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Posts Tagged "Deuteronomy 34:1-12"

The View from the Top

March 03, 2019
By Rev. David French

Have you ever stood on the top of a mountain? Jan and I were on Pike’s Peak at about 14,000’ on a crystal-clear day. Not only are the sights and sounds amazing, but they seem to go on forever. There was a feeling of calm, at least for me, like I was above it all, just looking out to the horizon. It really was beautiful.

When God took Moses up on Mount Nebo, He said to him, “I have let you see it with your eyes,” and Moses was able to see more than his eyes had ever seen before because he was truly seeing what God was showing. And, make no mistake, Moses had already seen a lot. He, who was plucked out of the river and raised in the house of Pharaoh, led about two million Israelites out of Egypt. With nothing more than God’s promise, they eventually just got up and walked away from a life of captivity and slavery into a life of freedom.

While they celebrated their newfound freedom on the banks of the Red Sea with great joy, that spirit of celebration didn’t last long. They had a long hard journey in front of them, and after just three days, they started to grumble and complain. They quickly began to miss the comfort of their bondage.

There’s nothing to eat or drink. Why has the Lord brought us here? It would have been better for us to die in Egypt. No doubt, they had no idea what they were saying, but it sounds like: “It would be better for me to die in my bondage than to trust that God will keep His promise.” But God, whose mercy is not dependent on our wisdom, instead of saying, “Have it your way,” provides manna and water for them out of His love.

At the edge of the Sinai just three months into their journey, they find themselves at the foot of the mountains that form one of the dessert’s borders. It’s here that God speaks to Moses in front of the people so that the people will know for sure that Moses speaks for Him. It’s here that the decrees and laws are given by God, and it’s here that Moses climbs Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. But when Moses comes back down the mountain, well, you know the story. To be sure, as the leader of Israel for some forty years, Moses saw the people of God at their best and at their worst. He also saw that, because of His promise, God has never stopped loving them.

One of the most powerful things I see as a pastor is my view from behind the communion rail. I say that because what I see from there is not just people kneeling at a wooden rail, but I see people kneeling at a wooden rail that has been stained with the tears of God’s people, tears of both joy and sorrow.

I’ve looked into the eyes of people who had just received news of cancer for themselves or a loved one and felt my heart breaking within me. I’ve seen tears of hope on the faces of those who hear the words, “And now may this the true body and blood of our Lord be your source of strength and joy now and into eternity” when they have just learned that eternity was closer than they thought. I’ve seen the tears of people who have lost loved ones to death or divorce searching for some sense of peace and understanding. I’ve seen the tears of parents whose children haven’t always made the best decisions and the heartbreak that can bring.

I also see the good things. I see new mothers bringing their babies with them to communion and see joy in their eyes as I offer the blessing of God’s protection. I see couples holding hands as they share not only in that sacred meal but also the love they have for each other in Christ who is the very foundation of their relationship. I see the things you eagerly do out of love for your Lord and for others. I see the repentance and the trust and confidence in the word of forgiveness God speaks to you. What I see at this rail is the miracle of God’s grace freely offered to His children at their best and at their worst so that we might never forget the love He has for each of us and the promise He has spoken to you.

Long before Moses, God said to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you”. While the Lord told Abraham that He would make him a father of many nations, still the Lord had to tell Abraham that over and over again. When the Lord called Moses to the top of Mount Nebo, He was reminding Moses of the promise He would fulfill in the lives of His people. God was assuring Moses that this was going to happen.

You see, our God is a God who keeps His promises. The promise of the Promised Land did not die with Moses. Joshua would continue to lead the people to the Promised Land. Through the Law and the Prophets, the people of God are today being led to the ultimate promise that is and was fulfilled when Jesus offered His blood on the cross for sinners like you and me. A promise confirmed on the day of His resurrection, a promise that will bring us at last to the eternal promised land, our heavenly home. The thing is, we are also a people who need to be reminded again and again of God’s love and promises.

We stand at the threshold of Lent and will soon come down off the mountain and walk through some of the dark and dreary days of our Lord. But, for today, the view from up here is one of Christ’s glorious splendor. The euphoria of seeing Christ’s glory was soon tempered by the words Jesus spoke to Peter, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed” and “On the third day be raised.”

But still, as we leave this place today we’ll be thinking about our Lord’s transfiguration. As you do, remember the miracle, but more importantly, remember His words.

The miracle of the transfiguration served a purpose that I believe all the recorded miracles of the Scriptures served: to strengthen the apostles; to build up those who, by God’s grace and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would lay the foundation of Christ church with the prophets. But, miracles don’t create faith in Jesus as our Savior. They certainly had a personal impact on those who received the blessing of them or witnessed them, but that was faith in the miracles themselves, not in Jesus as the Savior of mankind, as Holy Week will show. For them and for us, the miracles were intended to be signs that the prophets said would reveal to Israel her promised Messiah, the One they should listen to.

The truth of Jesus’s brilliant show of glory doesn’t make me believe that my sins have been paid for by His bleeding and dying. But, the Holy Spirit working through His Word and Sacraments has created a faith that indeed believes both in your heart and mine. There may be some greater truth about the miracle of the transfiguration, but in all honesty, at this point in my life I don’t see it. What I do see are the clear words, “Listen to Him.” When this was said, there was no doubt about who was being referred to. Moses, the man of the Law, was gone. Elijah, the prophet who entered heaven without death, was gone. As the voice spoke and the cloud lifted, what the disciples found was that their hope, like ours, is in Jesus Christ alone.

In His Name, Amen.

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