Finding the Lessons

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Transfiguration - Last Epiphany A February 26, 2017

Quotes That Make Me Think

"You can tell them that they are called, that this story is their story, that they have a part to play in God's ongoing drama to save, bless, and care for all the world. But you can also listen. And this may be just as important."

"The Transfiguration of Peter," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2011.

"Jesus' followers receive the promise that his story and their story will be forever intertwined, whether they are on mountaintops or in valleys or someplace in between..."

Commentary, Matthew 17:1-9, Audrey West, Preaching This Week,, 2008.

"While interpretation should bridge the distance between the biblical texts and ourselves, it should not facilely collapse that distance, drawing parallels that are not parallel, thereby reducing and even trivializing a grand text."

"Christ is Not as We Are," Fred B. Craddock, The Christian Century. At Religion Online, 1990.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


God of all that is worthy of trust and destined to endure, you have made the words of your Son a solid rock on which the children of your kingdom can build their lives. Shelter us from the storms of mere worldly wisdom; anchor our judgments and choices in your timeless truth; that, with our lives set securely on this firm foundation, we may not collapse int he face of adversity or assault, but stand steadfast and true in the faith that endures. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Matthew 17:1-9

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

Matthew is ever the story teller. His art shines through in this narrative of the Transfiguration. Certainly we see (as we have already seen in other parts of the Matthean Gospel) traces of the Sinai experience of Moses and God, and Moses with his followers. The telling of the Jesus story has mimicked the landscape and has given us a sense of space and place not unlike the Exodus itself.

Scholars in most texts say - that is not all. Matthew weaves images from Daniel, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu. (Harrington, Matthew, Sacra Pagina, 255)  The transfiguration is central in the revelation of who Jesus is. 

We have talked some in the past few weeks about Jesus as a new Moses and new Elijah. We have talked about how Jesus' ministry begins a new age of prophetic action and an age of the Holy Spirit. 
We have talked about the emerging importance of the disciples in this new ministry; and how each follower of Jesus becomes a bearer of the Good News of Salvation in the world through action and word. Here in this text we see clearly these themes amplified.

Jesus is not Moses or Elijah - that time is over. Jesus is leading his disciples not to create a revolution in religious thought which still manifests itself in one or two given locations. No. Jesus is recreating the world holistically. Jesus' mission is not in a temple on a mountaintop, or even in in one country. His ministry is not a ministry where the followers come to him, but a ministry where the followers primary worship act is going with him into the world.

In his Lambeth address to the Bishop, Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) told them that it was typical of our Christian life to believe that we needed to take the baby Jesus by the hand and lead him out into the world. He remarked at the reality of sin in such a belief that God must be protected by us. He instead offered an image, which remained with me after reading it on Tuesday morning this week, that we are to go out of our churches and places of worship to find Jesus already out in the world. We are to leave the safety of our booth like churches and follow Jesus into the world.

We might remember as we reflect on the Transfiguration Jesus' own words earlier in Matthew: Follow Me. Not please come with me, but a command -- follow him. Here again Jesus leads his followers out into the world, off the mountain top, out into the place where the proclamation of Jesus Christ is made.

Some Thoughts on 2 Peter 1:16-21

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"One could use these two texts to tie together the splendor of the gift of the law and of the gift of the son, two markers of God's covenant with humanity. This could be underscored by comparing what Moses brings off the mountain “the Law“ with what Christ brings off the mountain “his own body"; both of these serve as the vehicles of divine relationship with the community of faith."

Commentary, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Margaret Aymer, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

This passage is chosen specifically to accompany the story of the transfiguration.  Yet there is a little bit more here as well.

The passage begins by saying that the author has not followed myths - in this context the word myth refers to clever lies.  He then refers to his won experience of seeing the majesty of Jesus and refers to the transfiguration event.  Stating as an eye witness to the moment of God's blessing Jesus in Majestic Glory.

The author then makes it clear that the transfiguration itself is further proof of the resurrection.  It is a prophetic message because it came true.  This reality, the author argues, is to be a light of knowledge which out shines the myths and lies.  The prophecy of scripture (meaning the books of the Torah and Prophets - there was no New Testament at the time of this writing) is proven by actions in the world - like the transfiguration.  Moreover, what the reality of this worldly proof means is the the words of scripture and their prophecy of the messiah were written by men and women moved by the Holy Spirit.

This passage leans heavily on the Jewish understanding of prophecy.  The first rule is the most basic: if the prophecies don't come true, that prophet is a false prophet. The second rule applies when a prophecy has come true or the prophet performs a miraculous sign: if his doctrine contradicts that already revealed. These are the basics.

I think what is of profound importance is that Peter's experience of grace, of majesty, of God - the mysterium tremendum et fascinans! - is one that helps reveal the prophetic message of deliverance found in the ancient scriptures.  [A reminder - mysterium tremendum et fascinans is the “numinous” (the spiritual dimension), the utterly ineffable, the holy, and the overwhelming. The “holy” is manifested in a double form: as the mysterium tremendum (“mystery that terrifies”), in which the dreadful, fearful, and overwhelming aspect of the numinous appears as the mysterium.] (I used to teach Rudolph Otto's Idea of the Holy from which this notion stems.)

We might well invite our people to talk about the places where they experience or see God.  How do these experiences (like the proof of the old testament prophetic school and Peter) reveals the truth found in Holy Scripture.

Some Thoughts on Exodus 24:12-18

In this passage Moses goes to Mt. Sinai to receive the law. There is a cloud that covers the mountain and God appears in glory. Moses enters the great cloud to be with God and to receive the law. He is there for forty days and nights echoing the Israelites journey in the wilderness.

The passage just before this is very important to the story of Matthew as it prefigures the experience of the Jesus and his invitation to follow. All of this is a clear parallel of story, image, and mystical event.

Of course, we are to see Jesus as the greatest prophet, even greater than Moses, and in some way the appearance of Moses and Elijah represent God’s anointing finger upon Jesus. He like Moses, like God, appears on the mountain top in glory.

And, just as Moses went down into the valley from the mountaintop, so too Jesus will go. He will go and deliver the people into a new promised land. The echoes are intentional and the idea of all people (as in Zechariah’s prophesy) receiving deliverance at the hand of Jesus (just as they did at the hand of Moses) is not an image to be missed as preachers offer a word this week.

The first followers of Jesus saw in him a Moses, a deliverer, one who had come low but who would rise. Moreover, when they read back into the Old Testament it is clear that they saw all of the narrative as a prefiguring of the ultimate salvation narrative. Indeed as the Incarnation is eternal, then we see throughout the Old Testament, the working of the mighty Word pushing forward through time the deliverance of ALL of God’s people.

As the saying goes…we believe in the God who raised Jesus after first raising Israel out of Egypt.

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