Our Hope of Glory

Our Hope of Glory

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Fellow redeemed in Christ, the texts for
this morning come from the Gospel, as well as the Epistle reading.

After having been married about a year, the
eighteen-and-a-half-year-old and the almost-twenty-year-old were blessed by God
with a baby boy. His name was Stephen. But Stephen was born with some severe
health defects and would probably only live a few days at best. The pastor went
quickly to this young couple’s side to visit with them, to pray with them, to
baptize Stephen, and to bring them comfort. As he was holding Stephen in his
arms, the father, with tears coming down his cheeks, asked the pastor, “Pastor,
is it okay to pray for Stephen’s death?”

And the pastor said, “Yes. That is exactly what the prophet
Simeon prayed for after he held the Son of God in his arms, ‘Lord, now let thy
servant depart in peace according to your word.’” And so they prayed that God’s
will would be done, and the young couple stayed with Stephen until Stephen
closed his eyes in faith and was ushered home to the arms of his faithful Savior
and God.

When a baby that small dies, you don’t think about buying clothes
for such a little infant. So, the mother, eighteen and a half years old was
found in Wal-Mart, looking amongst the clothing there for a little jacket, a
little shirt, a little pair of slacks to put her baby in, her son. Overwhelmed
with emotion and completely numb, she must have looked as if she had no idea
what she was doing, for there was another lady there named Jan. And Jan came up
to this young eighteen-and-a-half-year-old and said, “What’s the matter?”

And so the story flowed from the young girl’s mouth as it
was recounted to Jan. The gift of the child, the news that the child would die
soon, the pastor’s words, the baptism, all of that was laid out to Jan, and she
said, “I don’t know what size to get.” So Jan helped her find the right size for
such a newborn.

About a month later, Jan came to that pastor’s church and
joined, and when asked, Jan said, “It’s because of this young
eighteen-and-a-half-year-old who told me what God had done in and through His
Word.” Now, the eighteen-and-a-half-year-old never had it in her mind as she
was in Wal-Mart trying to find something to dress her son in, to die and be
buried in. She had nothing in her mind about witnessing to this woman. She had
nothing in her mind about the right words to say or the way to approach this
woman with her faith in Jesus Christ. It just came in the midst of her sorrow,
in grief, in anxiousness and worry and all sorts of emotion that this young
eighteen-and-a-half-year-old was experiencing did the Gospel message come out
clearly. But there are many people who possibly could hear such message and it
still be veiled unto them, but by God’s Holy Spirit was the veil lifted from
this woman’s eyes and she saw and believed the word of this young, now grieving

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus, before the very eyes of
Peter, James, and John, is transfigured. Glory is shining forth from Him. It is
your and my hope of what is to come, our glory upon entering into Heaven. And
yet in the midst of Wal-Mart with all kinds of a cacophony of noise going on
around her was such a transfiguration revealed for this woman through the words
of this grieving mother. And that is God’s power indeed.

Now, lest we think wouldn’t it be grand to have witnessed
such a revelation of God’s glory on that mount, remember what Peter, James, and
John all three did as they, having seen such a glorious sight, exercised their
faith in the following days and weeks to Christ’s death and resurrection. Peter,
having seen such a glorious thing, denied Christ three times. So much for
seeing God’s glory. James and John argued amongst themselves and got their
momma to ask Jesus to have one sit on their right and one sit on the Christ’s
left, because who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. So much for
having seen God’s glory. And yet, Peter and James and John were used by God. Even
in the midst of their sin, God still used them to proclaim His good news to
other sinners. And that’s how God reveals His glory, through sinners like you
and me.

In the midst of that young woman’s grief and sorrow did God
still use proclamations from her lips to change a woman’s heart. Just as God
used your parents to change your heart and bring you to faith, just as God used
sinful parochial teachers and teachers in the public school system and who
knows who else in your life, Sunday school teachers, and if we sit back at this
story and think, well, it can’t happen; how can it be, you are the poster child
of God’s grace in action, because, if it can happen in you as it has, well, by
golly, it can happen in someone else using you. And all of your foibles and all
of your doubts and all of your anxieties and fears and frustrations and anger
and all the other things that make up you as a sinner redeemed by Christ can
Christ use as He did this young girl, as he did Peter, James, and John to bring
His kingdom to other people.

That’s how God does it; isn’t it? He hasn’t changed his mode
of operation since. Sadly, as Paul said, even if our Gospel is veiled, it is
veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world
has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of
the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. For what we proclaim
is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for
Jesus’ sake. This woman never thought about framing her words in such a fine
fashion, but it’s not in that young lady’s power to do so.

The next verses of that reading, for God who said, “Let light
shine out of darkness,” and His Word created light, so God, through this
woman’s words, created light in the heart of Jan and brought her into the
kingdom of God just as God used the words of your parents and your faithful
teachers to create and sustain faith in your hearts. Many times those people in
your lives did not think about what they were saying or how it was being said,
and even were being used by God, was not a part of their mind’s consciousness.
And yet God did. Thanks be to God that we don’t have to be the one who has to think
about it for it to be done, because if it was left to us to think about whether
or not it needs to be done, nothing would get done. But it isn’t. It is God who
works mightily in and through you that brings things about in His kingdom.

Interesting indeed is this reading, this Gospel reading for
Transfiguration, because the season of Epiphany, and which we are finishing
today, is bookended by the reading of Transfiguration every year at the end of
Epiphany and the beginning of Epiphany always the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And in both of those readings, God the Father speaks from Heaven, “This is my
beloved Son.” And all throughout Epiphany has God, through these readings that
you have been hearing, has revealed Christ to be God in the flesh. You have had
it revealed to you the glory of God, and now we begin Wednesday with this sober
and somber season of Lent. God’s glory is the same whether it was viewed in the
baptism of our Lord in His transfiguration or… or in his death on the cross for
you and His glorious resurrection for you, which this day we continue to
celebrate every Sunday as a mini-resurrection celebration. All of those are
revelation of God’s glory to you that He is God for you in Christ Jesus. And
you and you, you too reveal God’s glory in your words, sin-stained though they
may be, and in your actions not purely motivated every time, but God still
works through you.

Gosh, what a glorious and loving God to use us and to
further His kingdom through such weak vessels as we, and in Heaven Stephen will
be there to greet you and that young woman and Jan and all those whose message
has been spoken and heard because God’s Word creates faith as He has promised.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.