Monday, February 27, 2017

Transfiguration A

Matthew 17:1-9

1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Protestant Western Churches celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration on the last Sunday of the Epiphany season; most Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches celebrate Transfiguration on August 06. Some celebrate it twice! This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday; next Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent. Transfiguration concludes what we can consider the first major portion of the church's year of grace that begins on Advent 1, continues with Christmas/Nativity, then to Name/Circumcision of Jesus; the Feast of the Epiphany; Baptism of Jesus... all these days concentrate on light, revelation, and on God as God of everyone, God for everyone.

For T-Fig we experience another Trinitarian theophany! Remember Baptism of Jesus? Remember words that include "phan"? Epiphany, Tiffany, Fantasy. Last week we talked about the many many "Holy Ordinary" events, places, and circumstances in scripture and in our own lives. With its location and the unusual happenings that swirl around it, this mountaintop Transfiguration is what we'd think of as a more typical, characteristic, not surprising (almost expected) manifestation of the divine. A class regular mentioned she didn't see HS/HG in the Matthew reading; I explained the cloud of the shekinah (a feminine noun in Hebrew) is a common OT sign of God's Spirit.

We did the classic explanation of mountains as places of revelation: Moses represents the Sinai Covenant / Law he received on Mount Sinai; Elijah received divine revelation on Mount Horeb and represents the Prophets. We receive God's fullest, most overwhelming self-revelation at Jesus' crucifixion on Mount Calvary. In his Great Commission from a mountain at the end of Matthew's gospel, Jesus promises to be with us forever and charges us to teach and baptize all nations.

Six days later may reference the Exodus 24:16 from today's first reading/hearing; Luke 9:28 tells us "now about eight ays after these sayings..." that can be approximately one week, or the 8th day / 1st day of the New Creation.

Transfiguration leans strongly into Lent. Interesting that Jesus tells his disciples to tell no one until after the resurrection [17:9]—that's a feature of Mark's gospel we call the "messianic secret." In his Transfiguration account, in Luke, Jesus – Moses and Elijah! – discuss Jesus' exodus or departure that he would accomplish in Jerusalem [19:31].

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