Prepared by Carl Schaefer
For Church of the Cross
February 14, 2010
(see also SECOND CHANCE)
A sculptor had ruined a huge piece of beautiful Carrara marble. It was left in the courtyard of the cathedral in Florence, Italy, for almost a hundred years. Artisans thought it was beyond repair. But in 1505, a young sculptor by the name of Michelangelo was asked if he thought anything could be done with "The Giant." He measured the block and carefully noted the imperfections caused by the bungling workman of an earlier day. To his mind came the image of the young shepherd boy David. So he carefully made a sketch of that biblical character as he envisioned him. For 3 years he worked steadily, his chisel skillfully shaping the marble. Finally, when one of his students was allowed to view the towering figure, 18 feet high and weighing 9 tons, he exclaimed, "Master, it lacks only one thing, and that is speech!"
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
(Slide #3)Ungodly, yes, Paul says that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. But does that mean we as sinners should just be thrown away like an empty coke bottle? No, even glass bottle, plastic containers, and steel and aluminum cans can be recycled!
We may feel unworthy of God’s Grace; we may feel the message of salvation is not relevant for our time and place; we may not hold God as our highest priority, or worse yet be convinced there is no God. But, God is not willing to throw us away –give up on us - thank goodness. He was not discouraged by the choices of Adam and Eve; he did not give up on the chosen Nation of Israel when they made the Golden Calf, well, at least not until He and Moses had a conversation and God changed His mind; he did not “throw-in-the-towel” on us when we sin again and again. No, Scripture says, “…at just the right time…Christ died for the ungodly.” – us. Yes, we are worth recycling! We can be reconciled – transformed.
So what has that got to do with Transfiguration? Bear with me.
(Slide #4) Did you ever see the movie “Seabiscut:” the movie is about a horse and several people, all of whom have been kicked around by life and broken in one way or another.
The movie is birthed out of the depression era when millions are out of work and adrift in life’s circumstances and where the main characters all face difficult changes: Charles Howard, a successful car salesman must recover from the loss of a son; Tom Smith, a out of work horse trainer is a cast-off to live off the land and is introduced in the movie at the moment of trying to save a horse; Red Pollard, named after his red hair, is released by his parents to be raised by a track owner because they cannot afford to care for him; and Seabiscut, an undersized colt with a limp and an attitude that is sold to Charles Howard for cheap with little hope to turn into a winning racehorse.
The moral of the movie comes early when Charles Howard finds Tom Smith camping-out and trying to salvage a horse. After brief introductions over a campfire, Charles Howard, the new owner of a horse stable, asked Smith, “Why are you trying to fix it, the horse with a bandage on its leg?” Smith answers, “Cause I can! Every horse is good for something. You don’t throw a life away just because it’s banged-up a little.”
This underlying theme that anyone or animal is worth rescuing frames a moment in the movie when Red Pollard, now a jockey who becomes a good friend of Seabiscut, leg is crushed by another horse, and Seabiscut blows a tendon in a race, cause for being put down under most circumstances. We pick up the movie when both jockey and horse are considered worth recycling and are pictured bandaged-up (Show movie clip here at Chapter 23, and show frame 150.50 to 152.51) Notice the eye contact!
After a period of recovery, and remember the theme of the movie that was stated by Tom Smith, who had become the trainer of Seabiscut who said, “You don’t throw a life away just because it’s banged-up a little,” see jockey and horse get reunited in a horse race just after both recover from their injuries (show movie clip beginning with Chapter 25 from beginning to end of this section – you’ll hear the jockey summarize the movie at the end.)
We can all be recycled – we all need to be. The Holy Spirit is our ultimate Trainer – who says that no one is wasted – not one is excluded – no one need be thrown away because they are a little “banged-up. God is patient, even with those who don’t know that they need to be saved. Like the Prodigal – when we leave “home,” we don’t always know that we are lost and in need of saving, and when we return, we don’t feel worthy. Yet, it’s the same Father and the same Savior that says that “we have potential, just like Seabiscut,” we are worth saving.
We are always welcome to come home – to repent and be forgiven.
(Slide #5) That’s what makes that moment on the Mountain so significant – the moment of Jesus’ transfiguration, the moment when Jesus’ choice to leave the carpentry shop of Nazareth and complete God’s mission would make its final turn. From mountain-top to Jerusalem.
And all this happened in the presence of the vision of Moses and Elijah. Now we can only speculate as to why these two appeared. Moses led an exodus, out of slavery; Jesus is our exodus from the bondage of sin and therefore death. We would come to know that this was not the end of mortal death, but the freedom of eternal death.
Why was Elijah present with Moses? In the Jewish tradition, Elijah was considered the greatest prophet that God took into His Kingdom without death, and represented all the prophets and prophesies that a Messiah would come to redeem and set God’s chosen free. Therefore, both Moses and Elijah were present to bear witness to God’s announcement – This is my Son, the proposed Messiah.
Jesus’ death and resurrection would not only fulfill the biblical prophecies represented by Elijah, but would be for all of us sinners the greatest exodus of all time in the tradition of Moses – exodus from the bondage of sin and freedom from eternal death. Jesus death and resurrection would be the greatest recycling of lost souls known to God’s creation.
But God the Father would have one more thing to say about His Son, Jesus.
(Slide #6)Well, not only did God select this moment to reconfirm Jesus as His Son, but also he added the words, “…listen to Him (vs. 35).” We know that listening is a metaphor to man’s choice – our free will to accept God’s plan for redemption. You see, we have the God-given choice to either listen or ignore God’s offer for salvation.
(Slide #7) There are some real life examples when someone or something calls our attention to listen and act. We tell our children, “Listen up!” to get them to respond – act – make a decision. Any golfers here? What do when you hear the word “Four!” You duck. And if you are not listening or don’t hear the warning? Well, you could get hit? And if you hear the word “Fire? You run for the nearest door. But if you don’t hear the warning, well…it could be tragic.
(Slide # 8) God was saying to us, listen, for this is why I have sent my Son to you. What He is about to do now I am doing for you. Listen and act– make the right choice; I have decided that you are worth saving. Do You?
Jesus made a choice. Jesus listened to the Father on the mountain-top and turned his face to Jerusalem. If he looked back towards Nazareth, and the safety of the carpenter shop, history does not record it. We have been saved because he listened to the Father and responded in the Garden, “Not my will, but yours be done,” and He surrendered to the cross.
We must now head down the mountain as Lent is coming. If we think we are worth recycling, our choice to take the high road to Jerusalem and join Jesus at the cross is a given, or we can choose to head back down all the sinful roads of life we have traveled before and ignore the eternal gift of the Father. If we “listen” to God’s voice and follow Jesus to the cross, we who lose our lives will save them. We may not save this life, but we will be freed to life eternal.
So Transformation Sunday can be our recycling Sunday if we listen. If we make the right choice what Paul says in his 2nd letter to the Church of Corinth in 5th Chapter, vs. 17 will come to pass for us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
And the Gospel of Luke adds to this recycling or restoration in this way through the story of the “lost sheep.” Luke 15: 5, the story continues after the shepherd leaves his flock to look for the lost and, “when he finds it, he puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents…”
So too for all of us, “we are all worth saving – subject to being recycled… despite how banged up we might be…”
And all this happened at the intersection of a mountain-top somewhere between Nazareth and Jerusalem.