Text: Luke 9:28-36
And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
Again this year, for Lutheran Hour Ministries Sunday, I wanted to give you a taste of one of the sermons from Pastor Greg Seltz, the current speaker on the Lutheran Hour program.
He starts, which I must admit I don’t do nearly often enough, with the ancient Easter greeting “Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah! Amen!”
And those listening to the broadcast today will hear him speaking about do-it-yourself projects: “Have you tackled a do-it-yourself project lately? These days it's known as DIY, and DIY projects have taken our culture by storm. Just turn on HGTV and you'll find ways to rehab your house, re-do your garage, and transform your backyard. If you want to tile your bathroom, repair your washing machine, or get your mascara professionally perfect, all you have to do is go to YouTube to find expert tips and a detailed demo of how to get it done right.
“People love a good do-it-yourself project. You may be one of them. It saves money, provides personal satisfaction, and lets you be creative. It also taps into the fierce sense of independence we have as human beings. We like to do things ourselves. We like to make things happen on our own.
“We even have a saying that pays homage to our DIY spirit: "God helps those..." finish the line... "...who help themselves." Right?
“But, actually, God never said that. That saying is not in the Bible. It started in Aesop's Fables and it found its way into Ben Franklin's writings.
“God's Word has a different take on our do-it-yourself tendency. Instead of "God helps those who help themselves," God tells us that He is with us to help the helpless. That's right; our do-it-yourself ability is really overrated, especially when it comes to what really matters.
“You may have discovered that in a number of ways. A woman in Spain decided to try a DIY project at her church. After a beautiful 100-year-old painting of Christ in her church began to deteriorate, she thought she would try her hand at art restoration. She scrubbed excess paint off the masterpiece and proceeded to fill in the gaps with shades of brown. The result was a disaster. The fine strokes of the master artist were replaced with blotches of paint that looked like a preschool art project. The elderly woman said she had "good intentions," but the damage was done.
“We may think we're weekend warrior DIY masters, but in reality we can be pretty unskilled and helpless. God understands that reality more than you know. That's why He came to the rescue-your rescue. The Apostle Paul said in Romans, chapter five: "You see, just at the right time, when you were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6 NIV). Powerless. How often have you felt powerless; powerless in relationships, powerless over addiction, powerless when you've made a mistake, powerless in illness?
“Are there things in your life that are trying to teach you this invaluable lesson today? [That’s one of the blessings of hardships, illnesses, and all the different kinds of suffering that we endure— we’re reminded that we can’t do it on our own.] Do you see your ultimate need in your life today? You may be trying to resist the notion. Perhaps you're doing everything you can to make it on your own. You're trying to handle life yourself. But there are some things you just can't do on your own.
“God understands that we're powerless. Even the poetry of the Bible reinforces our helplessness. Psalm 46 begins, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalms 46:1). In other words, we get into trouble and we need help, so God graciously steps in. Psalm 121 states it this way: "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth" (Psalms 121:1-2). Like you and me, the writer looked up to heaven when everything was falling apart. Where could he find help? From the Lord. God is in the help business because our DIY business is fragile and flawed.
“I think that's what Jesus' disciple, Peter, was feeling when he made a desperate offer to Jesus one amazing day on a mountain. The Gospel writer Luke tells us what Peter said when he saw the miracle of Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus.
“"Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-not knowing what he had just said (Luke 9:28-33).
“This event is called the Transfiguration of Jesus. It means that Peter, James, and John saw Jesus' appearance changed. They could see the bright glory of His godliness. It was a vision of heaven that included Moses and Elijah, the renowned prophets from long ago. These servants of God from of old spoke with Jesus about the divine plan of salvation which Jesus would accomplish on the cross by taking our punishment for our sin.
“This was an absolutely miraculous and remarkable moment. Now, some people criticize Peter for making the offer to build some tents for the trio so they could stay there in that glorious moment. But, honestly, who wouldn't want that? Peter's offer shows that he was tired of the DIY lifestyle. He was tired of slogging through the day-to-day grind trying to take care of things all by himself. He was ready for help.
“…Here he was in the presence of something much bigger than himself. Here he was with the true Son of God.… Peter yearned to stay there with Jesus and these men in glory who have finished the race. He didn't want to handle life alone anymore. Peter was caught in an honest moment. He had the need to be with Jesus. He craved the goodness of being with His Savior. Do you realize how good it is to be with Jesus? Do you know that that is His will for you?
“That's why He sent us… His only Son to save us. Broken and helpless in our failures, fumbles, and faults, God had mercy on us. Instead of brushing us off as lost causes, He loved us and sent Jesus to forgive our sins through His own death and to give us new life through His resurrection from the dead. For every inadequacy and sin in your life, for every point of helplessness you encounter, you and I have help. (In fact, you have something better than a helper, you) have a Savior in Jesus Christ. He came to be with you and to save you.
“As a matter of fact, let me get right to the point. You are Jesus' do-it-yourself project-the one He cherishes. Only He could be the perfect sacrifice for your sins. Only His blood could pay the price to free you from eternal lostness and imprisonment. God loves you so much, He is joyful to rescue you-to do His divine rehab of your life. That's why Jesus came into the world.”
And, once again, that’s what tripped Peter up as he made that famous statement, “It’s good, Lord, to be here. Let us make three shelters.…” It is good to be with Jesus. He’s not wrong about that! Why was Peter's comment so embarrassing? Why does the text say that he didn’t know what he was saying? Because they couldn't just stay there. From there Jesus was headed to the cross.
There are a number of websites, blogs, and Facebook groups out there devoted to people who used to be “evangelicals”— in other words, Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, etc.,— and have come to Lutheranism. Bear with me for just a moment. I know that pointing out why other Christian denominations are wrong and we’re right often rubs people the wrong way. But it really is interesting to hear these former “evangelicals” reflect on the difference. We won’t even focus on the theological differences this morning. Let’s just focus on the experiences of these former-evangelicals-now-Lutherans.
Yes, evangelicals talk about Jesus. They use lots of church words. They use lots of Bible verses. But what they don’t do is get around to actually preaching Jesus. They talk about Jesus, but they don’t preach Jesus. They keep Jesus in front of them— in the same way Peter wanted to keep Jesus in front of them up there on the Mount of Transfiguration. In the same way Peter just wanted to camp there in Jesus’ presence, singing about His glory and majesty and how awesome God is. Those are all true statements. He is full of glory and majesty, He is an awesome God. But that’s not why Jesus came. He could have stayed on His throne and been all that. He came to be your savior. He came to do it because you can’t.
That’s the miracle of Jesus. You are not on your own to handle things yourself. From this moment of glory, Jesus went forward to die alone, to die the death that you and I deserved— left alone by God the Father--separated from Him, suffering the pains of hell. Yours is not a do-it-yourself life. You have been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And the risen Savior is with you now.
If you’ll permit me one more plug for the Lutheran Hour, that’s why that program, let alone all the other things they do, is so valuable. In the middle of so many radio and television “ministries” that talk about Christ but never proclaim Christ crucified, they continue to proclaim the pure gospel: Jesus isn’t a helper, there to lend a hand when you can’t handle things. He’s your savior. You are a new creation in Jesus Christ.
On the Mount of Transfiguration God the Father spoke to the disciples saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him" (Luke 9:35). So let’s listen for a moment. What was He talking about there with Moses and Elijah? They spoke of “His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” He was talking about His cross. He was talking about His sacrifice. He was talking about all that He would suffer— for you. Listen to Him.
We are to strive for a holy life every moment of every day— “Put off the old self, with its sinful passions and desires,” Paul says—but that's not your doing. Put off the old self because that’s not who you are any longer. He has made you a new creation in Jesus Christ. You are born again— not by your choice or your striving after God—but by water and His Word. By the promise He made to you in baptism.
What do you and I hear when we listen to Him? “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” And, with those words, you are made new. “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” “Take and eat, take and drink, this is my body and my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” You are no longer that sinful creature. Peter had things partially correct. It is good, Lord, to be here. Especially when we hear the word of God’s grace. May God always grant us the ears to hear and the faith to live in His Word. Amen.