“Moved by the Spirit”
2 Peter 1:16-21, February 23rd, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Open your ears to the words of this writing from our New Testament reading, second Peter, chapter one, verses sixteen thru twenty-one.”
2 Peter 1:16-21
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
“Let your heart open to the words of the Spirit, transmitted to us through these ancient writings.”
“Moved by the Spirit”
Let us now bow our heads and listen to this prayer written by Kate Matthews, a pastor in the United Church of Christ. “O God of the covenant, the cloud of your splendor and the fire of your love revealed your Son on the mountain heights. Transform our lives in his image, write your law of love on our hearts, and make us prophets of your glory, that we may lead others into your presence. Amen.” Now and then it is good to allow another to lead us in prayer. Oftentimes we need to step back and take a closer look, a second look, at what we are saying and doing and allow another to alter and change our thoughts. Thereby pointing us in a different direction. Thank you, Pastor Matthews.
As Christians we often talk about being transformed. We also spend a lot of time and effort speaking of the role the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ which moves and directs our lives. We focus on the prayed for, the hoped for, and oftentimes, the unexpected transformations that change, not only ourselves, but our very understandings of life itself! When we speak of being moved by the Spirit, we are talking about being changed by the living presence of God! Today, we are going to talk first about how the early disciples were moved by the Spirit of God. We shall hear of their firsthand testimony to the belief that the early disciples, such as Peter, having heard the voice of God, as Jesus himself was transfigured in their presence! Today, we live in a world that sorely needs to hear more about transformation and having faith in the Living God who has been working in the hearts and lives of those who came before us, and now reach out to us in these words from this second letter attributed to the Apostle Peter.
A great many of us have grown up in a world where being part of a church, a Christian church, was central. In today’s world, the society where we live has changed for large populations of Christians; especial Christians like us. So, what are we like? Who are we? Do others need to be transformed or is it us that needs to change? Big questions to answer. Can we, can you and I find the answers in today’s lesson? Possibly, but more likely we will only get bits and pieces of a larger answer that needs to be incorporated into a larger view of our society and the world. We will need to break this down into workable chucks or segments to get a handle, a grip on this topic.
Let’s start by clarifying the clues in our scripture passage first. The first is the reference to the transformation of Jesus. Our scripture lesson connects us to the gospel account of the Transfiguration of Christ, witnessed by his disciples, recorded for us in the gospel account according to Matthew, chapter seventeen, verses one thru five. (Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”) As we allow this scripture to join with the witness from the letter of Peter of the same account, let us consider its implications for us today.
Morgan Freeman, speaks to us about being still, thereby allowing the radiance of God’s Living Spirit to touch us, changing and transforming us.”
“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” /Morgan Freeman/ We need to take a breath of air, allowing it to fill our lungs, ever reminding us that every breath we take is a gift from God. As we continue breathing, we can give ourselves permission to relax and allow the fullness of God’s love to radiate within us. If we are willing to do these simple steps and while doing so allow the weight and troubles of the world to rest lightly as they slip away – into the waiting arms of a God who has been carrying the troubles of the world – throughout the ages. This is what Morgan Freeman speaks of: “Let the stillness radiate through you as the winds of the ‘Spirit of God’, the ‘Living Spirit’ of Christ, changes and transforms you, changes us into something new.” The hardest part is as Freeman suggests is “learning how to be still.” We are always trying to do it ourselves rather than trusting God to be God in our lives!
When I was growing up it was always stressed to me that I had to do XY&Z to be an adult. Do this, do that and so on and so forth. Of course, when I did my best, without anyone’s help, it was often not enough or poorly done. Consequently, I would get all stressed out about it, which never made it better. As I have matured, I have learned a few things. But it has only been when I started taking responsibility for my relationship with God that things truly started to fall into place. Yes, you and I, we need to take action to accomplish things. And this includes striving to have a more conscious relationship with the God, the Spirit, the Christ which we have come to know! As mature adults we know we need to take responsibility for what we do and for the things we seem to never get around to. Yet, with God’s help… we can change how we deal with the real-world situations and things that come up for us every day!
Yet, another theologian, Thomas Merton shares how he has been changed by reading the scriptures. “By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a purer, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” What he is saying in laymen’s terms is this: “Slow down and take time to smell the roses!” How many of you are aware of the abundance of cardinals flying around in the trees just outside this sanctuary? Perhaps some have noticed how one or more of these beautiful red birds has taken to pruning itself in front of the side mirrors of our cars parked out front. Have you taken the time to simply stop and listen to the chorus of the birds singing joyfully into the heavens? Perhaps they are trying to get us to look up and be reminded that we are but a piece of a larger, a vast and awesome creation; a universe designed and put into motion by a Power we have come to know as God. A God whom we have come to know more fully through the writings about his Son, Jesus the Christ.
When you are feeling unsettled and unsure of your next step, look to the heavens and invite God, invite the Spirit of God to come be with you, invite Christ to bless you with healing and allow the grace of God to enfold you. Invite this awesome Holy One to share your troubles, your concerns and even perhaps ask for a bit of guidance. I don’t want you to trust me on this. No! I am asking you to trust God! The same God that has transformed troubled souls and lives throughout the ages! So many of us, so many of you, do so very much for this church. You do a wide-ranging variety of tasks, and you do so as volunteers. Those of you whom do this with no expectation of anything in return, your return is knowing that your efforts make a difference to the day to day functioning of this institution. Likewise, I pray you are opening your hearts, and opening yourself to the fullness of God’s inspiring guidance into your lives as well.
If you are still looking for proof of God’s presence in your life, because you are too focused on your mortality, and consequently you are depriving yourselves of the essence of knowing God’s power and grace. Consider this: Doctors are highly trained in how to work with the human body, and thus are greatly sought after to guide us through the processes of life as best we can. Consequently, health care is so very important to most folks; we all want reasonable access to skilled doctors and nurses. We want it for ourselves, our families and our loved ones. And a great many of our society want this access to be extended to everyone who lives within our boarders. With this in mind, it is important that we all come to grips with the realities associated with being human, as we do the best, the best we can… to take good care of the bodies which God has gifted us with for this journey, this sojourn, this stay through life. It is also our responsibility to use our faith – as we ‘welcome’ the essence of God into our human process!
Perhaps you may not know this, yet, many of us do, doctors, a large percentage of doctors and nurses are very much aware of the power of faith in the healing process of their patients. Therefore, they make space in hospitals for chaplains and they build chapels for families and friends to pray. Consequently, nurses allow Pastors, Rabbi’s and Priests, special privileges so we can visit and pray with the sick, especially when their mortality is threatened. Doctors gladly allow clergy (with the consent of the patient) to stay in the room when they are discussing a patient’s condition and guiding them in the decisions that need to be made. When we all get to heaven, I pray we needn’t look back at all the unnecessary stress and concern over the processes of our lives. Listen to the voices crying out to us through the scriptures. God can transform us if we but allow the healing Spirit of our Creator to enter our lives! Let us allow ourselves to be “moved” by the Spirit of God!