The Transfiguration of Our Lord February 10-11, 2024
“Lies and Truth” II Peter 1:16-21
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I think we have an epidemic. We have an epidemic of lies. A few years ago, one of our folks, returning to their car in our parking lot, was shocked that someone had hit their car, damaged it, and had left no notice of who did it. No name. No apology. No insurance number. Hit and run. Hit and hide. Hit and make believe you have no responsibility to the people who have gotten their car damaged. Every part of that action is a lie.
Have you noticed how many people hit another with their car and just leave the scene of the accident? The number of hit and runs has skyrocketed in these past years. They injure a person, sometimes killing them, and just leave a person in their injury or their mortality. The right thing to do is to stop and help. The action with integrity and courage is to be responsible for what you did. But we live in a world that lives on lies, that lacks courage and integrity. How sad!!
Lies will destroy you. Lies will always catch up with you. The church has gotten a bad name over the last few decades. The church tried to cover up abuse that some ministers were perpetuating on some of the most vulnerable of its members – upon children and youth. The actions, and the lies to hide those horrid actions, were too much for many people. Some have turned their back on organized religion because of such actions and the running and hiding and running and lying.
One of the biggest accusations against the church is that hypocrisy – living a lie – has taken over the church. People want something authentic and real. They want a religion that is real and trustworthy, one where they don’t have to question whether they have been deceived by word or action.
St. Peter addresses the difference between truth and lies like this: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (II Peter 1:16-18) No lies. All truth.
The great event that we recognize today, the Transfiguration of Jesus, is God’s truth. Jesus hikes up a mountain and brings with him Peter (the one who wrote this epistle), James and John – two others in the inner circle of the 12 Apostle’s. And all at once the glory and majesty that existed always inside of Jesus was apparent on the outside. “His face shown like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2) And to add to this show the two top persons in the Old Testament appeared – Moses and Elijah – and they spoke about the crucifixion that Jesus was soon going to endure. Peter tells us that all of this was truth. No cleverly invented stories here.
Today is the Transfiguration of our Lord, the conclusion of the season of Epiphany. It is the last Sunday before we begin Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day. It actually is a good combination. We began Epiphany with the Baptism of our Lord and we conclude it on the Mount of Transfiguration. At both of these events we heard God the Father’s truth about who Jesus is. At the bookends of this season, we have heard a voice rumbling from heaven. At the Baptism of Jesus we heard, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17) It sounds quite similar at the Transfiguration. “While he (Peter) was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’” (Matthew 17:5)
If lies kill you, the truth will set you free. You can trust what God says to you in His word. The Scriptures are true. The Bible is true. God’s word is true. Peter says, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:20-21) Peter wants us to know that man didn’t create religion; God did. We have a number of occasions when the writers of the Scriptures remind us that they were eyewitnesses of the events of which they wrote. When Luke begins his gospel he says this, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good for me to write an orderly account to you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
God has always been concerned about giving the truth. When some of the preachers in Old Testament, or New, were feeding the people with lies God was enraged. In the New Testament God gives this warning, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (II Timothy 4:3-4)
Do you want to get it straight? Then listen to what God says. God is in the truth business. God’s people, His church, must also be in the truth business. In truth Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus about the work that He would be doing as He headed to Jerusalem to be the sacrificial lamb dying for the sins of the whole world – including mine and yours. The truth of the Scriptures, this word, the Bible, is ultimately to bring you to Jesus. John, toward the end of his biography of the life of Jesus says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
When the word is doubted, Christ is doubted. It was the first temptation given to Adam and Eve in the Garden – “Did God really say…” and it is the same temptation today. Truth is what Peter was proclaiming when he spoke about the Transfiguration of Christ. No myths. No fables. No lies.
God’s good word will lead you straight to Christ. It will bring you assurance and confidence that in Christ all of your sins have been forgiven. It will tell you that you have the assurance of everlasting life through the death and the resurrection of Jesus. The word of God will make you stronger and allow you to live in a godly peace. In the first book that Peter wrote he says, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (I Peter 1:23)
Have you seen how strong God’s word of truth is? Have you seen how it can change the life and the heart of a person in an instant? It can. It does. In my old, worn out Bible, I have the name of Walter Betlow next to Psalm 19:9-10. The verses highlighted read, “The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” I dated that section. 1.7.2000, 1.15.2000.
24 years ago I met that man for the first time and the only time. The family called me to Lutheran Hospital in Wheat Ridge because Walter was dying. Walter had throat cancer and he died that day – January 7, 2000. I buried him a week later on January 15, 2000. I chose that verse about God’s word being sweeter than honey because of what Walter said to me.
When I got to his room I nestled up to Walter’s ear and I spoke about Jesus. I spoke of the love of Jesus, about His death and resurrection. I spoke about heaven and that God’s hand was resting on Walter. I told him that he didn’t have to fear but he could die with faith and hope.
I learned from the family that the cancer that Walter had made everything that went into his belly have a putrid metallic taste and it would sit there in the pit of his belly. But after I told Walter the many words of God’s promise in Jesus and if he believed in Him he would wake up in heaven, he spoke to me and said, “What you have said to me is like honey going into my belly.” WOW!! What sweetness God’s truth brings. Everything was awful in those last weeks and days for Walter Betlow, but one thing – the message about Jesus – was as sweet as honey.
Lies leave you empty. They take away life from you and from others. But the truth is different. It gives life. Peter spoke the truth about that amazing scene he witnessed on the mountain. He wrote truthfully of it. God’s truth will lead you to the Way, the Truth and the Life – to Jesus, our Savior and Lord. There is nothing better than God’s truth. Open your mind and your heart and your life to it. Amen!!