60th Anniversary & Transfiguration of Our Lord – “We Are God’s House!” Hebrews 3:1-6
Transfiguration of Our Lord – “We Are God’s House!” Hebrews 3:1-6
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the epistle to the Hebrews, the 3rd Chapter.
“1Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Transfiguration Day is a day of great celebration. The glory of our Lord was revealed to His disciples on the mountain top. Jesus takes three of his disciples and gives them the privilege of witnessing His divinity in all its glory.
Today is also a day of remembrance and celebration of God’s grace. 60 years ago God’s glory in Jesus Christ was revealed in this place of worship. 60 years ago God saw fit to plant the seeds of faith in this community. 60 years ago I never thought that I would be privileged to be here. I was just over two years old. The concerns of a two year old were somewhat less than they are today. I probably was just learning to run and figure out what “no” meant.
Yet, the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, moved members of our sister congregations to establish this congregation on the “far east” side of Evansville. Certainly this community was not all built at that time. This property was donated by the Koester family, and gradually the houses filled in around the congregation.
Some of the founding members of this parish lived nearby. Others lived a little further away. Yet, all followed their Lord and Savior to this place where the glory of God is revealed in Word and Sacrament. Some found their way here from great distances. The Lord brought you here to share in His salvation and to see His glory.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks to us today about our Lord and Savior Jesus. We are encouraged to consider Jesus who calls us through the Gospel to be brothers and sisters in His salvation. Through the Gospel, Jesus builds a house for His Father and receives honor and glory from men and angels.
In the words prior to this reading, we are told who Jesus is. He is the propitiation for the sins of all people. Propitiation is an important word for us to understand. This word takes the hearer back to the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. That gold covered box was the place where God communicated to His people. It was also the place where God’s people approached the Mercy Seat of God. The Mercy Seat was the covering of the Ark. Upon this covering there were two angels kneeling and facing each other with their wings outstretched and their heads bowed.
Each year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest would bring the blood of the sacrificial goat before the Ark of the Covenant. He would sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat and pour some out before the Ark. Such blood was the sacrifice to atone for the sins of Israel. The High Priest would then sprinkle the remaining blood on the people gathered outside the Temple. Such a sacrifice pointed to the death of Jesus who shed his holy blood and give his perfect life upon the Mercy Seat of the Cross. This Jesus did to redeem not only Israel but also the whole world.
This is where Jesus begins to build His church. It begins at the cross. Its foundation is the atonement for sin. Consider the Mount of Transfiguration. Whom did Jesus meet on that mount? There appeared to Jesus Moses and Elijah. Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant. Elijah was the prophet who called God’s people to repentance and obedience to the Old Covenant. They discussed with Jesus His departure from Jerusalem. This departure was Jesus death. The Old Covenant pointed forward to the Cross of Jesus. The New Testament is the fulfillment in the Cross of Jesus. For this reason St Paul wrote, “you are built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.”
Every house has a foundation and cornerstone. The foundation establishes the base for the house. The cornerstone establishes the point from which all measurements for the house are taken. So it is with the Church of Jesus Christ. God establishes the place where His people will be planted. He gives them His Word to show them how His church will be built. In that word of God is the very means and tools for building the church.
We sometimes think that the Church of Jesus Christ is brick and mortar, or wood and stone. We think it is stained glass windows, pews, altar, font and pulpit. We think it is lights and murals, banners and paraments. These are but things which our hands make to remind us of God’s grace and mercy. They help to reinforce the Word of truth and work of God through preaching, water, bread and wine. The Church is where the Word of God resides. The Church is where the water of Baptism touches the sinner’s life. The Church is where the body and blood of Jesus, in, with and under the bread and wine, nourish faith and strengthen trust is God’s Son. The Church is the People of God.
We gather in this building as the people of God. This sanctuary is a way point on our journey to eternal life. Certainly God is present here. For we do not begin any worship service or Bible Study without calling upon the name of the Lord. Yet, here is where faith is strengthened. Hope is renewed. Sin is confessed. Absolution is proclaimed. Sacraments are properly administered according to Jesus’ command. Eternal life is offered. God’s church is built and reinforced. Such work of God has been accomplished within these walls for sixty years. It will continue for the time which is appointed by God. This is His waypoint for your journey to eternal life.
Here in this place we are privileged to see the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Such glory is cloaked in things material for life eternal. Look around this sanctuary and see the glory of God first of all in the cross. It is prominent in your eyes. The light fixtures have the cross upon them. The altar of the Lord has the cross hanging over it. The worship service begins and ends with the sign of the cross. Jesus’ life is also marked by the cross.
What is the meaning of the cross? It is nothing more or less than the exaltation of the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. To the world it is foolishness, weakness and defeat. To you, God’s people, the cross is salvation, the power of God and victory over sin and death. We are about to enter the Penitential Season of Lent. This holy season is focused on the cross of Jesus. For in that cross the glory of God shines through to draw sinners to repentance and faith in the God who alone saves sinners by grace through faith in His only begotten Son.
What is the meaning of the font? There the water of life is poured over the body of the sinner. Such water is the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. In that washing the sinner is joined to Jesus in His death and resurrection. You are taken back to the cross and the empty tomb. You are crucified with Jesus Christ in order that the body of death may be overcome and new life be given you. Such new life is that you now walk by faith in Jesus Christ. The glory of God is that He takes you in His hands through this water and makes you His child and heir of eternal life. We do not see God’s holy hand but we trust He takes hold of us for time and for eternity.
What is the meaning of the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper? We speak in the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper a foretaste of the feast to come. Yet, we must also hear and believe the words of Jesus which accompany this holy supper. What does Jesus say about the bread? “Take eat, this is my body broken.” What does Jesus say about the wine? “This cup is the new testament in my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus’ body given and Jesus’ blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. The cross again is prominent in this sacrament. Those who are instructed in this truth and believe what is given, receive what is promised.
What is the meaning of the rail which stands around the altar of God? It is not a rail of separation between God and man. For the dividing wall of hostility has been removed through the blood of Jesus shed upon the cross. The rail stands as a reminder of our fellowship with God and with His Church which have obtained the goal of their faith, eternal life. The rail does not end at the wall on either side of the altar. We are encouraged to look past that wall and see the saints of God who have gone before us and are now in the presence of God and are looking upon the glory of Jesus Christ. In time we too will see such glory.
Consider this final thought. I once wrote to my home parish back in Michigan, I believe it was for the dedication of their new sanctuary. What encouragement could be given? What thought could be shared? The vision of Jacob at Bethel came to my mind. As I thought about it the purpose of the sanctuary became clearer in my mind. Do you remember what Jacob saw in his dream? What did Jacob say after waking from the dream God gave him?
“16Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.””
We stand at the very gate of heaven in this sanctuary. God comes to us every week to give us of His saving glory. Here we look into eternity and hear the voice of God speaking to us in Word and Sacrament. His voice assures us of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. His Sacraments place into our possession the faith to take those gifts as our own. Here God prepares a people fit for His kingdom and empowers them to bring His glory to the world outside these walls. This God accomplished for sixty years in this place and He will continue to accomplish until the Day of Jesus Christ. God keep you for that day.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen