SERMON FOR TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY
SERMON FOR TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY
from Pastor Michael Jarick.
TITLE : THE MAIN THING
Do you have particular sayings that have been passed down in your family?... wise words, born out of experience, that are intended to help deal with life and its challenges? There must be thousands of such sayings, old adages like "Too many cooks spoil the broth" and "A watched pot never boils". Then there are the more modern ones: "Measure twice, cut once" and "Go hard or go home". I also happen to like making up my own, for instance “Generosity killed the cat.”
While these sayings can seem to be clichés, there is often a good deal of common sense, or wisdom, contained in them. Here’s one that you may not have heard: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." In other words, don't get distracted by the details. Keep your focus on what is most important.
Details can be very important. When I collect my medication from the chemist I want the exact dose the doctor prescribed. If my script says 5 milligrams I don't want 500. Details can be very important, but they are not the main thing. They are not the big picture. If I get caught up in the details, I can lose my focus and miss the main point. I need to keep the main thing the main thing.
This saying is helpful for practically anything you might do in life. If I'm building a house, for instance, and I'm obsessed by the colour and shape of tiles I want for the bathroom, I might finish up with a spectacular bathroom with a door that opens to the formal dining room.
Keeping the main thing the main thing is also important for our lives as Christians, isn't it? The Gospel writers and the apostles who wrote the books of the New Testament knew how important this was. When you read the New Testament and note the number of authors and the time span over which the books were written, nevertheless you still find that there is one main point, a clear focus, a basic message that shines through.
That same basic point is what literally shines on the 3 disciples, Peter, James, and John, in Luke's account of the transfiguration. This point has been repeated ever since, so that our faith doesn't go off course and get lost. What is this main point?
It is found in verse 35 of Luke 9. It is the voice of God the Father who declares "This is my son." Jesus is the main person, the main message, the central focus.
You'll find this everywhere in the Gospel. We heard it a few weeks ago in the account of
Jesus' baptism, when God the Father said "This is my beloved son." Peter confessed who Jesus is: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." The roman centurion responsible for ensuring Jesus was executed said: "Surely this man was the Son of God."
Jesus, the Son of God, is at the centre of all we say and do as Christians. That might sound like I'm stating the obvious. Seven years at seminary, pastor, and 35 years of preaching and that’s as far as you got? Well, it is the basic that we so often get wrong in life, isn’t it? We think we have the simple things right, and we take them for granted, and soon the main thing is no longer the main thing. We get distracted.
In the Church, doctrinal details and the finer points of theology sometimes have taken up a lot of our energy and distract us from Jesus. Note that I'm not saying doctrinal details don't matter. I'm saying they are not the main thing. We have had the question of the ordination of women as the main agenda item at General Synod for the last 20 years.
In the same way, we can get hung up on issues like worship styles and the colour of the new carpet, or the funny way someone looked at us. All have their place, but they are not the main thing.
As a pastor I sometimes need to stop and reprioritise what I am doing. I can easily use too much of my time on trivial matters. I need to make sure I make time available to listen to Jesus, to study his Word, and to pray, so that I can proclaim it and teach it to you. We can easily get distracted: material wealth and goods, career, house, garden, grandchildren. Precious, important, vital — but not the main thing! All these good gifts come to us from God the Father through Jesus.
This morning Jesus has brought us up the mountain with him to a place where no other distractions or voices intrude. He has brought us to this sacred space that we might see his glory, that we might hear the voice of his Father say "This is my son", and that like Peter, James and John, we look up, and see Jesus alone.
Christ alone — to belong to Jesus, to know him and his salvation, his grace and mercy, to live this message to others — this is the main thing.
Stephen Covey, in his book “First Things First” recalls an episode from a seminar on time management. The lecturer reached under the table, and produced a large, wide-mouthed glass jar and sat it down alongside a pile of fist-sized rocks. He asked the students, “How many of these rocks do you think I can get into the jar?”
After several guesses were offered, the lecturer said, “OK, let’s find out!” He carefully put a rock in the jar, then another, and kept going until no more rocks would fit. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?”
It was obvious that no more rocks would fit, so the class said “Yes!” “Not so fast” he cautioned. From under the table he pulled out a bucket of gravel. He tipped it into the jar and let the gravel settle. Grinning, he again asked “Is the jar full?”
The students were a little wiser this time, and responded, “Probably not!” “Good!” said the lecturer. This time he pulled out from under the desk a bucket of sand. As he tipped it in, the sand filled the small spaces left by the rocks and the gravel. “Now is the jar full?”
“No!” everyone shouted. “Very good!” said the lecturer as he produced a large pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar. When he finished he said “Ladies and gentlemen, the jar is now full. Can anyone tell me the lesson we can learn from this demonstration?”
One eager beaver spoke up, “Well when there are gaps in your schedule, if you really work at it you can always fit more into your life.” “No!” the lecturer retorted. “That’s not the point at all. This is the point: If I hadn’t put the big rocks in first, I never would have gotten them in at all.”
The big rocks represent our priorities in life. Jesus taught that our number one priority is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Taking time to talk with God and to listen to him in his word is like the big rocks. If we don’t prioritise these, then less important things will soon fill up the space. When the big rocks go in the jar first, you’ll be surprised at how much time there is for the lesser things. Here’s a few questions for you to ponder.
What takes first place in your life?
What good things are you tempted to turn into idols?
Do you love to spend time with Jesus?
What hinders you from reading God’s Word?
What hinders you from prayer?
Take a minute or two now to talk with God about these things.
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