24 February 2009

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

The ministry of the Law is not without divine glory. It is the Word and will of God. It is good and right. It is impressive and powerful, so as to shake mountains and cause sinners to tremble.

But the righteousness of the Law cannot save you. It does not make you righteous, but condemns you. It does not bring you to God in peace, nor does it glorify you. It will either terrify you, or mislead you into selfish pride; not because it is bad or dishonest, but because of the hardness of your heart.

The Law never was intended to give you life, but it points you to the life and love of God, which are in Christ Jesus, your Lord.

Because the Law is God’s good Word and His will, and because it points to the Lord Jesus Christ, to contradict or deny the Law, to disregard or disobey it, is all the more deadly and damnable than trying to save yourself by it. Better to live according to the Law than to break it. For if you reject the Law of God, you will surely die in your wickedness. Yet, if you endeavor to save yourself and live by the works of the Law, then you are under its curse and condemnation.

When God comes down with commandments engraved in stone, and confronts your stony heart with them, then there is wrath and fear, terror and dread. That glory of the Law brings not life, but death.

But when God comes down from the Mountain in the flesh and blood of Christ, then His greater glory is manifested in mercy and compassion.

That which the Law commands — faith and love toward God, and love for the neighbor — is fulfilled and accomplished by Christ Jesus, specifically in His Body: crucified and risen. Not simply as an unraveling of your disobedience and failure, but as the true keeping of God’s good and gracious will for you. The life, death and resurrection of God’s Son in the flesh is the full realization of His divine glory; and all of this is for you, that you may live and not die.

Thus, when Jesus comes down from the mountain, He is not leaving His glory behind, but He proceeds to the greater glory of His Cross and Passion. Everything else, before and after, hinges on that.

The glory of the Law gives way to the glory of the Cross, by which Christ establishes His righteousness for you. And all the miracles of Christ Jesus, as well as those of His Prophets and Apostles, are gathered up into the Resurrection of His Body from the dead.

It is in the flesh of Christ, crucified and risen, that you behold the glory of God and come to Him in peace. It is by the Word of Christ Jesus, His Gospel of forgiveness, that you hear and know, believe and trust the good and gracious will of God (who is your Father in Him).

Thus, the highest Mountain of God is not Mt. Sinai, nor even the Mountain of Transfiguration (Tabor?), but Mt. Calvary, upon which Christ Jesus is lifted up in death upon the Cross.

And the true Mt. Zion, where the glory of the Lord resides, and where His holy Name abides, is not the Temple in Jerusalem (which has long since been destroyed), but the Altar of the Holy Communion. It is to His Altar that the Word of Christ brings you in love, to the center of life in His Body and His Blood.

Here, you also are transfigured by the glory of God in the flesh of Christ — in your body and life — to live in holy faith and perfect love. Not by impressive deeds of worldly grandeur, but in self-sacrifice and humble service. For the gracious Word of Christ has clothed you in the glorious garments of His righteousness and holiness. You are not condemned, but forgiven and set free.

Your flesh, also, is glorified by the flesh of Christ, to live in love, both here in time and hereafter in the resurrection of your body forever.

By His Cross and in His Resurrection, you are saved; for He has made His tabernacle here with you, not on the exceedingly high mountain that you could never climb, but in your own flesh and blood.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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