(sermon note: 02-19 sermon note)
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
Six days later, 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!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about an old man who thought his wife was losing her hearing. He called the doctor about it and the doctor said he could do a little experiment to determine the severity. “Ask her a question from the next room in a normal tone of voice, and keep asking while coming closer until she can hear you. That way you know the
range of her hearing.” That night, he was sitting on his easy chair in the living room while his wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner. He estimated he was about 30 feet away. In a normal tone of voice, he asked, “What’s for dinner, honey?” She didn’t respond, so he got up and
walked to the kitchen doorway, about 20 feet away, and again asked, “What’s for dinner?” She still didn’t respond so he walked 10 feet closer and asked, “What’s for dinner?” She still didn’t say anything, so he got right up beside her and asked, “What’s for dinner?!” Exasperatedly she responded, “For the fourth darn time we’re having chicken!”
Apparently the old boy’s wife wasn’t the one hard of hearing after all. Oh, how quick us husbands can project our own shortcomings onto our wives! Old boy needs to learn a little bit of humility from the men in the kingdom of last week’s joke. Maybe a little fear could help him become more hesitant to project. I suppose old men will do what old men do with much comic effect.
I only lifted up that one because the old man had lost something, perhaps unbeknown to himself. It’s been said that loss is a deeply ingrained part of life whether we like it or not. We all experience some type of loss in this world and in this life. The older we get, the more the losses become apparent. But all throughout life we experience a variety of losses. We might lose loved ones or friends at an early age. Perhaps a home or a school. The older we get and the more exposed we are to the ways of the world, we eventually lose our childhood and the innocence that accompanied it. With any luck or through unfortunate circumstances, we may lose our sexual naivete or virginity. Some of us may make decisions that cause them to lose their freedoms. We lose jobs and careers. We lose relationships and experiences. We lose our health and all the joys our bodies can bring us. Hearing is something I pray I never lose but working around loud jets and heavy equipment during my stint in the military almost presumes such loss. I know I can’t project my loss onto my wife! Some of us may even lose our minds. Again, a loss I pray will never befall me! I’m pretty much okay with all the loss that awaits me in the years ahead but I’m terrified of losing my mind. I’m just so grateful for the rich mind that God gifted me with that I can’t imagine living life without it. I know I’ll lose my health, my relationships, my career, my home…heck, even my dog. And I’m okay with it. Why? Because I also know that there is one relationship that I’ll never lose: my relationship with God. God will always be walking alongside me, each and every day of this life. I suppose He’ll even be walking alongside me if I lose my mind. I may not know myself or the world around me but it’s okay, God knows me and loves me. I don’t have to have a mind to have God in my life. All that I need is a little trust. Trust and faith that GOD is faithful! God has claimed me and will always walk with me!
It’s true, loss is an inevitable part of life. But is this something to be afraid or to avoid? No, of course not! In fact, it’s the people who accept loss and learn to cope with it that also stand to benefit from it. Loss isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes…a lot of the times…loss can be a good thing! Ask any of us who are carrying a little extra weight these days. Ask any of us who are struggling with addiction these days. Ask any of us who are burdened with depression or anxiety these days. Oh, how joyous it would be to lose that weight, those addictions, that burden! Not all loss is bad!
Jesus certainly doesn’t consider loss to be bad. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” What a powerful statement to make! Talk about the ultimate loss, to lose one’s life! Is there anything more meaningful to lose than our very lives? Jobs come and go, relationships come and go…homes, pets, health, wealth, we all eventually lose them. But we can’t lose them unless we have life itself. We lose our lives and well, there’s nothing left to lose. Or is there? Jesus likes us to think so. Yes, Jesus reminds us that there is one more thing we can lose besides our lives: our eternal souls. But guess what? He’s got ‘em covered! We simply have to place our trust in him and he promises to care for and nurture our souls for all eternity. Simply trust! Psalm 37 says, “commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (vs. 5) God WILL act to preserve our lives, our eternal lives! I think becoming aware of our eternal lives helps us to truly live out our mortal lives. Trust is important if we’re ever going to experience true joy in this life. We have to trust…in God, in each other. Trust is the key to true life. Jesus wants us to know true life, true joy. All we have to do is trust in him. John tells us Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (8:12) Friends, darkness is all around us in this world but we don’t have to live in it. We can live in the light! Jesus is the light! Trust in him!
It’s interesting how Jesus’ teaching comes immediately before he took three of his most faithful disciples up a mountain and revealed his full glory to them. Was he rewarding them for their dedication and trust in him? Probably so. What’s to say he wouldn’t reveal his full glory to us for our dedication and trust? He probably would. But again, I can’t stress enough the importance of having trust in him. That’s all it’s about! True life comes from true trust! Let us be fully trusting, fully committed to him. Let us be as Paul was as mentioned in his letter to the Phillippians: “but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (3:13) Straining forward requires us to be fully trusting. So let us be so! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.