May the grace of God, the love of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Spirit be with you today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.
We are coming to the end of Epiphany, the season of insight. Here is the definition from Dictionary.com: “1) A Christian festival observed on January 6; 2) an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity; 3) a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience; 4) a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.”
The last Sunday of the Season of Epiphany is “Transfiguration of Jesus Sunday” and the text is always the story of Jesus meeting Moses and Elijah on the mountain. The stories, slightly different, are at Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36.
Our readings this coming Sunday are:
Exodus 34:29-35 – At the end of chapter 24 Moses, Aaron, and 70 elders climb Mt. Sinai. The elders stop and Moses goes to the summit where he receives the commandments of God. Chapters 25-31:17 are all that God spoke to him. In verse 18, God gives Moses the two stone tablets. The story takes a dark turn in chapter 32 when the Israelites at the base of the mountain make a golden calf and worships it. God sees what they have done and threatens to kill them all but Moses talks God out of it. Then God sends Moses down the mountain where Moses breaks the tablets. He, Moses that is, then commands the Tribe of Levi to slaughter “brother, friends, and neighbors” and 3,000 are killed that day. The next day, Moses goes back up the mountain to talk with God (32:30-34:28) and get new tablets. When Moses finally returns to the Israelites, his face is shining because he has been in God’s presence. The people were afraid to approach Moses so he begins to wear a veil except when speaking with God and conveying God’s word to the people. Does your life shine with the love of God when you have been in God’s presence? What does it mean to be “in God’s presence”?
Psalm 99 – The psalmist praises God as King of all creation. God is a Mighty King, lover of justice, establishing equity, and bringing justice and righteousness to the House of Jacob (Israel). The psalmist mentions Moses, Aaron, and Samuel as God’s priests who God heard when they cried out.
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 – Paul claims that those who hope in the new covenant of Jesus Christ have had the veil (referring to Moses above) set aside so that we may see the glory of God. And since the Lord lives in us as the Spirit, we have freedom and are being transformed into the image of the Lord, from one degree of glory to another. Therefore, Paul argues, we do the work of God in this world and we refuse to engage in the ways of this world (cunning, deceit, etc.) What we choose to do is live in the “open statement of truth” and submit to the “conscience of everyone in the sight of God”. It is difficult to understand what Paul is talking about here. In my opinion, the death and resurrection of Jesus reveals to us what was once veiled: our enslavement to society’s system of sin and death. When we begin to understand what God has shown us, with the power of the Spirit, we are set free from that system. Once set free, we can speak the truth of that system and God’s desire for all people to live in God’s System of self-giving love.
Luke 9:28-36 (37-43) – The first nine verses are about the Transfiguration of Jesus and the optional seven verses are about the disciples failure to heal a demon possessed boy. A week before this event, Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah (Christ) and Jesus tells the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to be rejected, tried, crucified, and raised from death. The journey began at the top of a mountain. Jesus takes his three closest disciples up with him but they fall asleep. When they wake up, they see Jesus with Moses and Elijah (two figures from the history of Israel who may or may not have died). They also see that Jesus has be changed, transfigured or metamorphosed. Jesus’ face is changed and his clothes are shining bright white. Peter wants to build shrines to all three but the voice of God interrupts and declares Jesus to be the Son. God also gives them a commandment, though not written in stone, to “listen to him”. Peter and the others found that listening to Jesus was hard. Do we hear God’s voice and do we listen to Jesus? To listen to Jesus is to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, and go into all the world sharing the Good News. How are we doing?
May the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bring change in your life and may you share that life-changing love will all people this week.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor