Into the Cloud
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Pastor Mark Aune
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
50 weeks ago, it was Transfiguration Sunday, 2020. Do you remember the service that day?
I suspect you do not. A lot has happened in our lives and world in the last 50 weeks and it is difficult to remember a specific worship service, so I understand if you do not remember it.
But I do. Maybe it is a pastor thing but I remember it clearly.
It is a vivid memory for me because it was one of the last Sundays we worshipped in the sanctuary and it was an extraordinary service. There was a guest organist and worship leader. The senior choir had a special rehearsal leading up to the service because of all the music they sang that day. There was a lot of singing. The message of the whole morning was uplifting, inspiring.
It was without question, the most meaningful Transfiguration Sunday I have ever experienced in 35 years of ministry.
It felt to me like we were on the mountaintop that morning and we saw Jesus in all his glory, transfigured before us. Little did we know how much our world would change in two short weeks.
This morning, almost one year later, I cannot help but think about the contrast from Transfiguration 2020 to 2021.
I am preaching to pews, an empty sanctuary. The organ is silent, your voices are silent, and the silence is deafening.
Transfiguration means a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.
It is the transfigured Jesus that captures out attention this Sunday. The scriptures tell us, while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
The change is dramatic and is seen by his disciples who accompany him up to that mountain top. This magnificent vision, his appearance full of wonder and mystery. It is Jesus in all his glory.
It is the Jesus I imagine we will see when we pass from death to new life.
It feels like transfiguration is a glimpse of what resurrection will look like.
Something beyond our earthly imaginations.
Peter, James, and John are caught up in this vision and then, in an instant, it changes.
A cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Terrified. They were terrified as they entered the cloud.
We do not pay attention to this verse when we hear the story. We get all caught up in the grandeur of the moment and we do not seem to notice what happens next. Perhaps we do not want to notice what happens next. What changed for them? Why do they feel this way?
A cloud came. It overshadowed them. They were terrified.
That is what these past 50 weeks has felt like. A cloud came. It overshadowed us. It feels like some sort of terror has slowly seeped into our souls.
Like a rudderless boat that has slipped off it’s mooring and drifted into deep and stormy waters, far from land, we find ourselves in a cloud.
We cannot see clearly. Our sense of direction is gone. We can no longer see the beginning or the end.
A cloud came and overshadowed them.
It is so easy to remember the mountaintop. The sun is brightly shining. Children are in school. People are working. Churches full of people. Rush hour is real. Faces are covered with emotional masks, not real masks.
Then a cloud came and overshadowed us. The fear is real. The loss is real. The change is real.
I believe God is trying to teach us something on the mount of transfiguration. The glory of Jesus and the identity of Jesus is part of it. An important part. But there is more.
The cloud that overshadows is also important. Like Peter, James and John, we may feel the terror of the cloud and we understand the blindness a cloud can bring to our lives.
But there is also something more, much more.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
Once more God speaks out of the cloud.
The voice speaks words of hope and promise and direction. This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him.
There have been and continue to be many voices speaking to us out of the cloud in these challenging times.
- What voice are you listening to?
- What voice speaks the loudest?
- What voice speaks the clearest?
“Clouds teach us to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith.”
Peter, James, and John had to come down from that mountain top experience with Jesus and keep walking by faith. It was not easy for them. They stumbled, a lot. They did not understand what Jesus was doing and they really did not understand who he was.
He kept telling them he must go to Jerusalem and be killed but they did not understand. Like so many other times they failed to grasp the fullness of his mission and identity. The Messiah must die for the sin of the world. Out of his death comes new life.
The voice, out of the cloud says, this is my son, the chosen; listen to him. So simple yet so hard.
It is not unusual for us to say that challenges, trials, and clouds are sent into our lives to teach us something. We have all experienced this and I have heard many people talk about what we have learned about ourselves over these past 50 weeks.
But maybe the clouds are sent into our lives in order for us to unlearn something.
To unlearn all our preconceived ideas and notions of who God is and how God is supposed to act.
To unlearn our habit of walking by sight instead of by faith so that we can hear more clearly the voice that is speaking to us out of the clouds.
To unlearn our unhealthy reliance on ourselves rather than placing our lives and our trust in the one whose brightness shines through the clouds.
What is it you need to unlearn in order for you to walk by faith?
Transfiguration teaches us that clouds are not something to fear but they are the presence of God in our lives.
Transfiguration teaches us to listen carefully to the voice speaking to us out of the cloud.
It is in the clouds where we learn to walk, to live, and to breath by faith.
That voice out of the clouds is speaking to you and me right now; this is my son, my chosen; listen to him.
Listen to him. Follow him. Give your life to him.
He will take you from death to life. Ever and always.
Thanks be to God. Amen
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; July 29