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Hopeful Vision For Bold Living

February 7, 2016

HOPEFUL VISION FOR BOLD LIVING

February 7, 2016 (Transfiguration Sunday)

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR

 

Psalm 99


1The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

2The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

3Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!

4Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

5Extol the Lord our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!

6Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the Lord, and he answered them.

7He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.

8O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

9Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy.

 

2 Corinthians 3:12 - 4:2


12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

The passages we read today are not customarily associated with Transfiguration Sunday.  What these passages affirm for us, however, is in step with what is revealed in Luke’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus.

One truth emphasized in Psalm 99 is what Peter learned on the Mount of Transfiguration— God out-ranks any other authority figure or power.  Recall that on the Mount of Transfiguration Peter suggested to Jesus that three shrines be erected (one for Jesus, and one each for Moses and Elijah—see Luke 9:28-36).  

Peter did not realize he was suggesting that Moses and Elijah were equal in holiness to Jesus.  At Luke 9:35 we read:  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  That ended Peter’s suggestion to build shrines for Moses and Elijah.  From then on, his focus was Jesus.

In the same spirit, Psalm 99 affirms that God alone is to be worshipped.  The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!  He is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!  The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted above all the peoples.  Let them praise your great and awesome name.  Holy is he!  [Ps. 99:1-3]  God outranks everything and everyone else in creation.  

The Psalmist also affirms that God loves justice.  Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.  Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool.  Holy is he!  [Ps. 99:4-5]  

Worship that is true to the character of God affirms God’s passion for justice.  God is mindful about how power and privilege are exercised and shared.  God is concerned about how people treat one another, and especially about how those who are strong behave towards others who are vulnerable.  Any vision of God that ignores or denies the divine passion for justice and insistence on fairness is untrue to the character of God.  

A true vision of God guides and drives our sense of justice.  If we do not understand that our “Mighty King” is also “lover of justice” [Ps. 99:4], we will probably be insensitive about injustice around us.  

 

  • A vision that affirms God as “lover of justice” will condemn the Michigan political leaders threatened the lives of vulnerable people in Flint, Michigan by forcing them to consume poisoned water from the Flint River.
  • A vision that affirms God as “lover of justice” will denounce federal and state politicians as hypocrites who claim they are concerned about the health of people in Flint, yet refuse to appropriate funds needed to overhaul of the water system.
  • A vision that affirms God as “lover of justice” will question why people who knowingly cause men, women, and children to consume poisoned water are not treated as criminal suspects the same way the law treats people who sell illegal drugs.
  • A vision that affirms God as “lover of justice” will ask why Flint, Michigan has not been declared a disaster area.  
  • A vision that affirms God as “lover of justice” will ask why the Michigan governor and other politicians who superintended this situation are not denounced as environmental racists and terrorists by journalists, preachers, teachers, and other persons.  
 

The Psalmist also declared that humans, although involved in God’s work, are never to be confused with God.  Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name.  They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.  Unlike Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Psalmist recognized that Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were servants of God, not equal to God!  

No matter who we identify as prophets and priests, none of us should forget that God is the highest and only holy authority.  The Psalmist sounded that message repeatedly.  The LORD is king [Ps. 99:1].  The LORD is great in Zion, … exalted over all the peoples [Ps. 99:2].  Holy is he! [Ps. 99:3, 5]  Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool [Ps. 99:5].  Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy [Ps. 99:9], 

Our dilemma is that the God we are summoned to worship is mysterious, wonderful, and awe-inspiring.  The Scripture present human encounters with God as awesome experiences.  In the Exodus account of God interacting with Moses and the Hebrew people, Moses and his people heard God and were awestruck by God’s presence.  However, they could not view God. 

The Gospel of Jesus declares that God is mysterious, but not hidden.  In Jesus Christ, God’s compassion for the weak, concern for the poor, love for those who are unpopular, and opposition to injustice is revealed to us!

Why does God summon us to worship and reveal God’s self to us in Jesus?  The reason is for us to submit ourselves to God’s authority and join ourselves to God’s work of justice.  The holiness of God summons us to view God in worship and live with the spirit of repentance.  And the holy passion of God sends us to live faithfully in the world as bold witnesses of God’s love and truth .  

We are not called to engage in a lifetime of moral star-gazing or navel inspecting.  We are called to God, in worship, to be agents of fairness and justice.  We are called to God, in worship, to be agents of compassion and mercy.  

It is true that the call to live for God is call to humility.  But we must not confuse humility with timidity.  The life we are called to share with God through Jesus involves confronting all the systems and powers that violate the love and justice of God.  

 

  • As servants of God, we are called to protest the widening gap between those who are wealthy and comfortable and those among us who are poor and destitute.
  • As servants of God, we are called to protest bigotry and mistreatment of immigrants.
  • As servants of God, we are called to stand with and speak up for workers, and demand that workers be paid fairly, and treated with respect.  
  • As servants of God, we are called to challenge the wickedness that tries to sanctify war-making and vilify peace-making.
  • As servants of God, we are called to condemn the mindset that wealth should be used to create more wealth for the wealthy few rather than health and peace for the many needy people in our communities, society, and world.

 

Beloved, God is the supreme authority.  In God’s name, let us be people of love rather than hate.  

In God’s name, let us be bold witnesses for peace and opponents to violence.

In God’s name, let us be people of joyful generosity and challenge the idolatry of greed.

In God’s name, let us be people who welcome immigrants and strangers with hospitality, and let us reject appeals from those who treat differences as reasons for hate and fear.  

This is our call from God as we worship.  This is our ministry as followers of Jesus in the world.  Let us go boldly about it.  

 

Amen.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2016