saw Jesus consulting with Moses and Elijah.
But Peter in a panic gets all worked up, is practically frantic and needs to respond to all this. He says, "Let's put up tents." The writer of this Gospel notes that this absurd remark was only made because he didn't know what else to say.
God intervenes, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” Suddenly only Jesus is left.
Elsa pointed out that this is the first time in the Gospel when Jesus’ identity is revealed. God speaks, "This is My Son."
Now imagine you’re Peter. It has been a week since Jesus said He was going to be killed, so you’ve spent a week all anxious about your friend. Now, on this mountain, God affirms that He loves His Son, and Jesus will be glorified.
This is what is true, the ultimate truth… no matter how bad things get, this is how the story ends. Glorified, not buried.
“Listen to Him.” It's interesting that Jesus is not talking in this scene.
Mountaintops and visions are temporary. We relish them but they can’t nourish us forever. God the Father is fully aware of the suffering that awaits Jesus. God says, “Listen to Him,” because mountaintop experiences fade like a mist. His words live forever. The words and promises of God are what are true forever.
Some of you have been on mountains or have received powerful affirmations of God’s greatness… but even if you have not, the Lord’s words are here for all of us. “This is My Beloved Son. You can trust Him.”
Life is lived at the bottom of the mountain, not on the mountaintop. Often the valleys are deep, and sometimes our sorrows are so awful it feels like our lives are being lived on the bottom of the ocean.
The only hope worth having is the kind that you can take into the darkest hell, and yet it’s still true. God’s promises are His strong arms. These are not greeting card sentiments. This is a living hope.