Sunday, February 07, 2016

Transfiguration C

Exodus 34:29-35

29Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

This account of the second giving of the law happens after the Golden Calf idolatry event. But it also happens after Exodus 34:6-7, when God passes in front of Moses and declares himself compassionate, forgiving, full of lovingkindness, abounding love. "Chesed" in the Hebrew OT is a kind of codeword roughly equivalent to the NT prevalence of the word "grace." God wants to make clear to Moses despite what had just happened, chesed, lovingkindness, grace always sets the tone of the divine heart.

Luke 9:28-36, 37-43

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"―not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." 41Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
Welcome to the Protestant Western Churches' celebration of the Transfiguration!

Transfiguration has been a long-standing major feast day; most Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches celebrate Transfiguration on August 06. Some churches celebrate it twice!

The Incarnation of Our Lord and the Transfiguration of Our Lord bookend this first major portion of the church year. In Christmas or the Incarnation, the divine enters the human condition. In the Transfiguration, the humans (Jesus, James, John, Peter) share in divine glory.

Today, Transfiguration, is the last Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday; next Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent.

Church Year Outline:

• Advent through Transfiguration;

• 6 weeks of Lent: Ash Wednesday through Wednesday in Holy Week;

• The Three Days or Triduum: Maundy Thursday; Good Friday; Easter Vigil/Day;

• 50 Great Days of Easter ending with Pentecost—the 50th day of Easter;

• The long Green – and growing – Season of Ordinary Time through Reign of Christ/Christ the King.

For Transfiguration we experience another Trinitarian theophany. Remember the Baptism of Jesus? Remember words that include "phan"? Epiphany, Tiffany, Fantasy... other?

In scripture mountains are places of special revelation. Both Moses [Exodus 20:1-17] and Elijah [i Kings 19:12] received revelation on mountains.

v.28: "About eight days" could refer to approximately one week, or it could refer to the 8th day of the New Creation. 40 days in scripture is about one month; 40 years is a month of years. In their parallel passages, Mark and Matthew tell us 6 days, which also is about one week.

v.29: As often happens in Luke's gospel, Jesus was praying when this revelation happened. Compare Jesus' baptism.

v.31: in Greek, Jesus' exodus, departure.

They were celebrating the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles or Tents when people remembered and celebrated God's protection during their wilderness wanderings (Leviticus 23:39-43).

Peter, James, and John, the sons of Zebedee are on the mountain with Jesus.

Moses and Elijah visit. Why Moses and Elijah? What do we already know about them? Moses – Sinai Covenant/Ten Commandments, "Law"; Exodus. Elijah – Prophets.

Like Jesus, or a contrast with Jesus?

They talked about Jesus' departure: "Exodus" in the Greek. They are not discussing details regarding the Law and the Prophets. How did the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah?

Jesus' exodus? Freedom, redemption, liberation?

Listen to Jesus! not "look at him," despite all the resplendent shiny heavenly glory and bling that surrounds him.

Listen to jesus, not to Moses or to Elijah, who didn't quite get everything right all the time.

This imperative "listen to Jesus" and not to any other (cultural, economic, consumerist, even ecclesiastical) voices evokes the Barmen Declaration [1934] from the Confessing Church in Germany in the wake of the idolatry of nazi national socialism

Barmen Declaration 8:11: "Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death."

How about us?

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