Moments That Take
Your Breath Away 
Matthew 17:1-9

William S. Epps, Senior Pastor
Sunday, February 19, 2023
Moments That Take Your Breath Away
Matthew 17:1-9


As the saying goes, “It’s not the number of breaths we take, it is the number of moments that take our breath away.” Every now and then, and more often than we realize, God breaks into the routine and gives us one of those awesome, amazing, powerful moments. Moments that take your breath away. Can you cite a memorable moment in your life that has strengthened your faith?  
Peter, James and John were afforded extraordinary opportunities. It is clear that they were privileged to be in close association with Jesus. They were among the first disciples that were chosen. They were permitted to occupy a special proximity to the Lord; they were privy to what others could only imagine; they were with Jesus when he was transfigured. What an extraordinary opportunity to see a one of a kind,
once-in-a-lifetime confirmation take place in an unforgettable encounter. 
Peter, James and John were the only witnesses to something amazing. Let’s look at their experience as it relates to our lives. 
Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a high mountain. It was in this place that something extraordinary occurred. They see Jesus in a way they have never seen him before. His appearance and apparel changed before their eyes. The past, the present and the future all converged with images that left them amazed. Peter made a comment followed by a suggestion. He said, “it is good for us to be here.” That is all you can say about certain experiences. Then, he makes a suggestion, “Let us build three shrines to commemorate the moment.” Then a cloud, we are told, overshadows them and a voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” And when they looked they saw only Jesus.
Consider what it means to have an experience that strengthens your faith.
Monday, February 20, 2023
Listen to Jesus Only

There comes a time when the extraordinary invades our space and takes us to an unexpected place. It is just difficult to believe. It is as a dream, something surreal. Yet, we are astounded by what we are made to feel. We are amazed beyond belief. Wow! What a time to be alive and witness what we see. Who would have ever thought that this could really be? We are invited to reflect on life’s exceptionally memorable moments in our lives. We can do it individually or communally. 
Peter didn’t know what to say, and attempted to commemorate the occasion in a less than desirable way. He was reducing one of the most memorable moments of his life in a way that diminished its true significance. He had a real sense of history; however, wanting to capture the splendor, he rashly suggested erecting three memorial tabernacles or booths—one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. In our excitement we can say the inappropriate thing. We too run the risk of misunderstanding what memorable moments mean. We can be deeply moved as was Peter by certain occasions and commemorate what is exceptional, special, a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime occasion in ways that minimize its importance.    
Peter was right in putting Jesus first, however, Peter was misguided in putting anyone else on par with Jesus.  Jesus is not one among equals. Jesus is in a class all by himself. We do tend to equate others with Jesus because of their accomplishments, failing to realize that Jesus’ connection with others is merely the confirmation that he is the only One who is the truly begotten of the Father. Precisely at the point of misunderstanding, clarity comes amazingly as a cloud covers them and a voice is heard that provides direction. “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Ah! There it is. The importance of listening becomes clear.  We need to listen and pay attention to Jesus only. Let Jesus direct your understanding of who He is, and what He has done, and what He will do. 
Listen to Jesus. Then, they saw no one, save only Jesus. 
Consider what it means to hear and listen to Jesus only as you
interpret the experience/s that strengthen/s your faith.  
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Listen to Jesus provide clarity about the meaning of life’s extraordinary experiences.
A lot of the time we cannot figure things out. We are prone to misinterpret the meaning of life’s experiences, particularly the exceptional ones. We cannot make sense of everything. We know the past figures into the present and the present is shaping the future, but we are not quite sure how they all fit. There are the whys for which we cannot get answers and the wherefores, which defy explanation.
The encounter of the power of God in the midst of human experience is not an ordinary occurrence. It does not admit to a precise description, and the Bible does not offer a simple, straightforward report. The Bible asserts that God's sovereign presence does indeed invade and inhabit the historical process. The Bible, moreover, must find language to witness to this reality, language that is clear enough to show the reality, elusive enough to honor the awe, splendor, hidden-ness, and mystery of God's own self. 
The physical phenomenon need not baffle us. We have all seen faces transfigured by joy, or sorrow, by inner light or inner darkness. Jesus had lived His whole life in perfect communion with the Father of Light. Now the Light of the All-Holy envelops Him physically and visibly in such a way that three men can see it with their mortal eyes. 
Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus. Luke adds (9:31) that the three holy figures talked about the death which Jesus was to "accomplish" in Jerusalem. The three disciples needed this. Thinking as mere mortals, they saw no sense in Christ's dying on the cross. But the death which Jesus was to "accomplish" makes sense to the great law giver and the great prophet who share the counsels of God in heaven. 
The Transfiguration is an experience of reverent awe. For days the disciples had been cast down by the prospect which Jesus had laid open to themThey dreaded the thought of his crucifixion, to say nothing of their own. They may have needed further assurance that He was the Son of the living God. The Transfiguration gave them that assurance.
Memorable moments can provide assurance in the midst of adversity. We talk about falling in and out of love. We talk about those memorable experiences of birth and other phenomena that causes us to brim with appreciation and joy.  Remember the good times. Memorable moments reinforce our faith.
Consider what it means that memorable moments can
provide assurance in adversity.  
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Listen to Jesus to understand life’s complexities in a meaningful way.
When life becomes complex and confusing - as it so often does - we want to escape. Peter, James and John thought that the final age had arrived, and that they could forever dwell in the light. They mistook "the dimensions" of the revelation: the "great day" had not yet come, even though they had received its assurance and foretaste. How often men have been caught in that misunderstanding! How often they have forsaken the common task for a vain hope, forgetting that God would rather find us fulfilling life's appointed round - praying if it is time to pray, working if it is time to work, helping if help is needed
We may try many ways to escape from life: Oh, that I had wings like a dove! (Psalm 55:6). We try fantasy; but unless that is used in moderation, it ends in mental sickness and a warped personality. We try travel, but that is vain, for we take ourselves on our travels. We try "the world, the flesh, and the devil," but that is at best an intoxicant, and at worst an enslavement. We try work, which can be an escape from the real business of living, but the challenge looks over our shoulder while we work. We try religious emotions as though selfish piety can be a substitute for genuine faith. Always the vision fades and the valley-need beckons us. An airplane can fly above the rain clouds, moving through a realm of clear light and even rainbows, but soon it must come down to earth. Jesus and the disciples returned from Mount of Transfiguration to the urgent need of the valley. There is work to be done - the sometimes humdrum work of livelihood, the more urgent work of neighborliness, and the central work of God's kingdom without which livelihood and even neighborliness lack meaning and worth. While mortality remains, the vision fades, "into the light of common day."
Consider what it means to listen to Jesus to understand
life’s complexities in a meaningful way.  
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Listen to Jesus alleviate your fears about life’s future possibilities. 
We do not have to be afraid of trying even though we fail. We don’t have to be afraid of failure for we can rise above our mistakes. We don’t have to be afraid of the future even though we are uncertain in some instances and certain in others about what is going to happen. Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Jesus gives us the courage to face life in all of its grim reality, with all of its twists and turns, ups and downs, ins and outs, and you name it. Only Jesus can give us what we need to continue in faith, trusting God. 
Jesus Only. In the temptation to escape from life the three found Jesus only, as a sufficient guide and friend. For He did not ask that that He might dwell on the mount, but made His way to the valley to where the need was and the fulfillment of His purpose - as friend, redeemer and savior - could be felt, known and seen. 
In their fears (vs. 7) they saw Jesus only who strengthened their faith. 
In their weakness they saw Jesus only – who fostered their faith. Trust in God in whatever you face in life.  
In the approach of death, they learned to see Jesus only: He has "the words of life beyond this ephemeral reality" (John 6:68). 
Consider what it means to listen to Jesus to alleviate your
fears about life’s future possibilities.  
Friday, February 24, 2023
People have a need for faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7)
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink, /though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink / Of any earthly woe!
That will not murmur nor complain / Beneath the chast’ning rod,
But, in the hour of grief or pain, / Will lean upon its God.
A faith that shines more bright and clear / When tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear, / In darkness feels no doubt.
Lord, give me such a faith as this, / And then, whate’er may come,
I’ll taste, e’en here, the hallowed bliss / Of an eternal home.

Consider what it means to have a faith that will not
shrink though pressed by every foe.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
When the ecstasy of our extraordinary encounters and experiences evaporates, only Jesus remains to remind us that in the final analysis He is the only authoritative expression of who God is, how God is, and where God is at work in the world. Only Jesus connects the divergent dimensions of life together completely. Only Jesus expresses the intentions of God for life entirely. Only Jesus directs us to the purpose of God for our lives fully. Only Jesus.
We too are called to both the mountain and the valley. We may encounter extraordinary, dazzling moments that inspire wonder and awe. It is good to be there. At the same time, we were not intended to stay there. Those times when God calls us to come up, empower, fortify, and inspire us to come down.
We come down to the realities of life: gun violence out of control; rampant brutality n many aspects of our society; a culture-war spreading at an alarming rate; democracy threatened by fascist authoritarianism with dictatorial rule. We come down to a world where injustice is pervasive economically, ecologically, and environmentally. 
We go up to be awed by the reality of experiencing the Lord. We come down to the valley to serve suffering humanity. 
Jesus calls us o’er the tumult / Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth, / Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”
Jesus calls us from the worship / Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us, / Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”
In our joys and in our sorrows, / Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures, / “Christian, love Me more than these!”
Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies, / Savior, may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience, / Serve and love Thee best of all.

Consider what it means that we are called to come up to experience the extraordinary so we can go down to the valley to serve suffering humanity. 
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