Well tomorrow night’s/tonight’s the big night. Of course, I’m talking about the Super Bowl. Who’s going to win? How many want the Bronco’s to win? How many want the Panther’s? How many of you don’t care?
Hey –let me ask you. What’s it take to put together a winning team? At least, one that’s good enough to go to the Super Bowl. Huh? What’s it take? It’s okay, you can talk to me.
Okay, so you need a quarterback, coaching staff, guys who can tackle, guys who can block. Guys who can run. Guys who can catch. Guys who can kick – the ball that is. You need a place to practice and a place to play.
I couldn’t help thinking on this national holiday that we call Super Bowl Sunday – that what goes into making a winning football team – is not unlike what it takes for Jesus to put together a winning team. He needs lots of different people to do lots of different things. Coaches and players, right? A place to practice, and a place to play.
So – as members of Team Jesus – may I suggest to you that the church – this place – is the place where we practice. This is our practice field where we train, and learn, and develop – those gifts, those skills, those talents – that make us useful to the team. And the place where we play – where we take the results of our training – is outside these walls. Out there. Out there is the playing field.
Now I don’t know who it is that you think Jesus might have thought would have been ideal candidates to be his followers – to be on his team – but I would suggest that at first glance that the three disciples that Jesus takes with him up to the Mount of Transfiguration – Peter, James and John – would probably not be our first choices. This is a rough group. Sunburned, calloused, fishermen. Perhaps a little salty in their language – we really don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. But I would guess – and again, we really don’t know – that you would be more likely to see these guys someplace other than anywhere near a church. Well, actually, a synagogue.
But here we are today – on this Transfiguration [weekend] [Sunday] and we find that these three disciples are in awe when they see Jesus transfigured in all of his brilliant glory. They don’t know what to do. They are terrified. And Peter – just has to say something – want to build three shelters of sorts to mark the occasion – but quite frankly – they are so in awe that they really don’t know what to do or say.
All three – all three – for whatever their reasons happened to be – felt unworthy to be there. But the Lord wanted these men to be on his team. They didn’t know it then – but what happened to them on that Mount of Transfiguration was a part of their training. Jesus was preparing them for that time when they would be going into the world to tell anyone willing to listen about all that they had heard and seen and experienced when Jesus walked the earth. They were a part of the team. And you know what? The Lord wants you and me to be on his team too.
Now, at some point the analogy with football kind of breaks down. You see, the game of football is a rough game. Lots of hitting. Lots of tackling. The team Jesus calls us to is more akin to touch football. Being a part of Team Jesus requires a special touch. Jesus teaches us that our job as disciples is to touch peoples’ lives. To create a place where lives can be changed. Where grace, mercy, healing and forgiveness are given away for free.
It requires a special touch. This assumes, of course, that we are a little touched ourselves. And we are when we are touched by Jesus with God’s amazing grace.
So we go out into the world and we touch others. But what does this look like? There are many ways, but I want to focus on just two. And both points I want to talk about focus on evangelism First, touching the lives of others is invitational. Waiting for the right moment. I have found that if a person is not ready to talk about God – or Jesus – or church – then the time just isn’t right. However – however – when the time is right – a simple invitation sometimes is all it takes. A simple invitation that says, “Come, and see!”
By the way, think about how it is that you first came here. For some of you, you’re here because your mother and/or your father brought you here. And you’ve been coming here ever since. My conversations with folks joining the church tell me overwhelmingly – a vast majority will say – “Someone invited me,” or “Someone told me about you.” That’s what I would call the soft touch. That simple invitation works a lot better than the person who wants to argue – or guilt – or shame – somebody else into believing.
A simple invitation is sometimes all it takes. And a lot of you are doing just that. Keep it up.
So the first thing about being a part of team Jesus is that it is invitational. The second thing involves story telling. Folks – if there is anyone who has a great story to tell – it’s us. I can’t think of anyone or any group that can tell a story that is also a Good News message like the one we in the church have to tell.
Someone once called the Bible, the Divine Drama – in other words – the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is God’s interaction throughout history with us human beings. And we see a part of that Divine Drama in our Gospel reading from Luke – again what we call the Transfiguration of our Lord. Moses and Elijah are two heroes of the Jewish faith. They are heroes of our faith tradition as well. And the stories of the Bible – stores about Moses and Elijah – and so many, many others – are stories of faith and of the many times God interacts – and intervenes – and saves – and creates – a people for Himself. From creation – right on through the history of the People of Israel – in other words – the Jewish people – through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – to the life of the early church. The Bible is full of amazing encounters between God and God’s people. Stories of miracles. Stories of death and resurrection. Of love and grace. Of mercy and forgiveness.
For instance, we know about this story of the Transfiguration because Peter and James and John later told about it. It’s recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. A reference is made to it in II Peter.
Just to demonstrate how a modern day story can convey the same message that the stories from the Bible tell us – let me tell you a story. I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, so I like stories about Niagara Falls. Listen.
In March 2003, a resident of Buffalo, NY attempted suicide by climbing into the icy waters just above the rushing waters of Niagara Falls. But at the last minute, the man changed his mind. Now, this man was luckier than most. He grabbed hold of a rock in the freezing waters just above the Falls.
A helicopter crew was dispatched to rescue him. The crew threw a safety line to the man, but as he reached for it, he lost his footing and was swept even closer to the Falls. He grabbed another hand hold on some rocks and reached the safety line. But then, he and the safety line were pulled up under a shelf of ice along the shore line only a few feet from the very edge of the Falls. One of the rescue workers pounded on the ice until it shattered. He then hauled the man up out of the water and into the helicopter.
That rescue worker, as well as the rest of the rescue squad, put themselves in a treacherous situation in order to save this desperate man who had changed his mind about going over the Falls.
So why did they do it? Why did the rescue squad put their lives in danger to rescue this man? Let me tell you why the rescue team did it. They did it because – that’s what they do. Their rescue of that man had nothing to do with his worthiness. Other than, he was a human being – a man who needed rescuing.
Now, I hope that you just heard the Good News that that story of rescue was meant to say. The Good News message I want you to hear is this. God loves you – and God rescues you – not because you deserve it – not because you are worthy – but because of who God is. Saving and rescuing? That’s what God does.
But are we worthy? Naw. And in that respect we are no different than Peter or James or John. But God rescues us anyway. God saves us anyway. Because of his overwhelming love and mercy – and yes, because of His amazing grace. That’s the first thing I hope you heard.
The second I want you to draw from this is that as a member of God’s rescue team, you too can be a messenger of the Good News. And most times, that involves listening. Just listen to that other person’s story – where they’ve been – what they’ve done – without judgment. Listen to what they have to say about God – about Jesus – about the church. And you do not need to be defensive. And you don’t need to be offensive either. We’ll leave the job of defense and offense to the Broncos and the Panthers. All you have to do is listen. And if you’re lucky – maybe they’ll listen to your story too. Of who Jesus is to you. And why you believe. And what being on the Lord’s team means to you. And then if the time is right – to invite. A simple invitation is all it takes.
By the way – anyone who has been touched by the Good News message of Jesus Christ – has a story to tell. A story of God’s love and forgiveness, mercy and grace. And I’d love to hear yours. Well, not right now. But sometime when you get the chance.
Now I know that we good Lutherans aren’t known for our faith story telling. We are kind of private. Maybe what we need to do is get into practice – get into training. Get our game face on. After all, this is the place where we train – right? – This is the place where we learn to tell our story – which is really God’s story active in our lives.
Well, I don’t know which team is going to win [tomorrow night] [tonight]. But this much I do know. Jesus is putting together a winning team. Peter, and James, and John signed on. And when it comes to choosing sides, I know whose team I want to be on. I want to be on the Lord’s team – and I trust you do too. Because his is the winning team. Amen