Well, since this Pastor came back to our church to preach last Sunday, I've been remembering this sermon. He preached this and I loved it so much, I had gotten the tape of it to save it. When the Pastor left the church, I wanted to give him a special gift, so I transcribed this and gave it to him so that he would know how special his preaching was to me.
I want to share it with you. I have removed his name and his boys' names for privacy reasons as I did not ask permission to post this, but I'm sure he won't mind having God's Word spread on the internet. It is more difficult to read with "name" or "first son, second son, third son" in place of their real names, but I think you will get the idea.
I remember and can still hear in my head certain parts of this sermon as the Pastor pushed through them, choking back tears, choking in his throat. As I read it, I can remember his every pause between words. I do not believe there was a dry eye in the place. I cannot read this sermon without crying myself.
I hope it is as much a blessing to you as it is to me.
As I read this again...I feel a digital layout coming on! I want to journal how I feel to my sons!
Old Testament Lesson –24th chapter of Exodus. The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commands I have written in their instruction. When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. This is the Word of the Lord.
The Epistle for this Transfiguration Sunday of our Lord is written in the first chapter of 2nd Peter. We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the majestic glory saying "This is my son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have heard the word of the prophets made more certain, and you do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is the Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel is written in the 17th Chapter of St. Matthew. After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and lead them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the son, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him." When the disciples heard this they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. This is the Gospel of our Lord.
Song: Nearer My God to Thee, Nearer to Thee
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The text is read in part from the Old Testament lesson appointed for this Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus, the revealing of his life, beckoning of his voice, that we would listen to Him and that we would follow Him. The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain …and stay here. And I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and the commands I have written for your instruction."
I have a sin to confess to you this morning. Actually I have thousands of sins to confess, but I'm only confessing one. I am jealous. I am jealous of Vicar Name. That's right. Jealous of Vicar Name. He is taller than me and better looking. His sermons are shorter and you like them more. And he has a baby boy, Name Name, whom he can still hold, and whom still allows him to cuddle and dress. It is a funny thing I suppose, but I love to dress babies. I never played with dolls, so it is nothing like that. But I love to dress babies and particularly my own. I am proud to say that I changed the first of each one of their diapers and I was the first one to dress them and clothe them with their first outfit. That's right. Before any nurse, or even my own wife and their mother touched them, I did. I changed them. And I dressed them, just the way that I would have them look and be. But that is all gone now. They fuss and they squirm and they pull away. They say, "Dad, I can do it myself." Even Third Son. Even Third Son squirms away. "I can put on my own belt." "I can tie my shoes." He can't, but he says he can. From the earliest of their ages, my boys are already resisting me and my care and my clothing of them. My boys want to wear what they want to wear, whether I want them to wear it or not. First Son likes to wear baggy clothes like all his friends and the bigger kids. I won't have it. Second Son, well he would wear a sweatsuit or his St. Louis Blues jersey every single day if I would let. I am not even sure if he is not wearing it today to church. And Third Son, well, the guy wouldn't wear anything. Swimsuit and T-shirt all year long no matter how cold it is. He wants it his way. So take pride, Vicar. Take pride and take joy in the opportunity that you have to dress your son, Name, and to care for him until that day when he won't let you.
The reason I like dressing my boys so much, I guess, is because there is a certain control to it all. Don't get me wrong. It is not that I want to control and lord it over my boys, but I do want to provide for them. I do want to protect them. When I dress them, I know what they are wearing and whether or not it is suitable and appropriate for the occasion. You see, I don't want anyone else looking down their nose or judging my son, First Son, because he wears baggy clothes. He might look unsightly, but he is still beautiful to me. And I know that a sweatsuit is not always appropriate for Second Son, and I also know that a swimsuit is not always appropriate for Third Son. And so I put on what I believe is appropriate and proper and even protective for whatever the circumstance is. That's the kind of control I want over my boys. To love them and provide for them. I don't want anyone judging them. I don't want anyone condemning them. I don't want them getting hurt. I don't want anything bad coming their way. And so I insist upon this right to control them and to protect them and to direct them and to guide them. Because even if I don't know best, I want what is best for my boys. I want them near me and to stay with me at all times. So if I can spare them from a few snide looks or evil comments, well I will do my part to do it, and Vicar you do the same. You do the same. And you take joy and you take pride in dressing Name Name. It is a cruel world out there and people can be very cruel to those you love.
Now last fall First Son joined the hockey team. A few other boys in the congregation have also joined. We've got Name Name, we've got Name Name, and we've also got Name Name. Now one of the greatest joys I have with First Son being on a hockey team is that this is one last opportunity that I have to dress him because there he can't do it. Not by himself. Too much gear. All too much gear. And so I sit there with other fathers with a smile on my face and pride in my heart as I dress him from head to foot and make sure that he is not only looking good, but that he is also well protected too. From his helmet, to his hip pads, to his shoulder pads and chest pads, to his shin pads and elbow pads, nothing is going to harm my boy. Nothing! But it is not just that padding that keeps him safe. When he steps onto the ice, he is always under my watchful eye. He may be on the ice, but he is forever under my care and my protection, my oversight, and my supervision. No harm will come to him if I have any opportunity to keep him from it. I am going keep him near, nearer to me. Still nearer to me. From the moment I let him out of my arms and put his helmet on his head, and his stick in his hand.
But I know that this will not always be the case. Not for First Son, not for Second Son, not for Third Son. And I suppose that is why I am jealous of you, Vicar Name, because you still have the opportunity to hold your son close, and to keep him in your hands, and to dress him the best way for the occasion. I will not always be there for my boys. Not always. They will not always be under my watchful and protectful eye. And it will not always be me who dresses them and puts their helmet on their head.
What if my boys get a tattoo, or an earring, or grow their hair too long? What if by some freakish act of nature their skin should become too dark to be acceptable? What if my boys turn into bad boys and nobody loves them anymore? Or what if they are good boys and still wrong comes their way? What if no matter how well I dress them from helmet to hip pads, they still get hurt or catch some disease, or flunk out of school? And I can't do anything about it! Not a thing! Nothing! Then what I am going to do? And what kind of father am I to not provide better or to protect more? How will I keep my sons' wives from walking out on them for no reason? How will I protect my sons from judgment, even in the church? How will I protect my sons from evil and harm and disease and death? How will I ?! And it is in this last question, it is in this last question that I learn what I do not want. For you see, even at my best, at my very best, I am not the best father for my sons for what they really need. Oh, I am not really bad, and I am an earthly caretaker and lover of sorts. But I am not even what I would have for my sons. God Almighty, and Him alone. He is their heavenly Father. He is their Father! And I am only His servant. And if I will do half a job at all, just half a job, then they will know Him and love Him. They will know Him and follow Him, and not me. They will be protected by and cared for and cherished, even more than I ever will, by Him. And not by me. Whatever I can give and do, He can and will do one million times more. And there are a million things more that I cannot do that He does for them. Almighty God! Almighty God! All Powerful! All Knowing! All Present! Always present…is my boys' fortress and rock. He is their life and He is their salvation. The shade upon their right hand and a help in every time of trouble. He is the Alpha and the Omega! The Beginning and the End! They do not move or breath without Him. Even if they do so without me. He has overcome it all, from Egypt, to eternal death, from Moses, and for them, for Israel, and for you and me. He has overcome darkness and every evil. He has done away with sin and death and the devil. He leads his people to green pasture and still water. He sets his people free. He opens His Hands and satisfies the desires of everyone. First Son, Second Son and Third Son, Moses, and Israel, and you and me too. He does it all! He does it all and he does it for all people. He is the Great Physician and the Great Comforter. He is our Heavenly Father. A billion times more than I will ever be. Doing a million times more than I ever can. And a million other things that I will never, ever be able to do. "I am with you always," He says….to my boys. And to you and to me. I am with you always and I will never, ever, ever leave you.
And this is where I want my boys to stay. That's where I want my boys to stay. Not nearer to me, much as my heart would want it. Not nearer to me, much as my heart would want it! I want my boys to stay nearer to God. Nearer to God at his own invitation. To Moses, to Israel, to you and me. "Come up here," he said, "and stay!" "Come up here," he said, "and stay!" "Not on the mountain, but with me! Stay with me! In my house. In my worship. In my word. In every remembrance of your baptism. Every time you eat and drink my body and blood. Stay with me! Stay with me!"
Our God can do a million times more than what you or I can ever do. And a million other things that we will never, ever be able to do. Like a loving father who re-dresses his children appropriate for every occasion, God re-dresses you and me. He does! He re-dresses you and me. He gives to us His Word and His command, His law and His direction, a wonderful loving life-giving Word….."You can't wear that! You don't know what people will say! You can't do that! You're going to hurt yourself! Don't leave the house without your helmet!" There is a method to God's madness. You see He loves you! He loves you! Like a father, loving his children. He loves you and so he pleads with you and begs with you and wants from you….."Come to me and stay with me!" That's how much he loves you. "Don't worship any other God, there is no other God! Don't cherish other names. There is no other name that gives life and salvation. Worship me in my house on the Sabbath and on every occasion you have. What else do you have to do? Worship me! Stay with me! Stay nearer to me!" He says no more than any father. Stay with me. Nearer to me. And love me.
He dresses us from head to foot. The belt of truth. The helmet of salvation. The breastplate of righteousness. The shield of faith. The sword of the Spirit. He dresses you and me and equips us and sends us out into the battle day, after day, after day. And foolishly, like Third Son, no offense, we strip ourselves naked. We take off the helmet. We take off the belt, the breastplate, and the righteousness, and we go out into the storm and into the weather, whatever it may be, thinking that we can do it all by ourselves, and even when we can't. And it is then that he shows us the love all the more. He strips himself too. He strips himself too. He strips himself naked and he wraps us up in his own righteousness. And that we would not die, He does. And He sends forth His Son, His only Son, to be our Savior. To die to the weather, to die to the storm. To die to the onslaught and the judgment and the snide comments and evil of everyone around Him. He surrenders Himself to the assault and to the onslaught that you and I would be protected forever. That when we are not near to Him, he is yet ever, ever, ever, ever, nearer to you and me. Run away, flee away! Stay away! Yet, yet…He will ever stay with you. There you will be…in the presence of God the most high. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds nearer to God, nearer to Thee. Amen.