Wednesday, February 23, 2011

March 6, 2011. The Last Sunday after Epiphany

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, who before the passion of your only begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 24:12-18

This passage reads like bona fides for Moses.  People did not elect him:  God chose him.  Moses went up on the mountain alone, and he stayed there forty days and forty nights.

When persons run for President of the United States, typically they run for close to 600 days and nights, and  they don’t benefit from the presumption that they are spending time close to God.

Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.  

Compare those data with date from a major modern example of pyro-techniques”   The fire in the collapsed twin towers of the World Trade Center burned for 99 days

Psalm 2

God seldom  laughs in the whole of the bible, but Jesus laughs often.  See my 1973 article Did Jesus Laugh, first published in The Lutheran Forum.

Yet in the second psalm, the “kings of the earth rise up in revolt, and the princes plot together against the LORD and against the Lord’s  anointed:"

God responds by laughing.  He derides them, as if to say, “I gotcha!”

Rarely do we imagine Jesus mocking his enemies.   He taught, “Do not return evil for evil.... Bless those who curse you.  Do good to those that spitefully use you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.”

2 Peter 1:16-21

Peter lays out his own bona fides.   Although  we have no fool-proof way to check them out 2,000 years after the fact, Peter certainly seems to feel it important that we accept what the he and other eye witnesses as accurate.

When Peter speaks of the prophecy in Scripture, he is not referring to Christian scriptures, but to Hebrew scriptures, the only scriptures he knew.  He asserts that the Holy Spirit  spoke through God in the creation of those scriptures.

Peter observes that their reports more fully confirm the prophecies in Hebrew Scripture.

Peter asserts that he and others who report the power and coming of our Lord Jesus report what they have seen with their own eyes.  They were present at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended and said, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 17:1-9

More bona fides;  for Jesus this time.   The transfiguration places Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah, two major spiritual icons.    

It’s such a moving triumvirate, that Peter, James and John, allowed to witness it, don’t want to leave.  Peter says:  “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.”

From spontaneious religious experience to church architecture:  ever was it thus.

Rather than trust spiritual experience to regenerate itself, Peter, James and John, like many throughout religious history, want to preserve the experience in permanent dwellings.

God interrupts suddenly with a bright cloud that overshadows them, and a voice affirms of Jesus in almost the same terms that the Holy Spirit had used at Jesus’ baptism:  "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"

Jesus ignores his disciples' plea stay enraptured on the mountain.  “He came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.”

When we have had a powerful experience of God, often we want it to last forever.   Yet manna, God’s holy food for our journey, cannot be freeze-dried.   It comes in ample supply for only one day at a time.  Any leftovers rot

The readings from Exodus, 2nd Peter, and Matthew all emphasize spiritual credentials – Moses’, the apostles’, and Jesus’.  What about our own?

In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this shall all know that you are his disciples if you have love one for another.”    If you were put on trial as a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you.”

Today's collect emphasizes that the transfiguration occurred before the passion, adding:  “Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.”

See also

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