Exodus 34:29-35, Luke 9:28-36
February 7, 2016
We’ve been using an ongoing theme in the first service, and I think it’s a good one. The theme is “Things Seen and Unseen.” It comes from II Corinthians 4:16-18, where Paul writes, “We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
This is one of the most important subjects for God’s people. That’s because as God’s people, we live in two worlds. We live in the physical world which we can see, and we live in the spiritual world which we can’t see. Now, there are some Christians would say we shouldn’t have anything to do with the physical world. “It’s not ‘spiritual.’” “It’s ruled by Satan.” “It’s not ‘of God!’” I’ve heard that! And I say no. The psalmist wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 24:1) The earth is the Lord’s. God gave this world to us. He made it, and he called it “good.” And when he put us in it, and gave us dominion over it, and when he saw everything he had made, he said it was “very good!”
I believe God wants us to enjoy the world he created! He’s proud of it! When I build something, or finish a project, Patty will tell you there is always something afterwards that I like to call “admiration time.” I have to stand there, and look at it for a while, and admire what I’ve done! (Sometimes I have to bring someone in to help me admire it!) Well, can you imagine the “admiration time” God took after completing this earth? Maybe that’s what the seventh day was all about! Maybe I need to do a word study on the phrase that says, “On the seventh day God rested.” I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it meant, “On the seventh day, God sat back and admired all that he had created!”
God wants us to enjoy what he created – that means this world, and that means each other. But, even as we enjoy this creation he gave us, we also need to know that we are “spiritual beings.” That’s part of what it means that we were created in God’s image! It also means that we create things too! God shared his love by creating us with that ability to create!
So we are “spiritual beings.” And that means that we also live in the spiritual world. There’s something beyond all this. And the thought occurred to me that if that spiritual realm is better, if it’s more beautiful and amazing than this world, well then that spiritual, heavenly realm must be indescribable! (As the song goes.)
We live in two worlds. And Jesus tried desperately to get the people to see that. He told them the kingdom of heaven was among them. He told them not to “’treasure’ things on earth, but instead to treasure things in heaven.” But they had a hard time seeing that. They had a hard time seeing beyond the physical, beyond their oppression under the Roman Empire, beyond the daily grind of making a living, or just surviving.
This story is the epitome of that struggle. It’s the epitome of Jesus trying to get his disciples to see that they lived in two worlds. Just before this, Jesus had told told them, for the first time that, yes, he was the Messiah. Maybe you remember that story. Go back and read it sometime. Right before this, he asked his disciples what people were saying about him. Then he asked what they thought about him. And Peter said the words they were all thinking and hoping. “You are the Messiah!” And Jesus acknowledged that. But he also told them what that meant! He was not to be the political deliverer they were hoping for. He was not to be another Judas Maccabees, who led the revolt for their freedom a couple of hundred years before that. No. He would take up a cross, and they would, too! If they were going to follow, he said, they were to give up their lives for his sake!
I can’t emphasize enough how incredulous they must have been at that moment. Their beloved leader did and had said a lot of great things. But for some reason they couldn’t understand, he also had this quirky, weird message about his own death. He would say it from time to time, and they had tried to downplay it or overlook it. But now he’d brought it to the forefront of his message. Now he said it at the very time he acknowledged that he was indeed the Messiah! We can’t imagine what they thought! Someone had to say something! So Peter, the very one bold enough to name him as the Messiah, now said, “Stop that, Jesus! Stop talking all that morbid suffering and death stuff!”
It’s hard to imagine what they were thinking. Remember that a lot of what is told about in the Gospel accounts is accompanied by these words. “The disciples didn’t say anything about this or they didn’t even understand it until after he was raised from the dead.”
As I’ve said before, this is all “part of the landscape” for us. This is all simply part of what we believe. I’ve asked you to try to understand that. And it’s hard! It’s hard for us to share the disciples’ incredulity. (Don’t you love that word?) It’s hard for us to share their fear and frustration and their stress in all of this. It’s hard for us to imagine the tension they had when they heard Jesus talking about his death. It didn’t make sense to them!
So, in all of that, in all of that stress, in all their doubts and fears, they needed to know who Jesus was! And they needed to be sure about this whole “Living in two different worlds,” jazz. Because Jesus seemed to be big on that! They needed to “see the unseen” he had been trying so desperately to tell them about! So he took them to the mountaintop. That’s the beauty of the Transfiguration!
So, what about us? Do we know that we live in two different worlds? Do we see the unseen? Do we “look to” the things unseen? That’s an important thought! Because we need to “look to it,” to “look for it,” to “seek after it,” or it will remain “unseen!” But it won’t be unseen because it isn’t there. It’ll be unseen because we didn’t notice it! And that has to do with our whole outlook on this life!
Look again at the II Corinthians passage. (Maybe that should have been our scripture for today!) In the beginning of that passage, Paul says “We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” That’s where that passage impacts our lives. No matter what we’re going through, it can be, that we “do not lose heart.” Why? Because we are spiritual beings. Because we live in this world, and in God’s eternal world, at the same time. And “we look, not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen…”
That’s so important! And it’s so easy to miss! Jesus was helping his disciples see the unseen that day. Because they had “lost heart.” But then they saw the unseen! So how do we do that? Well, as I just said, one of the key words here is the word which is translated “look to.” We look to the things unseen. That doesn’t mean we “notice those things when they happen to happen to us.” And it doesn’t just mean that we stop and think and give thanks when we receive “glimpses” of the heavenly realm. Those things are good. But to “look to” means “to seek after,” “to search for,” “to concentrate on.” That’s how we will see the unseen!
That’s the thought I want to leave you with today. “Look to the things that are unseen.” Be intentional about that. Take time to say to God, “Give me a glimpse!” “Let me see!” I promise you, the more you do that, the more you will see the unseen!
Eternal God, creator of all things, maker of our hearts, help us to see your kingdom. Help us to know that we are made in your image, spiritual and creative people. Help us to look to and to see your hand in the world around us. Lift our spirits, and help us to know we are yours. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.