Living in the world

Transfiguration of Our Lord – St. Mark 9:2-9

Over the course of the time of Epiphany, we have been focusing on aspects of living a holy life. We looked at how God views us not through the particular categories that the world assigns, but that He looks at us as His baptized children. We looked at how we live our lives not through the opinions and laws of the world around us, but how many issues are matters of the heart, not the head. We looked at how sin robs us of modesty, and the need to bring back some modesty. And we looked at the importance of the role of parents in our lives.

God calls us to live holy lives, and hopefully through this series, you now see what a holy life might look like; and how living a holy life stands in stark contrast to the unholy life that the world lives. And even more so, hopefully you have seen that the Christian life is not one that is judged entirely by what you shall not do, but that living a holy life is also about what you shall do.

But do not be deceived; living a holy life is not an easy task; especially when surrounded by a world that is decidedly unholy. In fact, as we look at the Mount of Transfiguration, we see just how difficult it can be to live a holy life in two of God’s holiest prophets.

Elijah lives in a world very similar to the one in which we live today. Israel was called to be holy; they had the Law, they had the prophets, they had everything they would seemingly need to live holy lives. And yet, they were surrounded by an unholy people. People who did not believe came into the land, not through treachery and deceit, but because the leaders of Israel had at one point or another held the door open for them.

Israel at the time of Elijah is very much like our world today. There is a remnant that remains faithful; much to Elijah’s surprise not everyone in Israel has bowed the knee to Baal. And so there is a remnant today, not everyone has bowed the knee to the Baals of today; there are those who remain faithful, who desire to hear the word, who hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness. But no matter what you may tell yourself, that number is not a majority.

Yes, it was no easy task to live a holy life in Israel at the time of Elijah; the hordes of evildoers had infiltrated every aspect of daily life.

Surely some in Elijah’s day must have uttered the same line that we utter today: if only we were alone in the wilderness, without all of these other unbelievers surrounding us.

Which brings us to Moses.

The people of Israel were most certainly by themselves in the wilderness. Oh sure, they passed a random community every now and then; and they came into contact with a great many people during the 40 years of wilderness wandering; but for the most part, they are in the middle of nowhere, with no outside contact.

Surely this must be the ideal for holy living. No unbelievers; no outsiders; no one who could possibly come and disrupt God’s peoples attempt to live holy lives. There is just Moses and the chosen people of God who have seen the great thing that God has done, and will now live in holiness all the days of their lives.

Except that is not exactly what happens. The people question God; they complain; they look around at what God has done and assume that it was all a show so that He could kill them elsewhere. The people even build an idol to bow down and worship in place of the one true God, who brought them out of Egypt.

And yes, we need not look very far to see this today as well. There is no peace in the Church today. The national Synod and districts squabble about how best to lead the Church going forward; local congregations struggle to find their voices in communities. Those who have long been faithful, bow down to the idols that come forward at a moments notice.

And so we look to the third man standing on the Mount of Transfiguration; what does He have to say about living a holy life in the world today?

Jesus would apparently have the best idea: He has taken Peter, James and John up the mountain and now converses with Moses and Elijah. His three closest disciples and two Old Testament heroes. And that’s it.

Mountaintop living is not for everyone, but it does have its advantages. There are no idols or graven images on this mountaintop. There are no cries for division or rivals here. There are no temptations to cast aside the way of the Lord to chase after the ways of the world. Just three faithful disciples, two prophets, and Jesus. If you cannot live a holy life here, than where can you?

What more could you possibly want?

We look at this Mount of Transfiguration as the ideal. No temptations; no evil; no wickedness; no one who does not fear, love and trust in God above all things.

And like Peter, we are content to stay here forever. The world cannot hurt or harm you here.

And yet, Jesus says it is time to go.

You may be able to live a holy life atop this mountain, or atop any number of other mountains. But that is not what you have been called to do.

To live a holy life is to live your life as a witness to others; so that others might see the love of Christ shine through you. To live a holy life demands that you live among others, even those who do not believe.

To live a holy life in this world is not easy, but it was never meant to be easy to be faithful. The sign of the cross made upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism places a mark upon you that the devil and his angels will pursue after you with great intensity. And living a holy life will never be easy.

But to live a holy life is to live a life in the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ. To live a holy life is to return to the cross each day, confessing that you are a poor miserable sinner in need of Christ’s forgiveness, and to receive that forgiveness poured out upon you in full.

For to live a holy life is to live a life following Jesus. And Jesus is leaving this mountaintop so that He might make His way to another.

On Mount Calvary, Jesus makes us holy, not by our dress or our words or our actions; not by our upbringing or our thought process; instead He makes us holy by His precious blood shed for you on the cross.

How do you live a holy life? You live a life soaked in the blood of Jesus; for it is that blood that makes you clean, perfect, before your Father in heaven.

Jesus alone makes you holy. Live each day in that holiness, by living each day in Jesus.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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