Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Glorious Savior, Glorious Life” based on 2 Corinthians 3 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, March 3, 2019
My senior year at the Seminary, my wife and I lived on a couple acres along the Lake Michigan seashore. Don’t be overly impressed. We were renting a well to do family’s guest cottage. The total square footage? I’d estimate it at about 700 square feet. We didn’t have a lot of stuff back in the day, but trying to fit what we had into that place was like trying to fit a bulldog into a ballerina’s tutu. There wasn’t a whole lot of breathing room. We were pushing maximum capacity. That’s how this portion of God’s Word feels. It’s densely packed with grade A prime theology from beginning to end. It’s a challenging section. But walk with me as we unpack it slowly and as we do, Lord willing, we’ll be led to see that a glorious Savior for us means a glorious life for us. Hear the Word of the Lord as it’s recorded in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3.
It’s easy to see Jesus’ glory in our Gospel lesson as He shines brightly on the mountain. It’s also easy to see how we will shine brightly one day in eternity because of that same Jesus. It’s a lot more difficult to see how a glorious Savior for us means a glorious life for us now. In fact, we rightly condemn what we might call a theology of glory, the popular teaching that Christians should expect only good things and prosperity and smiley faces in this life. Jesus didn’t say that. He said “take up your cross and follow me.” He promised that the life of a Christian would be full of the most unglorious things.
But I don’t have to tell you that. We come here hoping find a little respite from the unglories of life. When you look back on your life so far, you see a lot of blessings, but you also see times when you were having to reach in the darkest depths of the kitchen sink trying to clean out a clogged drain. You see times when the news was good and celebration was called for, but you also see times when the unexpected brought sudden tears, and reduced you to a crumpled mess that could barely get out of bed. When you look back on your life, you see times when you boxed the devil on his pointy little ears, but you also see times when you put your arm around him like he was your best friend in the world.
We are sinful people living in a sinful world. And that means that unglory and ugliness will never be far away from us on this side of heaven. But again, you know that. What the apostle Paul shows us today is that because of Jesus, glory is never far away from us either.
As always, Jesus is the key. Glorious doesn’t mean always happy. Glorious doesn’t mean always spiritually successful. A glorious life is not, is not defined by our outward circumstances. A glorious life has Jesus and the hope he gives us as its beginning, middle and end.
Paul writes, Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. Lack of hope crushes a person’s spirit. But an abundance of hope makes them bold.
I was just talking with veteran Christian this week whose eyes have seen a lot of years. And a lot of dark days. She’s lost children and grandchildren in sudden, devastating fashion. And she told me the same thing many of you have also told me, “I don’t how someone without faith can manage.” People without faith also get cancer, people without faith also mess up their lives and families, people without faith also have to stand at gravesides. I don’t know how they cope. But I know how you cope. You cling to hope. Hope that comes from a God who loves you unconditionally. Hope that comes from a God who has proven himself to you in the past. Hope that comes from a God who promises a better future, if not today, one day, in eternity.
There’s something glorious about being bold in a world where by all appearances we should be freaking out a little! We don’t know what’s going to happen five minutes from now, much less five years from now. We don’t know what the next election will bring, what the next wave of secular societal peer pressure will bring, we don’t know how that might affect our jobs, our churches, our schools, our families. We don’t know what personal challenges, diagnoses, or tragedies are looming just over the horizon. We don’t know. And yet we do not cower or shrink back from tomorrow. Because we have Jesus. Covered by his perfection and bought with his blood, He makes us bold to stand in the face of Judgment Day. And if we can stand unafraid before an Almighty Judge, we can certainly stand unafraid and face tomorrow, no matter how uncertain it may be. That boldness is glorious and it can only come through faith.
We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. Moses’ phosphorescent kisser was pretty awesome, even though it eventually faded away. How much more awesome is a ministry where the glory never wears off or fades away! That’s what Paul had because he was blood-linked to the Lamb sent from heaven. Unfading glory. Because Jesus has unfading glory.
That’s what set Paul apart from the rivals who so tenaciously tried to tear him down. His rivals held on to the law of Moses like it was the foundation of the people’s relationship with God. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. They could offer no hope. They could only hand out report cards. You did this wrong, this wrong and this wrong. You fail! For them, the veil remained. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
You might say, “Wait a minute. We don’t see Jesus like Peter, James and John saw him on the mountain! Many things about him remain veiled to us. And when he does come to us, he doesn’t come in full glory mode, he comes in veiled fashion in Word, Water, Wheat and Wine.” All of that is true.
But there’s something pretty glorious about how the Holy Spirit, moved only by love and acting only because of grace, used those seemingly unimpressive things to draw back the veil of unbelief that covered your heart. And to give you a living, breathing faith. And to give you victory over death. And to give you the ability to live forever.
Though he may not yet show us his full glory, that doesn’t mean that he can’t occasionally show a little bit of his glory to us and in us. Paul states it in much stronger language. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Transformed into his likeness. That means the glorious change we saw Jesus undergo on the mountain isn’t the only glorious transformation we’re seeing this evening/morning. I’ve been trying to eat a little more healthy and exercise a little more often. And if you’ve ever done that before you it can be hard to be patient. When you look down at the scale and it’s the same as it was yesterday, or heaven forbid higher than it was yesterday. It deflates you. We want big changes and we want them immediately. That’s not how it works. Transformation happens slowly and eventually when you consume the right food.
Our spiritual transformation happens similarly. We want big change and we want it immediately. We also have the same expectation in the people around us, but that’s another sermon for another time. We want big change and we want it immediately, but that’s not how it works. Transformation happens slowly, over a lifetime, fed and nourished by regular, consistent, dare I say every week, dare I say every day, consumption of the Word and Sacraments. That’s how we are transformed into his likeness.
Wouldn’t that be a neat way to be thought of and remembered? As one who looked like Jesus? I don’t mean long hair and beard or however you picture him. I mean, having a heart that looks like Jesus’ heart. Wouldn’t it be neat if the people around you thought of you as someone whose heart looks like Jesus’ heart—one that is full of compassion and patience and mercy? One that pushes away ambition and selfishness and hate. Oh, Lord Jesus, make us like you—there and there alone do we find ever increasing glory.
Boldness that comes from hope. Unveiled eyes that see your Savior. Transformation that comes from a lifelong, consistent diet of Word and Sacrament. No, life will not always be glamourous. But with Jesus, life will always be glorious. Amen.
Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus-The Dazzling Deity” based on Mark 9:2-9 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Sunday, February 11, 2017
Throughout this Epiphany season, the readings you’ve heard, the songs you’ve sung, and the pictures your mind’s eye has seen have all been focused and centered on one thing: revealing Jesus to be the God-man who came into the world to be its Savior.
Today, on this last weekend in Epiphany, the theme is no different. And, really, that shouldn’t be too surprising considering the Gospel reading that you heard just a few minutes ago. Showing to his disciples a glimpse of his heavenly glory, Jesus transfigured before them. He trans—or changed his figure—or his appearance. His clothes became whiter than anything you’d see in a Superbowl Tide commercial and, according to another accounting of this occasion by the evangelist Matthew, his face even shined like the sun.
Yes, Jesus is God. If nothing else, that sight alone should have convinced Peter, James, and John of that fact. The same is true for anyone who has read or heard this account.
And yet, even as amazing and clear as that would seem, apparently the sight of the transfiguration was not the main attraction of this mountaintop event.
Peter wanted to stay up on that mountain. And you can certainly understand why. He saw two Old Testament prophets, who lived a little under and a little over a thousand years earlier, talking with his transfigured Savior.
Filled with wonder and amazement, without knowing what to say, but, because he was Peter, speaking anyway, he said “It is good for us to be here.” But, before Peter could finish his nervous rambling, God the Father stopped him. This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!
Rather than what Peter and the brothers, James and John, were seeing with their eyes, the Father wanted them to focus on what they had heard with their ears. What, in particular, was he directing them toward?
The answer to that question is hinted at with 3 little words that are somewhat easy to overlook in the gospel reading for today—the first three words recorded in your bulletin for today: After six days. Well, six days after what?
At the end of chapter 8 in Mark’s Gospel, the evangelist notes that [Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
He did not say that the Son of Man must sit at the head of the banquet table and feed you by multiplying bread and fish to feed you every day or to change the world’s water supply into wine for you to drink.
He did not say that the Son of Man must stand at the entrance to every emergency room and heal every disease, open all the deaf ears, give sight to all the blind, or make all the lame to walk again.
He did not say that the Son of Man must manipulate the algorithms on Match.com to pair you up with your soulmate or sort through the classified ads to find the occupation that fits your gifts.
That, though, is where, like Peter, it is so easy to get caught up in what you see. Because, in truth, sometimes, Jesus does bestow those blessings, and many more miraculous signs and wonders, upon you.
And that is the Jesus that, so often, you want. That is the glory that, so many times, you would rather bask in. But, friends, that is also the sight that Satan and your sinful nature secretively seek for you to yearn for.
Why? That ancient serpent and the original sinful selfishness inside of you wants you to focus on the stuff that is outwardly pleasing to the eyes because they have nothing to do with your eternal life or getting rid of what prevents you from entering into it.
Listen to him! The revelation of Jesus as the God-man who came into the world to be its Savior is not found in fancy clothes. Yes, Jesus performed miracles that proved his power over his creation, his supremacy over evil, and his absolute authority over sickness and disease. But, he did not come to be your Savior from hunger and thirst. He was not anointed and appointed at his baptism in the River Jordan to be your Savior from sickness and disease. He came to save you from the hell that you deserve because of your sin.
The revelation of Jesus as your Savior comes, instead, in the sights that hurt your eyes and your hearts; the stuff that makes you turn away in shame and disgust. Jesus’ revelation as the dazzling Deity comes in the only One who was without sin taking the sins of the world on himself and receiving the punishment that was due them. It comes in his bleeding hands, feet, and side. It comes in what he said to his disciples—in what he was about to, and later did, accomplish with his perfect life on the cross of Calvary. He sacrificed himself there to save you from the punishment that your compliance to the Devil’s temptations and your innate self-centeredness cause you to deserve.
When you are in the deepest pits of despair over your own sin or the painful consequences of life in this world so filled with corruption, the fiery darts of the Devil will come at you. They will try to force your focus on receiving some sign from your God that you can see to prove to you that he is your God and in control of your life.
Stop looking and start listening! The Son of God reveals himself to be the One who saves you from this world that is temporary and will bring you, instead, to the world that is without end. The world without evil and pain and suffering and sickness and disease and loneliness and depression and worry and anxiety and sadness—where he will wipe away every tear from your eye.
Over the next seven weeks, both at our midweek and weekend services, you are going to hear a lot about Jesus. You are going to hear about him suffering. You are going to hear about him dying. You are going to hear about his Passion. You are going to hear about his glory. Listen. Hear that the very Son of God, himself, was hung on a cross next to criminals, suffocated to death, and was buried in a tomb that was not his own. Listen to your dazzling Deity tell you, with holes in his perfect hands, feet, and side, that it was all done for you—to be your Savior. Amen.