A Prayerful Life (02-10-13 Sermon)

The Prayerful Life

Luke 9:28-36

28Now about eight days
after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up
on the mountain to pray.29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
and his clothes became dazzling white.30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and
Elijah, talking to him.31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which
he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.32Now Peter and his companions were weighed
down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the
two men who stood with him.33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it
is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for
Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said.34While he was saying
this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they
entered the cloud.35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my
Chosen; listen to him!”36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept
silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

There is an interesting and funny interpretation about the chapter we read today in
South Korea. We know that Jesus is a wise man. We can see his feature as a wise
man in the story we read today. Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and
went up on the mountain to pray. While he was praying, the appearance of his
face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men,
Moses and Elijah, talking to him. All of a sudden, Peter and his companions,
who were weighed down with sleep, saw his glory and two men. Peter said to
Jesus, “Master it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one
for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Jesus might have a little moment to think about making three dwellings. As I said, he
was so wise. He realized what will happen if they build three dwellings. Jesus
might build three dwellings alone. You know why? Peter, John, and James are
fishermen. They don’t know how to build a dwelling. But Jesus is a carpenter.
Who will build the dwellings? Jesus!! Look at the text, Jesus never answered Peter’s
request. Jesus silently came down from the mountains.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. According to Luke 9, Jesus went up on the mountain
to pray. The image of the mountains runs through Scripture as a place where the
human experience touches the Divine and as a symbolic place where God is
present and humans can catch a glimpse of ultimate truth. So, today, I would
like to share with you an ultimate truth about Jesus’ identification and a
prayer life seeking God’s presence in our lives.

 

First of all, this chapter presents a heavenly identification of Jesus and charges
Christian disciples to listen to him. The emphasis throughout the story is one
dazzling confirmation of Jesus’ identity. We are first given the description of
his transformed appearance. The change in the appearance of his face is
reminiscent of Moses’ face becoming radiant upon experiencing the presence of
God on the mount Sinai. But the description of the change in Jesus’ clothes
becomes dazzling white. Especially, Jesus’ transformed appearance is not merely
because he is experiencing God’s glory but rather because he is the very source
of divine glory. The mountain was filled with his glory.
Moreover, the most dramatic confirmation of Jesus’ identity comes with the voice of God
saying, “This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him.” This text reveals Jesus’
Sonship and makes it clear that we are following Jesus not just as a human but
also the Son of God.

The other point that I would like to share with you is that Jesus went up on a
mountain to pray. One of the significant details of today’s story is that
transfiguration occurs in the context of prayer. Neither Matthew nor Mark
mentions that Jesus had gone up on the mountain specifically to pray, and
neither mentions that Jesus was praying when the transfiguration occurs. It is
clearly a point that Luke wants us to note. Prayer is a significant theme
throughout the writings of Luke. Luke is the only Gospel author to tell us of
Jesus praying on the mountain.

A point that we may especially observe in the transfiguration account is that Jesus’
prayer made it possible to encounter God. Prayer was not merely speaking words
to God but was a truly spiritual experience with God. We can see many examples
of this in the Bible. In Acts, the gathered early church experienced a dramatic
divine response to their communal prayer (4:23-31). Paul and Silas are freed from
prison by God while praying (16:25-34). Paul experiences an encounter with the
risen Christ while praying (22:17-21).
This text challenges us to seek something higher in prayer than speaking mere words
in the hope that God might possibly listen to us. Prayer should be seeking the
powerful presence of God in our lives. We must also remember that in this scene
dramatic experiences of Christ’s glory come while Jesus was praying.
On the mountain, the disciples saw that Jesus begins to glow and shine brighter
with God’s glory. The experience of the three disciples seeing Jesus
transfigured changed their way of looking at Jesus, and it also changed the way
they saw God. It even transfigured their view of human kind. The disciples were
totally changed.

As I already told you, the image of the mountains runs through Scripture as a
place where the human experience touches the Divine and as a symbolic place
where God is present and humans can catch a glimpse of ultimate truth. So many
people, especially in South Korea, go up on mountains to pray. I am not sure if
some of you had chances to pray on a mountain. For me, I have had those
experiences on a mountain and I would like to share one of my mountain
experiences with you.
It was the first week of January, 1990 when I went to a retreat center for a week.
The center was built on a mountain and many people, so many people, came to
pray on the mountain. There was no place to sleep so they slept in the main
hall of the center. The main hall was large but not large enough for everyone
to lie down on the floor. They slept squatting on the floor. Can you imagine? I
also came to the center with my mother to pray on the mountain. Winter in Korea
is colder than here. The night was dark and there was no moon. I went up on a mountain
about 1 AM. to pray. I was only 12 years old. I was too young to understand the
Divine presence on a mountain. Anyhow, I went up and there were so many people
on the mountain. Each of them kneeled in front of a tree. So, I searched for a
tree and found a baby tree. I knelt down and began to pray. However, it was too
cold to pray. I couldn’t pray to God. I was there almost 2 hours. I don’t think
I prayed for the whole two hours. I don’t remember what I prayed for. The only
thing that I remember is this thought, “If I stay here, I will freeze to death.”
And I remember I felt numb on my feet and hands. So, I went down the mountain at
about 3 AM. and rushed to the main hall. There was no place for me to get in. I
was a child and small but I couldn’t find any place to sit on a floor. I
continued searching for a place for about 30 minutes. All of a sudden, a middle
age woman who was sitting on the floor called me and made a small space for me
to sit. Finally, I sat on the floor. And you know what happened? It was the
moment that I felt most comfortable in my life. I was sitting on the floor to
sleep. Think of this. Sitting on a floor to sleep? Definitely, it is the
opposite of being comfortable. Right? However, for me, it was most comfortable
and naturally I said to God, “Thank you very much!” Even though I didn’t meet
God on the mountain, I met God squatting on the floor to sleep. The prayer on
the mountain had led me to feel so comfortable in an uncomfortable position and
made me give thanks to God. I think this is such an experience of
transfiguration. It was one of the best experiences I felt God’s grace.

 

A prayer helps us, our thought, emotion, and life to be changed. A prayer helps
us search for God’s presence in our lives. A prayer is a way to communicate
with God. A prayer helps us keep our faith in God. Every Sunday, we come to
worship and pray to God. However, Sunday worship is not enough. We must also pray
to God as much as possible.

Often in our lives, we find ourselves struggling to see something or someone in the
dim murkiness and then a light shines, and we say, “Oh, now I can see clearly!”
That kind of moment happened to Peter, James, and John on the mountain with
Jesus. They thought they knew who Jesus was, but after this experience, they
saw him in a new light. Jesus’ transfiguration after his prayer changed his
disciples.
A prayer makes it possible for us to experience transfiguration. I am not saying
our physical transfiguration but the transfiguration of our emotion, feeling,
and idea and ways of lives. That is, a prayerful life gives us a new light to see who Jesus is and to feel God’s presence in our daily lives.
So let us pray to God every day with holy expectation that we will be changed. We
may not have a moment on a mount of transfiguration with Moses, Elijah and
Jesus. But on our own little mountain, at home, at work, or in our automobile,
we can be with our Lord. And in that moment, we will find ourselves as blessed with
God’s glory.

Let us pray,

Merciful God, we give thanks to You for your words and for your presence with us. Lead
us to pray every day with our whole hearts and give us the faith that you
listen to our voice we offer to you. Then, lead us to experience
the transfiguration of our lives. We believe that you will bless our daily
lives with your love and grace. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 

 

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