Getting Ready for Sunday: Luke 9:28-36: The Transfiguration

In Exodus, Moses went up to the mountain to receive the law. And God met him there. God was present in a cloud covering the mountain. Moses entered the cloud into the presence of the Lord to receive the law, and the presence of the Lord made Moses’ face shine with the light of the Lord’s reflected glory. But the glory did not come from Moses. It was God’s glory. Moses put a veil over his face, so that the people could not see the reflected glory fading between meetings with God. Furthermore, Moses’ death was witnessed by no one but God himself.

In I Kings, Elijah also went up to the mountain to meet with God. It may have been the same mountain (!), although that isn’t entirely clear from the texts. In any case, when God met with him there, Elijah covered his face with his cloak. The act is not explained, but it would seem that the prophet is refusing to claim for himself the right to speak with God “face to face,” as Moses did. Even so, God took him up bodily into heaven. You may remember the famous scene of his departure in the fiery chariot.

So here we have two men who were called by God to be instruments of his revelation. Moses represents the Law, and Elijah represents the later prophets sent to uphold it. Both of them went up a mountain to meet God. And both are understood to be with God, since neither of them was seen to die. And both of these men, representing the entirety of God’s revelation, “the law and the prophets,” now descend from the presence of God in heaven to meet with God in the flesh upon the mountain. They have been in the presence of God in heaven, and they are full of the reflected glory of that presence. But Jesus, to whom both the Law and the prophets pointed, is present. And he is revealed in his true identity as the one whose natural state is glory.

Jesus’ face changes, and “dazzling white” doesn’t begin to cover it. Everything upon his person becomes so bright that it is flashing like the brightest lightning. Moses and Elijah “appear in glory”, but Jesus simply appears for once as what and who he is. He does not reflect anyone else’s glory. The glory that is in him is simply allowed to be visible. And, of course, the cloud of God’s presence is here, as well. The disciples are terrified, because they know what the cloud and the brightness mean: that they are entering the presence of God, which, in Exodus, meant death to everyone but Moses. The voice from the cloud is reminiscent of the voice of God speaking to Moses and Elijah, and it answers the thoughtless words of Peter by commanding him to listen rather than presumptuously directing Jesus, who alone is the elect son of God.

It is interesting that at this, the moment of his most visible glory, Moses and Elijah speak with him about what is perhaps in earthly terms his lowest moment, the crucifixion. Literally, the word translated “departure” is “exodus,” clearly a euphemism for his death, but also another reminder that God’s work in Christ is continuous with everything else that God has done in, among, and for his people since the beginning, since it also refers to the great defining moment of Israel, their salvation from slavery in Egypt.

In the same way, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the defining moment of the Christian church. We were enslaved by sin and death, just as Israel was enslaved in Egypt, and Jesus saved us by his death in our place. So the crucifixion is truly our exodus. It is also, in reality, the moment of Christ’s greatest glory. On the cross, it may seem that Christ has lost, but he has actually conquered. The Transfiguration on the mountain is a sign for us who are slow on the uptake. But the cross, like the Exodus, reveals the true glory of a God who spares no expense or suffering to rescue his beloved creation.

The Rev. Garrin W. Dickinson is Rector of The Church of the Holy Nativity in Plano

The Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany

By the Rev. Rebecca Tankersley, St. James in Dallas 

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (CEB)

The word of the LORD came to me:

“Before I created you in the womb I knew you;

before you were born I set you apart;

I made you a prophet to the nations.”

“Ah, Lord God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child.”

The LORD responded,

“Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’

Where I send you, you must go;

what I tell you, you must say.

Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you,”

declares the LORD.

Then the LORD stretched out his hand,

touched my mouth, and said to me,

“I’m putting my words in your mouth.

This very day I appoint you over nations

and empires,

to dig up and pull down,

to destroy and demolish,

to build and plant.”

For many years, I read this call narrative (and others like it) with envy. It seemed too much to think, when I was young, that I might one day hear words like these from the Lord. I thought God only spoke like this to particular people, centuries ago.

This passage from Jeremiah, however, reveals more than God’s plan for one man who lived long ago. This passage illustrates the manner in which God calls all of us into service. The universality of the call is reflected in four statements by God, recounting for Jeremiah how God has acted in his life. To Jeremiah, God says:

I created you.

I knew you.

I set you apart.

I made you a ___________.

Though God called Jeremiah to serve particular people (the Israelites) in a particular place (in exile in Babylon), God calls each of us to serve people in our own place.

I created you. From Genesis, we learn that “God created humanity in God’s own image” and pronounced us all “very good.” From the prophet Isaiah, we hear that we are precious in God’s eyes precisely because God created us (43:1-4).

I knew you. God knows each of us intimately and totally. Take a moment to pray Psalm 139, focusing on verses 1-6. “Lord, you know when I sit down and when I stand up … you surround me – front and back … that kind of knowledge is too much for me.” The God of heaven and earth knows each of us.

I set you apart. As members of the Body of Christ, each of us is set apart. The apostle Peter reminds us that we are “a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession” (1 Pet 2:9). We are set apart as God’s treasured people so that, as God promised to Abraham, all people might be blessed. Yes, God acted powerfully in Jeremiah’s life. And God has acted powerfully in each of our lives. God created each of us to be different and gave each different gifts. God made Jeremiah a prophet by putting God’s own words in his mouth and sending him to speak God’s word to God’s people. God has given each of us gifts of grace to equip us for the work of serving and building up the Body of Christ. To some, God has give gifts to serve as “apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:11).

I made you a _____. Having gifted each of us with grace, God calls us into service. God made Jeremiah a prophet. Each of us must discern through prayer and with the support of the Body of Christ how God has made us. So far, I’ve learned that God made me a wife, a mother, and a priest. What did God make you?

Having created, known, set apart, and made Jeremiah a prophet, God calls Jeremiah into service. “Where I send you, you must go; what I tell you, you must say.” Notice the imperatives in God’s call: you must go, and you must say. God speaks these says words to each of us. We find them in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing … and teaching them.”

We may, like Jeremiah, be filled with fear by God’s call. We may, like Jeremiah, protest that we are too immature to carry out God’s work. We can protest, but God calls just the same, making the same promise to us as to Jeremiah:

I am with you.

Always.

Even to the end of the age.

12...2223242526272829303132

This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.