Posts Tagged 'transformation'

For March 2, 2014: Last Epiphany, Year A

The Reading                                                                  Exodus 24:12-18

Moses is called to Mount Sinai to receive from God the Law by which Israel is to live. We have a vivid description of Mount Sinai shrouded in cloud, with the glory of God appearing like a fire on the mountain. Who could fail to be transformed by such a vision?

The Response                                                  Psalm 2

Psalm 2 may have been written for the dedication or rededication of a king of Israel: announcing a ruler as son of God was common in the Middle East, as is depicting one’s national god as more powerful than the gods of other nations. Might it be that God’s scorn is reserved for those who believe that they are in charge?

The Epistle                                                                        2 Peter 1:16-21

Peter of Galilee went up a mountain on a hike with friends—and saw his teacher revealed as God’s own Son. The second letter of Peter, almost certainly composed in Peter’s name rather than by the apostle himself, retells the story to confirm that it is no myth but rather a lamp leading us to the Light.

The Gospel                                                                       Matthew 17:1-9

The gospel tells the story to which the day’s epistle alludes: Jesus is revealed as the Son of God by being both transformed and acclaimed—but only for a little while, and he hushes it up.



An epiphany is a revelation, and the last Sunday of Epiphany brings us more than one.

The Old Testament epiphanies are grand, obvious, and enduring. Exodus reveals God in mountain-enveloping cloud and “devouring fire”—the sort of conflagration from which residents of tinder-dry Southern California flee in terror. Psalm 2 shows God easily angered and dictating terms to rulers who have presumed to challenge either the rule of God or the rule of God’s representative.

The New Testament epiphany, retold in 1 Peter, shares some features with the Old Testament epiphanies: as in the psalm, Jesus is recognized as God’s own son; as in Exodus, Moses is present, though here it is not Moses but Jesus whose appearance is transformed; as in both Exodus and the psalm, God’s people are awestruck to the point of terror. But where Moses the prophet took advantage of that terror in ruling God’s people, Jesus doesn’t. To quote the Christmas carol, “mild he lays his glory by” to be born to and among us; he orders the disciples not to make a big issue of who he is and what he does; and he keeps laying his glory and pride aside as he deals with nearly all degrees and conditions of people, from those terrified, sick, or outcast up through the most powerful religious and political figures in Palestine. This is a far cry from announcing whose sin has invoked this plague or that natural disaster or demanding the legal right to refuse service.

So what if truly following God means not flaunting God?

For Feb. 10, 2013: the Last Sunday in Epiphany, Year C

The Reading            Exodus 34:29-35

Exodus tells of an angry Moses breaking the original tablets of the Ten Commandments on finding that, in his absence, Israel had taken to worshiping an idol. In today’s reading, Moses returns from God with a new set of tablets—and the glory of God, shining in his face, terrifies everyone.

The Response            Psalm 99

The Epistle            2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

In first-century Corinth, Paul was under attack both for his ministry and for the gospel he preached. To defend his acts, today he contrasts the old covenant, under which even Moses could not stay transformed permanently, with the new covenant in which, through Christ, we all are free to know God and to be known as we are without shame or fear.

The Gospel            Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]


Further thoughts

On the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent, the readings all center on the idea of transformation. The lesson of the reading from Exodus is that an encounter with the living God changes a person visibly; the point of 2 Corinthians is surely that living into the will of God day by day has as its proper result the same sort of change.

Then there are Peter and John and James, among the disciples who have been with Jesus day by day—and who, on the mountain as Jesus prays, are shocked out of their sleep-deprived minds when he not only begins to shine like Moses but is visited by Moses and Elijah into the bargain. It is easy to shake our heads at them, especially as Luke continues to tell about the demon that the disciples failed to cast out of the boy. It is easy to wonder how these benighted souls could have failed to heed the signs, what with all that exposure.

The fact is, of course, that we have the benefit of two thousand more years of scripture, two thousand years more years of hindsight, two thousand more years in which to explore appearances of God and our responses to them.

But are we any more observant about God, or any more changed by our encounters with God, than they?

When I ask that question about myself, I find that I don’t have a good answer. That’s disturbing—and, as we move into the season of Lent, I rather suspect it ought to be.

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