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Welcome to Our Community - Pastor Brian Jack

This week we are excited to welcome Pastor Brian Jack from First Lutheran in Milford, IA as our guest author. Brian serves as the associate pastor as First. He and his wife Cari stay busy keeping up with their two boys and all the activity having kids just really getting into to the teen years brings!

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus." Mark 9:2-4

I recently watched an advertisement for CrossFit that opened with the motto “Making People Better”. In the video people smile while they work out, they hug each other, they tell the camera how CrossFit has transformed their life. They find meaning, fulfillment, community, and self-actualization in the workouts at the gym. They say that they love to tell their friends about CrossFit, “You haven’t heard about CrossFit? Let me tell you about CrossFit!” Some people in the group I watched the video with said, “It sounds like church!”

People are wired for ritual, community, and finding meaning in life. A lot of people find that in a gym. A gym or two or three is what Peter would really like to set up during his mountaintop experience with Jesus. Peter and James and John are there with Jesus who has been transfigured and is shining like the sun before them, suddenly Moses and Elijah are there talking with Jesus and a bright idea comes to Peter.

“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.” Moses, if you remember, met God in a similar mountaintop experience and was given the 10 commandments to bring down to the people to show to them a right relationship with God and with one another. Elijah was there representing the prophets who foretold of a messiah who would come and rescue the people from sin.

Here you’ve got the best of both disciplines the law and the prophets. Peter figures why not build a booth, a dwelling, a gym where we can make people better! A workout routine with these guys ought to get anyone fit for the kingdom! These are the best trainers there are! And the gym model of church is still an attractive model to this day. There is far greater interest in having an active church that’s tough, resilient, and obedient to the rules of the law than one that is an expert in the forgiveness of sins.

But what Peter was about to find out was that church, and more specifically worship is not a program you can run that makes people better. It’s not a discipline with exercise routines that will help you self-actualize. In the presence of God, worship first reminds us who we are, a people who are flat out broken and incapable of getting ourselves into shape. It’s enough to leave you like Peter, James, and John on the ground and overcome by fear, but isn't what Jesus does. Second, worship is an event where the good news is heard: While we cannot make ourselves better, there is One who can and does.

Along with Peter, many a congregation has been tempted to make worship look more like a fitness program to get people’s lives in shape. So God resets Peter’s expectations and ours with him. Right in the middle of Peter’s vision of a three part gymnasium of self-improvement, God interrupts him by repeating what God said to Jesus at his baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased;” and then God adds, “Listen to him!”. When they the cloud lifts there’s no one but Jesus alone, Moses and Elijah are gone.

“Listen to him”. Now what exactly does Jesus have to say to Peter? Well if we look to either side of chapter 17 in Matthew’s gospel we’ll find a conversation between Jesus and specifically Peter. In chapter 16 right after Peter has answered Jesus question about who Jesus is with, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Jesus gives to Peter the foundation of what church is about and what sort of ministry it’s going to exercise, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The keys to the kingdom are the forgiveness of sins. Jesus defines forgiveness as the rock, the foundation of the church.

Now let’s look at the other side of the transfiguration encounter, chapter 18 of Matthew’s gospel. The next time Peter and Jesus talk directly to each other what do you suppose is the subject? Verse 21, “Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’”. God tells Peter “Listen to Jesus” and what does Jesus keep saying the gospel is all about? Forgiveness. What is Jesus message on repeat coming from the church, not just 7 times, but seventy times seven? The forgiveness of sins.

Forgiveness is the plan if you will, that doesn’t lead to burnout, to people leaving the church saying, “I just can’t do that anymore.” It’s not a something for you to do, it’s something for you to declare that it’s already done.

If you want a workout, find a gym. If you want rest – Listen to Jesus. You are forgiven.

Follow Up:

- If you would like to learn more about First Lutheran in Milford, you can visit their website by clicking HERE!

- If you suddenly found yourself in the presence of Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, what would be your first response? How badly would you have wanted to build a tent to keep the experience going for as long as possible?

- Forgiveness once or twice, while not always easy, does, in general, seem rather reasonable to most of us. But what about 70 x 7 times? How hard is it for you to forgive repeat offences? How are you needing to repent and ask forgiveness for the same sin?


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