Reading Ramblings – Transfiguration Sunday – February 11, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Transfiguration Sunday – February 11, 2018

Texts: Exodus 34:29-35 Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 3:12-13, 4:1-6; Mark 9:2-9

Context: The readings today emphasize the glory of God – a glory revealed in Jesus himself on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John get a glimpse of some of Jesus’ divine and eternal glory. Not merely a reflection as in the case of Moses, but glory truly his own. Likewise we are being transformed, and our lives here and now are to be reflections – albeit dim ones – of the glory we will one day reflect perfectly and eternally. Rather than seeking to blend in with the crowd, it is expected that Christian lives will shine differently than others. This means that we live differently, rejecting the standards and expectations of the world and striving after the better way we will one day live out perfectly.

Exodus 34:29-35 – Being in the presence of God tangibly alters Moses. Is this a necessary altering, an inevitable result of the mortal in the presence of the immortal, the creation in the presence of the Creator? Perhaps, but perhaps it is also a special aspect of Moses’ unique role and ministry, a divine gift as it were to Moses to reinforce his authority and remind God’s people that Moses is not a dictator but a mediator, working as a prophet of God rather than for any sort of personal profit. Note that the normal response to the presence of the divine – or even the residual of the presence of the divine – is discomfort and fear. I often hear people exclaiming how they wish they could experience God directly, but the Biblical witness is that this is always an overwhelming and terrifying event, at least initially. God in his grace comes to us not in overwhelming majesty and power, but in human form. His concern for us allows us to see and hear his love and care for us, ultimately expressed in his Son’s death and resurrection for us.

Psalm 50:1-6 – Verse 2 literally picks up on the glory of God shining forth, the common theme in the readings today as we remember the Transfiguration. The psalm emphasizes God’s glorious power, referencing some of the most powerful elemental forces we know. Here they are mere tools or clothing for God who is the source of all power and himself far superior to every other type of power we know. This power is turned towards the blessing and protection of his people and his creation. We never need fear being separated from his love and power regardless of the circumstances of our day-to-day situation. He will summon us to him regardless of where we are. His people can never be torn from him, and He will never forget even the smallest or most insignificant (by human standards) of his people.

2 Corinthians 3:12-13, 4:1-6 – The Epistle lesson is carved up a little bit – and taken from a different Epistle – to focus our attention on the ramifications of the Transfiguration. One of the ramifications is our boldness. The resurrection of Jesus the Christ gives us hope and confidence. We ought not feel the need to hide our faith from others, but rather allow the joy that our hope in Christ gives us shine forth to transform not just our lives but the lives of others and the world around us. In a culture that exhorts us to rely on our inner drive and power and strength to change our world, we are reminded that in Christ it is never our own power but rather the very power of God the Holy Spirit! Not that this will be easy, and therefore we are not to lose hope (4:1). Rather, each day and each moment, but what we choose to do and not do, we build a reputation with other people for honor and honesty. Such things ought to be self-evident of the truth we bear, but they are not because we have an enemy at work in this world who misleads and confuses and blinds people.

Mark 9:2-9 – I love Mark’s choice of language here (or Peter’s, since Mark is conveying Peter’s preaching) – that Jesus’ clothes were whiter than anyone on earth could make them. It wasn’t just that Jesus had nice clothes all of a sudden, his clothes were beyond our attainment, beyond our ability to match or emulate. With this Peter strives to drive home his point – that what he and James and John saw in Jesus on that mountain was beyond this world. No spotlight, no errant ray of sunlight could create what they saw and experienced firsthand. The effect is bewildering, and Mark clarifies Peter’s words, providing the explanation that only Peter himself could have shared – he was beside himself. He had no idea what to say or do or how to respond in this situation because it was beyond his experience, beyond anything he had ever known. Moses is present, still speaking with God, now in glory with God rather than reflecting imperfectly the glory he was in the presence of during his life. Elijah also is present in the glory of God, and they speak with Jesus, who is himself the very glory of God the Son. Moreover, they are enveloped in a cloud, long a symbol of God the Father’s presence and glory. Overall the setting echoes Moses’ experiences on Mt. Sinai in Exodus. Here is another experience of the divine. Now it is Peter and James and John who experience it rather than Moses. But there is the same self-disclosure of the divine at work. But now the divine is not simply visiting a mountaintop. Rather, they realize that the divine ascended the mountain with them, and will descend with them after it’s over. Jesus truly is God with us.

We did not experience this, but it is conveyed to us through Peter’s own words. It is witnessed to, so that we may place our confidence and hope in Jesus of Nazareth. His death and resurrection is not just the death and resurrection of a man, but of no less than the Son of God. Therefore I can rest assured that his death and resurrection are for me, and are sufficient for me. Therefore I can trust that He will return for me, whether to take me through death to be with him, or coming before my death to call me to him in the air and in glory for eternity. This is the hope and confidence I should live my life in, then. Regardless of what others say or think, whether it is attractive or offensive to them. The life of love I lead towards God and towards others is the life of one transformed by the Son of God’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return.

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