“Cleverly Devised Myths” February 11, 2024

Posted by on Mar 10, 2024 in Sermon archives

“Cleverly Devised Myths”

Psalm 50:1-6/ Psalm 30

2 Kings 2:1-14

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-10

2 Peter (1:16–18).  “ For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”  we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”

“For we were with him on the holy mountain.” I imagine that thousands of sermons have been written based upon some particular mountaintop experience or other. In his famous “I Had a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King spoke with passion that he had been to the mountaintop. There’s just something invigorating about climbing up to where the air is crisp and thin and all the houses and highways below seemed to be tiny replicas of the real thing.

Throughout the years that I lived in Montana I did my fair share of seeking the mountain top experience, which is probably part of the reason my knees are trashed today. But there’s nothing like it. There is nothing like it which makes the mountain top an ideal location for Christ to fully reveal himself to a select group of disciples.

So welcome to Transfiguration Sunday. This event has been recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and is traditionally covered in Christian worship services immediately before the season of Lent. But truth be told  , it’s one of those stories that can be difficult to swallow.

You know, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking other clergy members what they will be preaching on the next Sunday. It’s always helpful to engage in an exchange of ideas and perspectives when it comes to the interpretation of scripture. But over the years I found that when I ask, “Are you preaching on the transfiguration?” The reply I get is rarely enthusiastic.

“Ohh, I don’t know.” They will say. “I’m leaning more towards the epistle,” or maybe the psalms or even the Old Testament text of the day, and it always leads me to the question of why did the transfiguration story become such a hot potato?  Is it because this story appears to be nothing more than “a cleverly designed myth,” as Peter says? Or do we struggle because it’s hard to understand why it was that Christ chose to reveal himself in all his glory at that time and at that place. I wonder what purpose did it serve? I mean, it’s not like Peter, James, end John needed any further convincing that this man, this Jesus of Nazareth, was   the Messiah.

So, what was the point? The simple answer might be that by revealing his full divinity, Jesus was preparing them for the events to come. We are reminded  of this need for preparation at verse 9, which reads: “Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw. After the Son of Man rises from the dead, you’re free to talk.” They puzzled over that, wondering what on earth “rising from the dead” meant.”

But the better answer- at least for me- lies in the fact that we rarely come to accept Christ and embrace Christ  through our intellect alone. We need to experience qualities and manifestations of Christ that grab us by the heart and won’t let go. The beauty and the value of the transfiguration rests in its ability to remove all doubt that Christ is Lord. He is God Incarnate, God in the flesh. We have been taught this all our lives and have come to believe each in our own way. The ancient writings of the prophets as well as the writers of the gospel attest to this fact. And here’s the thing: these are not cleverly devised myths. No, they are an accounting of the most incredible, stupendous, awesome, and remarkable act of pure love that has ever occurred. And that is that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever should believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. “ This is my beloved son,” he tells us. “Listen to him.”

But you know, part of that listening is opening our hearts and opening our minds that we might be receptive to the infinite and unconditional  love of God that is expressed in Jesus Christ. To know that love, to feel that love, and to live that love is to experience the true glory of God.

It was on May 24th in 1738 that John Wesley reluctantly attended a  Moravian group meeting in Aldersgate, London. It appeared to be just another Bible study , you might say, but when someone read from Martin Luther’s preface to the book of Romans, Wesley remarked later that he felt “strangely warmed.” He went on to say,  “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

” that he had taken away my sins, even mine, even mine.

There are those that like to consider this a conversion moment for John Wesley. The fact that he was already an Anglican priest leaves this open for debate, but that is hardly the point. The point is the John Wesley made himself receptive to the power of the spirit and, whammo, he was able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.

You know, we sing songs about ‘what a friend we have in Jesus’  and ‘Jesus loves me, this I know,” and these all ring true to the nature of our faith. But in our times of gladness as well as our times of struggle as we call upon the name of Jesus. whether it be in praise or despair, it is Christ glorified that needs to be on our radar.

I had a phone conversation with an old friend and mentor from Montana this last week. Connie is a retired Methodist pastor, But that doesn’t keep her from preaching every chance she can get. Years ago, Connie suffered from a severe case of transfers myelitis which left her partially paralyzed for quite some time. She has come out of the paralysis but the condition has left her with some bad side effects, most notably the loss of feeling in her left leg. This makes walking difficult and she has taken some bad falls along the way. When I told her that walking was still a struggle for me and that I had taken a couple of tumbles, she didn’t hesitate. “Do you invite Jesus to walk with you?” she said. I muttered something or other, but she carried on, “Well that’s what  you  need to do,” she told me. “That’s what I do. Every time I face these stairs, I ask Jesus to walk with me, and you know I don’t think I could pull it off without him.”


Now, some might consider these words a simple statement of great faith. Some might consider them an example of the strength and clarity that comes from a life in prayer. The cynics among us might consider this nothing more than the reaction to a cleverly devised myth,   that makes my heart ohh so sad.

We seldom speak of the glory of God. I mean, we’re Methodists after all. We’re not likely to speak in tongues or wave our arms up in the air. But that doesn’t keep us from acknowledging that we serve a God of glory. A God of majesty. a God of power and might. So yes, I’m going to ask Jesus to walk with me. Come to think of it, it is the presence of Christ along with good friends and a loving wife that has gotten me through this whole mess all along.

“This is my beloved son,” spoke the voice of God. “Listen to him.”  I might add that we could have been instructed as well to ‘walk with him. Commune with him, worship with him,’ and perhaps most important of all that we might ‘seek a glimpse of the glory that resides in him.’

Amen and Shalom







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