A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sermon (February 15) by Rev. Robert McDowell - "Different Robes of Jesus: The Shining Robe"


     For the Season of Lent this year, our focus will be on a Lenten cantata called, “Come, touch the Robe.” It’s a cantata that includes anthems for each of the different robes of Jesus during his journey to the cross.
     These different robes include the Shining Robe, the Healing Robe, the Servant’s Robe, The Seamless Robe, The Spreading Robes, The Burial Robe, and we’ll also focus on The Rolled Up Robe when we gather for our Easter morning worship celebration.
     On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, they will sing the full cantata during our Sunday worship services which will include all of these robes of Jesus. This is going to be a very special time for all of us as we journey to the cross and to the empty tomb with Jesus.
     During these weeks of Lent, we are seeking to discover how we can truly encounter our Lord---the Lord of healing, of glory and authority, of humility, and of victory.  Until we encounter these aspects of Jesus, we are unmoved, and unchanged.  But when we encounter these aspects of Christ our Lord, we are moved, we are changed, and we are transformed.

     Today’s scripture passage, and the anthem we just heard tell the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain.  He took three of his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John up the mountain with him to pray.
     While Jesus was praying, his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white, so bright that it would have been difficult to keep looking at him.
     Suddenly, Moses and Elijah were with Jesus.  Moses represented the law, and Elijah represented the prophets, both key foundations that make up God’s Word, the Bible.  Mark tells us that Jesus was transfigured and his robe as amazingly bright, brighter than if it had been bleached.
     Then God’s presence was felt.  The majesty and mystery of God was cloaked in clouds that covered the mountain.  And suddenly God’s voice was heard saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
     And just that quickly, the vision came to an end.  Jesus was found alone.  And Jesus and the disciples descended the mountain again.
     That had to be an amazing day for Peter, James, and John!  How would you even begin to describe a vision like that to someone who wasn’t there? 
     Mark tells us that Jesus told them to not tell anyone what they had seen.
     But after the resurrection of Jesus…when his identity as the Son of God became obvious to many more people…that’s when the story needed to be shared with the world. But what does this story about Jesus, and its inclusion in the “Come Touch the Robe” cantata have to teach us?
     Well, clearly the Lordship of Jesus Christ…the shining bright transfiguration…the revelation on the mountain of Jesus greater than Moses, and greater than Elijah…God’s voice calling Jesus his Son…certainly sets Jesus apart from every other person ever!  He is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings!
     When we accept who Jesus is, and make him the Lord of our life, then our life begins to change.  Our life is no longer self-focused, but rather it becomes God-focused.  We can no longer be self-centered, but instead we become God-centered, and others-centered.
     When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he comes to live inside each one of us.  We are no longer our own, but we belong to him.  That changes us!
     We begin to take on the qualities of our Lord when we faithfully follow him. 
     The prophet Isaiah talks about the salvation of God, or God’s deliverance in this way…In Isaiah 61, beginning in verse 10 it says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
     When Jesus is our Lord, and we make a commitment to follow him, we are covered with his righteousness, with his salvation, like a garment, like a blanket, like a coat that covers us and protects us.  All this is because of Christ and his power at work in our lives.
     But when Christ comes to live in us, not only are we covered by his salvation on the outside like a garment, but we are also changed on the inside, and his light begins to shine from inside out!
     Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5, “You are the light of the world!”  He goes on to say, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
     We are able to shine God’s light wherever we go because Jesus is the light of the world!  In John 8, Jesus tells those who are listening, “I am the light of the world.”
     When believers have Christ’s light burning inside of them, then we are part of Christ’s light, and we are also the light of the world! We bear Christ’s light on the inside, and we are covered with garments of Christ’s salvation.


     When you got up to get ready for church this morning, how did you go about deciding what to wear?  We probably chose something that looks good on us.
     But what kind of clothing tells the world that we belong to Jesus?  I’m not talking about a t-shirt that says we’re a Christian, or a necklace with a cross on a chain. 
     The question I’m asking is “What are the most important garments that a Christian should wear every day?”
     Colossians 3 puts it this way, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
     Did you remember to get dressed in this clothing this morning?  Did you take compassion out of your closet and put it on, so you might see the world through someone else’s eyes today?
     Did you remember to dress yourself in kindness that is real, and genuine, and doesn’t end at the first sign of difficulty?
     Did you put on humility, thinking of others more highly than yourself?
     Did you take meekness off the hanger and put it on so as not to get too puffed up?
     Are you wearing your patience today?
     Colossians goes on to say, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
     “Above all else, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
     There it is again, just like in 1 Corinthians 13…the greatest of these is love.
     These are the clothes of a Christian.  These are the garments we called to put on every single day, if the light of Christ from within us is going to shine to the world.
     CS Lewis was someone who at one time didn’t believe in the existence of God, but  who later became a Christian. He’s also known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
     In one of his most famous sermons, CS Lewis makes the point that if it would be possible to see someone as they will become in the future, we would have one of two reactions. The one reaction might be to cringe in disgust. The other reaction is to be tempted to worship that person.
     CS Lewis was making the observation that every single person has the potential to be the person that God has created us to be. When the creation story in the Book of Genesis says that we were created in the image of God, this is what that phrase means.
     We were created to reflect the love and goodness of God into the world. We were created to be shining examples of who God is so that when people look at us, it will lead them to say, “So that’s what God is like!”
     Of course, we can also live in a way that is does not reflect the image of God in the world. That’s our choice. But if we choose to not live in the image of God, we will settle for a life that falls short of who we were created to be.
     Jesus has shown us what it means to live fully for God. His transfiguration on top of that mountain was a vivid display of God’s glory at work in his life. What would it look like if we lived fully for God?

   A few years ago, a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago.  They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night’s dinner.  In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. 
     Apples flew everywhere.  Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane just in time to board.
     ALL BUT ONE!!!  This salesman paused, took a deep breath, thought about what had happened, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned.
     He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight.  He then returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor.
     He was glad he did.  The 16-year-old girl was totally blind!  She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.
     The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display.  As he did this, he noticed that many of the apples had become battered and bruised.  He set aside those apples in another basket.
     When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did.  Are you okay?”  She nodded through her tears.  He continued on with, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”
     As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister…”  He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes.  She continued, “Are you Jesus?”
     He stopped in mid-stride…and he wondered.  He gently went back and said, “No, I am nothing like Jesus—he is always loving and kind.”
     The girl nodded:  “I only asked because I prayed for Jesus to help me gather the apples and you’re the one who came to help me.”
     Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul:  “Are you Jesus?”
     The shining robe of Jesus leads us to ask, “When people look at us, do they see Jesus? Do they see someone who is reflecting the image of God? Do they see someone who is living out who God has called us to be?”

     What clothes to do you wear as you live out your faith? Are they clothes of compassion, kindness, love, and forgiveness? If they are, then you look amazing!

No comments: