Pastor Eric Schroeder - Transfiguration - Sunday, February 19, 2023

Text: Exodus 24:9-18

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What does glory look like to you, and how do you get it? If you ask a hundred people, they might give you at least a hundred different answers. Still, we can probably cover most of the possibilities if we keep to some general themes. Don’t you think it’s true that in our world today, most people hear the word “glory” and automatically think of fame and fortune, power and popularity? If that’s what glory is, then how do we get it? It could be as a professional athlete, as a movie star or musician, as an entrepreneur, inventor, or investor. Someone interested in military service pictures leading an army to win a great victory in battle. Maybe a young person sets their sights on becoming an artist or social media “influencer.” A kid with a love for the outdoors hopes to catch a state record walleye or largemouth bass one day. Another dreams of saving lives as a doctor or fireman. Maybe you were one of those kids once. Maybe you still are, and some days, you still have hopes of attaining glory, whatever that might mean to you.

Maybe we don’t usually use the word glory, but don’t we all like to be recognized for what we do? Even if you’ll never be a CEO, isn’t it nice to get a raise every once in a while? Even if you don’t win an Oscar or a grammy, wouldn’t it be nice to be appreciated for all the effort you put in at work, at home, or at school? Even if people don’t line up to take pictures of you, isn’t it nice when somebody compliments you on your outfit, your flower beds or your lawn, your style in decorating? You don’t do it for the recognition, but it sure would be nice if someone thanked you when you cleaned up after them, made time for them, went out of your way to help fix something or cover for them so their life could be just a little bit better.

I think we all get that…Now imagine how God must feel on a regular basis. Glory isn’t something for him to seek out; no, all glory in heaven and on earth rightfully belongs to him because of who he is—the creator and sustainer of the universe, the giver and provider for every creature that exists, the only one who can save from death and all evil. And yet so many people refuse to acknowledge him altogether, whether out of ignorance or out of rebellion. Even his own people throughout time fall into temptation to seek our own glory instead of his. We’re tempted to grumble like the Israelites did so soon after God freed them from slavery and delivered them from the chariots of the Egyptian army. God fed them with manna, literally giving daily bread from heaven, and they complained that it wasn’t enough. They drank water that poured out of rocks, and still doubted that God would provide what they needed, and they robbed God of the glory that belongs to him.

What did God do then? Did he leave them in the wilderness to fend for themselves? No, he revealed himself once again at Mount Sinai, where the people would camp for about a year. We pick up after God had given them the Ten Commandments, and the people agreed to the terms of the covenant. What a powerful revelation it must have been! Hear it again. Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

At this point, we probably have more questions than answers. We’d like to hear more…It says, “They saw the God of Israel,” but we have no description of what he looked like, only a reference to where he stood. Did these 74 men deserve to be there? Of course not. No sinners deserve to be in God’s presence. But he welcomed them, and he fed them, and he revealed himself to them. With his

invitation and his presence, God showed his desire to be connected to his people, not apart from them. We aren’t told how long this encounter lasted, but don’t we see a preview of heaven, all thanks to God’s covenant of grace and glory with us?

From the time we are born, sin separates us from God. We are born already guilty, and our selfish natures pit us against our creator. Our complaints against his governance over our lives are no better than those of the stubborn Israelites. Our lack of trust, our doubts as to whether he knows what is best for us echo the Israelites who longed to be back in Egypt, forgetting how God had just set them free. We all deserve for God to raise his hand against us in anger, but instead here we are in God’s house, where he invites us to come not for his benefit, but for ours: to feed us and strengthen us and draw us closer to him as he reveals his grace and glory once again in word and sacrament.

We read on: 12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” …[skipping ahead]

15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

This time there are no elders, there is no meal mentioned, and no description of what Moses saw. Only the view from the outside. What do we know for sure? Mount Sinai isn’t tall enough to reach God’s presence. Instead, we see God’s glory come down, and Moses is invited in as the mediator of the covenant between God and his people. If we read on in Exodus, we see the content of what God revealed to Israel as he gave them a whole worship structure so that they would know him better: the law that revealed their need for a Savior, a sacrificial system that pointed ahead with rich symbolism to the Savior who was to come, and a whole calendar for their lives to keep them close to God. Once again, God didn’t do any of this for his own benefit, but for the people to know him and his plan of salvation for a world full of sinners.

That brings us to another mountain, almost 1500 years later. Moses would be there, too, and so would Elijah the prophet, but neither of them is the guest of honor. This time it is Jesus of Nazareth, the man who is faithful to and the fulfillment of the covenant God established through Moses. On the mount of transfiguration, God’s glory came down and settled around him, to show Peter, James, and John, and all of us that he is God’s Son in the flesh as our perfect substitute and the perfect sacrifice. Though God is perfectly pleased with everything he has done and said, Jesus proves himself willing to suffer the consuming fire of God’s wrath for every one of our sins. Though the disciples would like to stay for longer, Jesus knows that God’s glory will be seen in an even greater measure when he comes down from this mountain and continues his journey to the cross.

And now…for Jesus’ sake, we don’t need to go up any mountain to see God’s glory or enter God’s presence. For Jesus’ sake, God promises to meet us every time we come here. For Jesus’ sake, sinners are welcomed into God’s house, not because you are good enough, but because our Savior is, was, and always will be good enough to cleanse us of every sin.

Please don’t ever forget that the glory the world offers is counterfeit. Far too often we are drawn into the temptation to win the approval of people, though it threatens to pull us away from God’s will for our lives. Live as the child of God that you are and seek God’s glory instead of your own, knowing that

for Jesus’ sake, you already have your Heavenly Father’s approval. He gave it at your baptism, when his glory came down and his Spirit planted faith in your heart. He confirms it as he invites you to come to his table and share in the glorious meal of Jesus’ true body and blood, in, with, and under bread and wine. He restores his glory to you every time the words of absolution are spoken, and all your complaints, all your misdeeds, all your misplaced priorities and every moment of misplaced trust is removed from you as far as the East is from the West. It’s no wonder that St. Paul reminds us that we have the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. Keep growing in Christ, and God’s glory is never far away.

Very soon we have a blessed chance to grow in Christ as we begin the forty days of Lent. We do so in freedom, since God didn’t demand that we keep this season on our calendar. But let us do so with intention, as we see a Savior who was willing to keep his glory hidden for a time so that we could see it revealed for all eternity when he rises from the grave. Keep his cross and his empty tomb before your eyes, and rejoice that you will see God’s glory forever in his presence, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.