Friday, February 24, 2006

B Transfiguration - Mark 9:1-8 "Our White King"

Text Mark 9:1-8

1 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see [that]* the kingdom of God [has]* come with power.” 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 enveloped 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.

*[verse one can be translated in the perfect tense; as already having happened]


Jesus is the Son of God – that is for sure! We know this because during the Epiphany season, Jesus is revealed to us as the Son of God; through what happened to him, through what he taught, through the witness of the disciples, through the confession of the demons and the thoughts of the teachers of the Law at the healing of the paralytic, who thought, “Jesus is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? But more importantly we know Jesus is the Son of God because God the Father proclaims this himself.

The great Epiphany brackets belong to God. Jesus is first revealed to us as the Son of God at his baptism when God says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”(Mark 1:11) Now the final Epiphany season revelation is found here in the Transfiguration of Jesus, as God once again confirms, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7) We don’t hear such a confession again until the centurion, standing on the mountain of Calvary, looks up at Jesus breathless broken body and says, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) So in Jesus’ epiphany it is God the Father who first reveals Jesus as his Son and then on this mountain he reveals the Son of God again.

However, Jesus’ dazzling brilliant white appearance on the mountain is a different revelation to that as at his baptism and death. At Jesus’ Transfiguration the disciples were shown something very special and extraordinary. And we too are called to see and receive something very special today and every Sunday as we traverse to and from the mountain of God as he is revealed and given to us in his Word and in the Sacrament.

Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” (Mark 9:1) To see in our age is everything. Where would television or computers be if we couldn’t see? There is no doubt that we live in a visual age! We live in an age where newspapers, television, and our computers are full of advertisements. Even on the radio they seek to paint pictures with words. And here in the text for today it is no different, a picture is painted, we are given a glimpse of something extraordinary. God is advertising a reality only seen with the eyes of faith! Some of you here will not taste death before you see that the kingdom of God has come with power!

So what are we called to see? What is God advertising as Jesus stands in glorious splendour on the mountain with the disciples, and here with us today? It seems that we get a glimpse into the future like the ads on television which show the before and after pictures encouraging us to see ourselves before and after we use their product. Surely the three disciples had but a brief look into the reality of the unseen realm; a before and after glimpse of the man from Nazareth shining in glory as he would after his death and resurrection. They saw the glory of God the Son which, to this point had been hidden in the flesh of the man – Jesus of Nazareth. Surely they saw that the kingdom of God had come with power! They saw the King of creation, glowing like never before! A White King perhaps! His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. (Mark 9:3)

His clothes became whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them!!!!!!?

Ironically there is a bottle of bleach that claims to be White King – Australia’s number one bleach. Its makers want us to believe it is premium bleach. They want us to see its power: it whitens, removes stains, kills germs, is safe to use on fabrics wash after wash and leaves a fresh lemon scent. It even has a toll free consumer number on the side so we can find out more information about the product. There use to be ads on TV where women testified to its amazing power by showing us the before and after affects on clothes. White King’s advertising calls us to listen to it, and believe its claim of being the one and only whitening king.

However, Jesus is our White King! He is bleached in glory; his being is holy bleach, the only true premium bleach! He whitens and brightens us, he removes the strains of sin from our physical and spiritual bodies, he kills the germ of sin from the core of our being, he gives us a fresh scent and makes us a pleasing aroma to our Father in heaven. His cleansing holiness is safe to use on all people, it won’t destroy the fabric of the person, but it will get rid of the unwanted muck from our bodies. And if we want to find out more about the product, we can dial our way through the pages of the bible. This is the White King we are called to see transfigured before us every Sunday.

But how do we use our White King, how is he applied? Well on the back of the bottle we are given directions in which how to wash. But hang on! We already have been washed in our White King at our baptism. Should we drink the stuff? The bottle says no! But our White King says yes! Now let me be clear, don’t go home and drink bleach, come to the altar and eat and drink the White King, transfigured and given for you for the forgiveness of sins!

At the altar know that you are in fellowship with the whole glorified realm of God. Know that when we eat and drink the White King in faith, we feast in the holy presence of God the Father, the angels, our ancestors, Elijah, Moses, Peter, James and John. Take a glimpse at the bright dazzling holiness, and perfection of your transfigured beings, hidden now but one day made visible after your resurrection from the dead. I tell you the truth, some who are sitting here will taste the White King and see that the kingdom of God has come with power. And they will continue to taste him after death in eternity. In fact all of us are called to see with the eyes of faith — the angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, the Kingdom of God, as we kneel together around Christ and partake in the holy meal of his body and blood.

So come to the altar with hope that our Great Redeemer, our White King, has led us to the Father’s presence, the holy mountain of Zion. See the bread, taste the power of Christ within. See the fountain of salvation poured out for you in the cup. Cast all your fears on him, your lack of understanding, doubts, the confused Peter within all of us. Hear and trust the word of our transfigured Lord, listen to him!

See that: you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all people, to the spirits of righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

See the bright dazzling nail marked hands of Jesus holding and leading you, and making you a dazzling glorious eternal person along with the heavenly eternal people bleached with holiness sitting around you.

Repent and believe the good news, the Kingdom of God is here, the time has come to listen to Jesus — the Son of God, as he says, “this is my body, this is my blood. I am with you always to the very end of the age”, Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

B Epiphany 7 - Isaiah 43:18-25 "Water in the Wilderness"

Isaiah 43:18-25

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. 22 “Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel. 23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honoured me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. 24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offences. 25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.


Have you ever had one of those days, when nothing seems to go right? Have you struggled to find meaning or purpose in what is going on around you? Nobody knows the extent of how you feel, and they really don’t seem to care much either! Everyone around you seems so caught up in their own little world, that they fail to see what they are doing to themselves, to you, or to each other. In these days your blue skies seem only to be grey.

Or perhaps bad days come as a result of continually begging God for the blue skies to be grey. It seems as though your property has a curse on it. The rain comes and goes, but it never seems to fall on your land. In fact, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, while you wonder how you’re going to survive on your infertile arid country. You see your crops and stock getting poorer and poorer; you become lower and lower in self-esteem, and wonder if God is really there to bring you out of this forsaken situation. Or maybe it’s the opposite! You get too much of a good thing. The rain keeps coming, not looking like letting up, while three foot of water runs through your house. If it’s not one thing it’s the other. Perhaps you watch your church getting smaller and smaller, and start to wonder if it is really worth it! You see the budget falling further and further behind, and wonder what it will take to make it right.

Then in any of these situations, there are those who add insult to injury by patronising you with comments like, “It’s ok, it’s not really that bad!” or even worse, they tell you if you had more faith this would not have happened to you.

If you had some energy you might have fought back, but you don’t, rather you just stand, gob smacked that everything you touch seems to dwindle and die. You become dazed by the absence of someone to restore your passion. You stand in the wilderness of hopelessness, in the deathly silence of a desert where it seems that not even a skerrick of life exists.

Paralysed, total hopelessness, wretchedness, frustration, endless troubles, a debilitating desert. These are some of the ways of describing what you might go through in times of trouble; on days, weeks, months, and years when everything seems to be against you. But I sometimes wonder if this is how God feels when he deals with me; if this is how God feels with his people in his church; if this is how God feels with humanity — as he struggles with the wretchedness of your, and my, waywardness.

This is how God felt with his people the Israelites as they continually sought to bury themselves in the affairs of their sinful natures. He says through his prophet Isaiah, “…you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honoured me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offences.” (Isaiah 43:22-24)

Have we become complacent with the things of God? When we worship God do we allow him to call us to repentance through his Word? Do we really listen to his Word anymore, or do we only listen to the parts that suit us? Is our obedience to his Word governed by the God who dwells in our hearts and opens our ears? Or is our obedience ruled by our emotions, our thoughts, and our moralities; which at best are clouded with the fogginess of our sinful natures? Do we allow Christ to transform us into the individuals we were originally intended to be? Or do we still hang onto the pet sins of the past?

The greatest struggle we have as Christians is to trust God in the midst of all the strife we face in the wilderness of this world. We all too quickly flee from living by faith, and revert back to living by sight. And what we see is not a pretty picture as we look into the frustrations and temptations of our deepest desolate recesses; the place inside of us where we keep the most abhorrent things hidden. And as we take our eyes from ourselves and look at those around us we see the marks of the same things, which we all seek to keep hidden inside.

Trusting God is First Commandment stuff. We are called to live by faith and not by sight; to trust God and not become consumed by our doubts and worries. Now that we are Christians we are called into Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are called to worship in the way he has ordained; we are called into receiving his gifts in the way he has prescribed in his divine service of us. We are not called to worship our ideas of him, the feelings we may or may not get, nor are we called to follow and worship the deeds we might think bring us closer to him. No! We are called to follow God alone, to have no other gods.

When God is allowed to serve us, our thoughts will be moulded and encouraged, our emotions may or may not be affected, and we will be led to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. But these things always happen as a result of us being conformed to him. God comes to us and calls for a change in us. We never change God; he calls us into community and unity, through repentance and forgiveness of sins. God calls us to be conformed to Christ, so that our sacrifice of praise is a pleasing aroma in the nostrils of God. St Paul tells us, “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29) So in the midst of strife, in view of all the frustrations we bear in this world, in the face of hopelessness, and in the seemingly never ending desolation, we are called to trust God. And trusting God allows the Holy Spirit to conform us to Christ, so that we stand in the shade of God’s love; under the umbrella of God’s grace.

Even in the face of our habitual sinning God continues to encourage us. Hear the word of the Lord once again through the prophet Isaiah, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25) And again, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43:18-21)

In hearing his Word God calls us to trust that our sins are forgiven, and he calls us to hear with the ears and hearts of faith, what he does for us as we dwell in the frustrations of our sinfulness and the terrors of a sinful world. He calls us to trust in him, and be led by the Holy Spirit to feed on the living waters of Christ, whom he places in our hearts when we hear the Word, and when we receive the other gifts he offers in his Church.

How do we know all this? We know because his Word tells us, and because God walks with us through the troubles of this world! We like the Israelites have been freed from slavery. They from the bondage of the Egyptians, and we from the power of sin and death in our baptism.

This is what the Lord says at the beginning of Isaiah 43, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

Jesus says, “The time has come, the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:15) Come, follow me! (Mark 1:17a)” Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2006

B Epiphany 6 - Mark 1:40-45 & 2 Kings 5:1-14 "The Leprosy of Sin"

Key Text: Mark 1:40-45

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. 43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.


A leper comes stumbling into Jesus’ presence, desperately begging to be healed. This person, who bears all the marks of sin, death, and unholiness, approaches the One who is holy. This nameless man is unhindered; the leprosy that would usually keep him in solitude, is what brings him into the presence of God — Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Holy One of God. This is extraordinary that God would allow such a thing to happen.

Leprosy is a highly contagious skin disease and was probably the name used for a number of skin ailments in the days Jesus walked on earth. To equate it to a disease today one might compare it to the AIDS virus of the 80’s and 90’s, or the Bird Flue virus ravaging the world in these days. The thought of coming into contact with diseases like these, strikes fear into the hearts of most people, because they seem to be contagious without a cure, leaving a clear path to death.

Understandably, to come into the presence of a leper, an AIDS carrier, or someone incubating the bird flue virus, is to be avoided at all costs. The chance of infection, illness, and death is high. So for the leper to come into Jesus’ presence is completely remarkable. Jesus was a Jewish man on the move; he rubbed shoulders with many people. Surely his contact with the one white with leprosy would make him unclean and exclude him from public life.

However, as extraordinary as this might seem—for Jesus not to become infected with leprosy too—this is not the truly astonishing thing. In this event the leper doesn’t just come into the presence of a man, he comes into the presence of God.

Before Jesus came as both son of man and as God the Son, a leper in any Jew’s presence would render them unclean; something to be totally avoided. And if someone so unclean came into the presence of God, death would be instantaneous as they would have been consumed by God’s holiness. But it doesn’t happen when the leper meets Jesus, even after he is revealed as the Son of God! This is amazing; but why?

To answer this question, we do well to look at the events surrounding the Jordan River in the Gospel of Mark and in the Old Testament reading for today.

In 2 Kings 5(:1-14) Naaman the commander of the king of Aram’s army had leprosy. No doubt this contagious disease threatened his position as a face to face commander over so many men. This was not only serious for Naaman but also for the king of Aram who looked to Naaman to lead his men.

Israel and the Arameans—enemies of each other—were in a tense time peace. Border skirmishes were breaking out, threatening peace deals made in earlier times. The air is tense with trouble. However, the Aramean king, desperate to have his man healed, trusts the word of an Israelii servant girl and sends Naaman to the king of Israel to be healed by Elisha. Upon Naaman’s arrival and request, the Israelite king becomes very worried. He knows that leprosy is bad, it leads to death, and he has no power over death. His conclusion is logical, “See how he [the king of Aram] is trying to pick a quarrel with me! Naaman is not an Israelite, he’s white with deadly contagious leprosy; he’s unclean and incurable. Surely there is trouble brewing.

But Elisha hears of the Israelite king’s lack of faith, and tells the king to send Naaman to him, the prophet of God. Naaman arrives at Elisha’s place. But Elisha just sends a message to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. Now Naaman becomes angry. He knows, as the king of Israel knows, this is no simple ailment healed by having a bath in a dirty old river. This situation really needs a great deed, and yet, this so called man of God doesn’t even come out to see how bad the leprosy is! But convinced by his men, Naaman is heal after he goes and dips himself in the Jordan River seven times as instructed by Elisha, the prophet of God.

Hundreds of years later Jesus too is washed in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Jesus was baptised, but for what purpose? Why should God come to a dirty old river in time and place and be baptised? He is the Holy One of God! We know that baptism makes us holy, and cleanses us, from the leprosy of sin, but Jesus was without sin. So why should the Son of God be baptised?

Unlike Naaman, Jesus was clean and holy. He was an Israelite, in fact the only Israelite, the only person, to be without sin. But notice the direction Jesus was going. He came from God and was baptised by John and then he went out into the wilderness. God the Son came from the heavenly land of milk and honey, was born as Jesus son of Joseph and Mary, was baptised and declared by God to be his Son, and then he was led by the Holy Spirit out into trouble. He was lead out into the wilderness where the devil tempted him.

At Jesus’ coming and revelation as God, what was normal was now turned on its head. Ever since Jesus’ baptism the actions of baptism still remain the same; water is used, the word of God still the effective cleaning agent. But the One who baptises and cleanses, takes all illness on himself. And even greater, takes the cause of all sickness and death on himself. Jesus was baptised into his ministry, and that ministry was to bear the sins of all people on the cross, even though he was completely innocent. He came wearing the white robes of righteousness and put on humanity’s deadly robes of sin; he came clean and holy and put on our leprosy of sin.

It wasn’t so much the Jordan River that was important. Yes! It was a symbolical place for this to happen. But now the One who was baptised, baptises with the Holy Spirit, so that all might be baptised into him. Both John the Baptist and Elisha were messengers of God, but Jesus is the message – he is the Word of God. He was baptised into death so that we might be baptised into life, we now wear Christ’s robe of righteousness covering over the leprosy of our sin.

You’d expect that the Son of God would make a big entrance into his creation! But no, it was lowly in a manger. And on announcement that he is the Son of God, you’d think that things would have gotten better; but they were a death sentence for this innocent man from Nazareth; the Son of God.

This is good news for us. We like the leper are engrained with a sinful nature. Just as the leper had no access to God because he was unclean, our sin once upon a time didn’t allow us into God’s presence either. But amazingly God sent his Son to take the leprosy of your sin on himself. Like the leper who came out of hiding, healed by Jesus, and then was given access to the Father’s presence in the temple, we can come with confidence into the Father’s presence too.

Jesus came from God, he is God, the Holy One of God. He came and was baptised into death so that you might be baptised into life. We have been called out of the darkness of sin, out of the wilderness of sin, into the light of God. Jesus put on your leprosy and carried it to the cross; he carried it on the lonely track to the cross. A track you and I should have walked.

He died for your sin, but now he has been raised to life. So put on the robes of Jesus; hear his word; trust his forgiveness; he is willing to make you clean. Sometimes being a Christian might seem lonely but he is walking with you. God promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5; Deut 31:6) Jesus promises, “the Father will send, the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, in my name, and he will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27) And through baptism and his word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls us to see that, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b)

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God is with is, we have been healed; we will be healed! The time has come; the kingdom of God is near! Repent and believe the good news! I am with you always, to the very end of the age, Amen”.