Matthew 17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
This is a well known story in the life of Jesus: Jesus goes up the mountain to pray, taking Peter, James and John with him. This is a really, really amazing experience for the disciples, who have their faith renewed by what became a deeply spiritual event: it is so deeply moving that they not only hear the voice of God, but they encounter the founding fathers of their faith – Moses and Elijah. It is such an amazing spiritual experience that Peter says – “Lord it is good to be here: let us stay in this moment” – well he actually said “let us put up tents” , but this means, let us stay here where it feels so good.
Such moments are precious – We even have a saying in the English language for this: we speak of “Mountain-top experiences”.
This was not the only such experience for the disciples:
On the day of Pentecost they were part of a huge crowd of people who were blessed by the Holy Spirit and experienced the presence of God. And lives were changed. And the new Jesus movement took off. Acts Chapter 4:31 tells of a revival service where the Holy Spirit fell on people and lives were changed. And again in Acts 10, and in Acts 19 - and in many, many moments since then: our Methodist history records the Holy Spirit taking hold of the heart of John Wesley, and him describing this as his “heart being strangely warmed”. Subsequently there were Methodist revival meetings where the Holy Spirit took hold of the meeting and people’s lives were changed. And in the history of this country there are countless stories of revival meetings where the Spirit of God changed people’s lives. In fact right now there is a revival service taking place at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky: here is a report of what is taking place:
A chapel service in Hughes Auditorium started on Wednesday, February 8th and has not yet ended. In the days since there has been an organic rotation of public confessions and repentance, worship (of all sorts), proclamation (preaching and testimonies), prayer, and public scripture reading.
So today we remind ourselves that God offers moments of deep spiritual blessing: and I would like to leave two thoughts with us:
1. Let us never become tired of seeking the presence of God.
God longs to bless us – God has done so in history, and God continues to do so today. Let us pray for Spiritual revival in our church. And I am speaking of a deep, refreshing, spiritual renewal. This is more than getting the right songs together, or getting the best preacher, or having the best words in prayer: this is about pausing in our busy lives to give time to the Spirit of God. Listen to these words from the Asbury revival:
In our hurry-filled, over-scheduled Western American culture whose obsession with productivity, achievement, and consumerism has saturated every corner of life, life has simply ground to a halt in this little corner of Kentucky so that people can prioritize spending time soaking in the manifest presence of God
Let us pause for a moment and think about this. Why do we allow ourselves to think that everything has to be compressed into the limits of time? I am inviting us to pray that eternity would break through into our time-bound lives, and God’s Holy Spirit bless us abundantly.
2. Let us never become tired of seeking to serve God
Spiritual revivals have consequences. God does not bless without a greater purpose in mind:
I want you to understood the spiritual principle of blessing and service: You are blessed – because God preparing you to become a blessing in the live of someone else.
The story we read about Jesus and his disciples on the mountain top – comes in two parts: Part One is the blessing and Part Two is the purpose of the blessing: Let me take us back to the story we began in Matthew 17: Jesus and his disciples came down the mountain….
14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[b] and it[c] came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.[
Jesus had work to do: there was a distressed father who asked Jesus to pray for his son…. Note this one thing: Jesus did not say “Don’t bother me now: can’t you see that I have just spent time under the anointing of God”
This is because Jesus understood the principle of blessed to be a blessing. He was in the presence of God – because God wanted him to bring the presence of God to others. We discover that Jesus comes down the mountain and brings the healing presence of God with him – and everyone in the crowd is blessed. It turns out that this moment on the mountain top is more than just healing this boy. It becomes a key turning point in the life of Jesus: he comes down the mountain and sets his face towards Jerusalem: he knows that he has work to do at the temple – work that would lead to his arrent, and his trial and his conviction and execution. And the release of the greatest blessing of all: forgiveness and healing for all humankind.
This is the way of God – to bless people so that they can become a blessing:
• On the day of Pentecost people were blessed – so that they could witness to Jesus in Jerusalem, and in Judea and to the ends of the earth
• People were blessed in a prayer meeting in Ephesus – so that they could resist the insults of the silversmiths and establish a Christian church
• John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed – so that he would be ready to lead a revival movement across England in the 18th Century
• The people worshiping God at Asbury theological seminary are being blessed – not because it feels great, but because God has work for them to do
And so I challenge us to pray for revival here in Brookings. Remember it is dangerous thing to pray for blessing, because God will take us seriously and open new doors to service. But we who follow Jesus dare not look away from all that God has in store for us. God wants to open new opportunities to become a blessing to our city.
Let me conclude: with a personal opinion: Holy Spirit revived hearts are hearts of love and compassion:
• Holy Spirit revived hearts do not threaten to prosecute a doctor who is trying to care for a woman whose life is in danger because of her pregnancy.
• Holy Spirit led people do not threaten parents with the law when they are trying to figure out how best to love their transgender child. Transgendered children, and gay children, are also God’s children. And the deserve our love and compassion – not judgement and legal threats of politicians.
I am praying that revival can take place here: that God would soften our hearts. This will allow us to let go of our bitterness, and our need to judge others, and our mean spirited opinions. And set us free to offer all people the love of God – without exception.