Transfiguration of Our Lord February 14, 2010.

Position:Preaching Helps

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

First Reading

Moses and Jesus are clearly linked through today's readings by their propensity to visit mountains, the clear revelations they bring of God's presence and teaching, and by the changed appearances that they each experienced. In the reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul contrasts the two. He compares and contrasts the two situations that we read in the other two lessons and shows how the transfiguration of Jesus is still alive for Christians.

When Moses came down the mountain after his personal encounter with God, his face was shining. The Hebrew word used here could more literally be translated "was sending out rays." We can easily see the connection with the story of Jesus' transfiguration. It is interesting to note that this word could easily be alternately rendered "grew horns" and for this reason Moses has often been pictured artistically as having horns. But most important for our purposes is that Moses came down from the mountain after encountering God. He had a new teaching from God and his appearance was obviously changed through the encounter.

Skipping to the Gospel reading, Jesus too ascends a mountain to encounter God. He does not come with a new teaching as Moses did. It seems that the experience itself is the teaching. Because Jesus did not ascend the mountain alone, as Moses did. He brought witnesses: Peter and James and John. Those witnesses saw him transformed. Those witnesses saw him in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the great heroes of Israel's past, the embodiment(s) of the Torah and the Prophets. Those witnesses heard a voice from a cloud: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"

As we compare and contrast the two, perhaps it would be safe to say that witnessing Christ is the teaching. Peter and James and John did not need any more lessons: they did not need another set of Commandments. The ones that Moses received on his mountaintop experience remained sufficient for them, as they remain sufficient for us. But in the experience they learned. They learned who this One is, as they prepared to follow him into Jerusalem. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians "[t]herefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart" (4:1). Peter and James and John were able to experience this amazing thing by God's mercy. Perhaps the experience was intended to help them not to lose heart in the days and weeks to come in...

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