Transfiguration A

207: February 26, 2017

Psalm 99,  Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Voice in the Wilderness: Nicole Cox, 2 Peter 1:16-21

Featured Musician - Whym, “Thrill” from their debut album Sing, Doubter

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Justice and the Psalms Call-In Class.

Spend a half-hour with our Psalmist in the field Richard Bruxvoort Colligan on Tuesday, February 28 at 12:30 p.m. CT. Register at

  • exploring three juicy psalms around justice, including one that will surprise you

  • making justice a Thing in worship

  • links to congregational songs to use

  • stick around after the call for optional discussion if you desire

52: March 2, 2014

Matthew 17:1-9 - Transfiguration

Initial Thoughts

  • Sermon the Mount is every 3 years - Transfiguration is every year

    • Time to embrace the mystery of the divine incarnate and accept the invitation to be transformed ourselves

    • Complete transformation - how has the promise of Christmas transformed you? Are you prepared for Lent?

  • Transfiguration Sunday: Why is this a thing?

    • End of Epiphany

    • The ordinary made extraordinary

      • The human made divine

      • F Buechner: “Even with us something like that happens once in awhile. The face of a man walking with his child in the park, of a woman baking bread, of sometimes even the unlikeliest person listening to a concert, say, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in, or just having a beer at a Saturday baseball game in July. Every once and so often, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it's almost beyond bearing.”

    • UMC Discipleship article gives two reasons:

      • “We celebrate the revelation of Christ's glory "before the passion" so that we may ‘be strengthened to bear our cross and be changed into his likeness.’ The focus of the Lenten season is renewed discipline in walking in the way of the cross and rediscovery of the baptismal renunciation of evil and sin and our daily adherence to Christ”

      • “In the biblical context, the synoptic gospels narrate the Transfiguration as a bridge between Jesus' public ministry and his passion. From the time of the Transfiguration, Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem and the cross.”

  • “In the East, the Festival of the Transfiguration has been celebrated since the late fourth century, and is one of the twelve great festivals of the East Orthodox calendar. In the West it was observed after the ninth century by some monastic orders, and in 1457 Pope Callistus III ordered its general observance. At the time of the Reformation, it was still felt in some countries to be a "recent innovation," and so was not immediately taken over into most Reformation calendars, but is now found on most calendars that have been revised in the twentieth century. A recent tendency in the West is to commemorate the Transfiguration on the Sunday just before Lent, in accordance with the pattern found in the Synoptics, where Jesus is represented as beginning to speak of his forthcoming death just about the time of the Transfiguration, so that it forms a fitting transition between the Epiphany season, in which Christ makes himself known, and the Lenten season, in which he prepares the disciples for what lies ahead. Whether observing the Transfiguration then will affect the observation of it on 6 August remains to be seen.” Society of Archbishop Justus

Bible Study

  • Timing

    • Marks the end of Epiphany
    • Leads into Lent
    • Foreshadows Holy Week and Easter
    • Six Days - only time in the Gospels something happens after “six days” (Robert Myallis)

      • Six days of creation - Genesis 1:31, “very good”, but not complete

      • Six days the cloud of God rested on Sinai before speaking to Moses and Joshua (Exodus 24:16-18)

      • The transfiguration recalls the humanity of Jesus (humanity created on the sixth day), but it will be Jesus’ divinity that leads him to the cross (the completion of his ministry)

      • Preparation of what is to come

  • Jesus “took up” Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain - “took up” can also mean sacrificed and is used in the Septuagint when Abraham “took up” Isaac to Mount Moriah (RM)

  • Jesus’ Transfiguration

    • Transfiguration - a rare word even in the bible (appears in Romans 12:12 and 2 Corinthians 3:18)

    • Clothed in light & shining are both evidence of being in the presence of the divine (Ex. 34:29)

    • Moses and Elijah

      • both have divine encounters on the Mountain after facing opposition from Kings (Pharaoh and Ahab respectively)

      • Represent the twin pillars of the Hebrew Bible - Law and Prophets

      • Warren Carter - “Jesus’ association with them emphasizes his similar tasks and identity: to confront Rome’s oppressive rule, reveal God’s will, experience rejection, and be vindicated by God (Matthew 16:21)”

  • Peter’s Response:
    • Peter wants to hold onto the moment
      • He does not want to go to the inevitable end (see Mt 16:21-23)
      • He wants to stay on the mountaintop
    • Appropriate cultic response - similar to the Festival of Tabernacles
      • Peter is showing hospitality and welcome
    • Peter needs to “do” something
      • Peter cannot simply “be” in the moment but feels the need to react, to respond, to do instead of simply being fully present in the Holy moment
      • This Holy moment was awe-some, frightening and overwhelming
      • Can we simply be in the moment?
  • God speaks

    • Second time in Matthew (first was Jesus Baptism)

    • Echoes the baptism
    • Interrupts Peter
    • “My son” has been used to refer to Kings (Psalm 2) and Israel (Hosea 11)

    • Son denotes being an agent of a greater power - Israel is called to be a holy nation and priestly kingdom (Ex. 19) and a light to all nations (Isaiah 42:6); Kings are called to represent God’s justice and righteousness (Psalm 72)

    • Declaration is political - Emperors were designated as sons of God (Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian)

  • Listen

    • Command is to listen to him - a powerful message after we have just explored the sermon on the mount

    • Immediately preceding this passage Jesus proclaims his own death (Matthew 16:21) and the death of at least some of his followers (16:24-28)

  • Disciples respond

    • The disciples are afraid - an appropriate response when confronted with the divine

    • God has just confirmed Jesus’ disturbing proclamation

    • They continue to follow Jesus

  • Transfiguration united baptism with resurrection - the death and resurrection of Jesus is only understood in connection with Jesus’ life and ministry

    • Same words used at baptism (matthew 3:17)

    • Same clothing as the Easter angel (Matthew 28:3)

  • Leaning into Lent

    • Lent will focus on Jesus’ encounters with various people - listen to what Jesus says to each of them:

      • Lent 1A - Satan, “Worship and serve only God”

      • Lent 2A - Nicodemus “[Jesus was not sent] to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”

      • Lent 3A - Woman at the well, “I am [the Messiah]”

      • Lent 4A - Blind man, “I am the light of the world”

      • Lent 5A - Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life”

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • From listener Robert Blankenship (from Feb. 5, 2016):

In your podcast on The Transfiguration, you asked for listeners to let you know our thoughts on the transfiguration, so here are mine. In addition to the usual themes of mountain-top and valley, I find two things intriguing about the Transfiguration. The first is that until the Transfiguration, the disciples might have wondered about eternity, about Christ’s allusions to his resurrection, etc. But now, they have to wonder no more, resurrection is real. Previously, Moses and Elijah have only been storybook figures from Israel’s history, but here they are, in the flesh, still existing. No more will the disciples have to question what happens after death. For the faithful, here is proof that they still exist.
The second thought, and the more important to me, is that the disciples are still trying to figure out how all of Christ’s story fits together. What is he talking about with all of the stuff about the cross? Where is he going and why is he talking about leaving us, etc.? The disciples have no way of knowing what their futures will hold beyond this point, but God has said, “Listen to my Son.” I think about the trek back down the mountain following this experience, of the disciples simply following Christ, putting one foot in front of the other. Isn’t that what the Christian experience is all about? The only way we find God’s will for us in the world is to listen to Christ, but to also continue putting one foot in front of the other as we follow along. It is only through taking that ‘next step’ that we will ever know what all God has in store for us and what all he has for us to do in this life. Keep taking that next step.
  • Are we willing to be “take up”/ sacrificed for the sake of God’s love and grace in Jesus? Are we willing to sacrifice the life we knew before (cf. Matthew 16)?

  • Transfiguration is both mysterious and strange and also very practical: like Moses we are called to embody the spirit of the Law and represent God’s truth and justice, and like Elijah we are called to speak truth to power and wait to hear the silent voice of God. Instead of shying away from the mystery- perhaps this Sunday is a chance to embrace it and the practical implications of being transfigured by Christ

2 Peter 1:16-21

Initial thoughts

  • The “clearly devised myth” that Peter is speaking of is the parousia - the coming of Christ.
    • The early church suffered a crisis when the parousia was delayed.  This letter was written as an encouragement for those troubled by the delay.
    • Holds onto the promise of the coming, in face of ‘false teachers’ who are starting to say it will never happen.
  • Probably not written by Peter.  Most scholars date between 90-110CE
    • Some authorship issues discussed by Dwight Peterson on Working Preacher.
    • This article on the conservative website comes to the conclusion that 2 Peter was written by Peter, but does a pretty thurough job laying out the argument.  It also does a nice job outlining some of the controversy surrounding including it in the cannon at all. In the end it basically concludes, It says it was written by Peter, and the Bible is true, so that must be true.

Bible Study

  • Peter as eyewitness, not just a teller of stories
    • Eyewitness to the transfiguration.
    • Also heard God’s own testimony about Jesus.
    • Faith is rooted in a real experience with God, not just the teaching of ‘experts.’
  • Assurance that testimony of the prophets is true
    • Troublesome passage about interpretation
    • I once had a conversation with a more conservative Christian.  In it, I said something like, “I think we have very different ways of interpreting Scripture,” and her response was, “I never interpret Scripture.”
    • We interpret Scripture whenever we take meaning from it.  It is impossible to avoid interpreting Scripture.
    • CEB makes this a little more clear - that the prophecy that is written comes inspired by God.  This is about authorship, not readership.
    • There are still issues about authorship (for instance, this particular letter).

Preaching Thoughts and Questions:

  • The heart of 2 Peter is about authority. Where do you place authority?
    • What do you mean by authority of Scripture?
  • The author claims authority in Christ as an eyewitness, not as second-hand.
    • To what have you been an eyewitness?
  • When you imagine a possibility
  • As we turn from Epiphany to Lent, we can reflect on the many ways that God is revealed to us.  
    • What is the dream of Epiphany that God has revealed to us?
    • What is the way of life that God dreams for us?
      • What is the way of Christ?  What would such a world look like?  
      • Before the world is shattered by Lent, Sin, and the like, lets not take a moment to dream God’s dream of what might have been or of what could be.  Let us dream God’s dream about what will be.

Psalm 99  Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Exodus 24:12-18 Moses on the Mountain

Initial Thoughts

  • Many forget how long the Sinai experience was. Certain understanding that the people got there, Moses went up, got the 10 Commandments, came down and they were worshipping the golden calf.

  • As Exodus tells it, the giving and receiving of the law took quite some time. Several trips up the mountain. A lot of law, but also a lot of priestly details.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Ch 19 - Arrival at Mt. Sinai - Warning that people are not allowed to come up mountain. Aaron allowed, but no one else. Seeing God = Dead.

    • Ch 20 - Giving of Ten Commandments, but not in stone

    • Ch 22-23 - More instructions about slaves, violence, and property. Promise for military conquest of the land they are to occupy. Warning to not worship the gods of the defeated inhabitants of the land.

    • 24:1-8 Moses tells the people of these instructions. They agree “Everything the Lord has said, we will do, and we will obey” (24:7). Moses reads the covenant scroll, and then seals this covenant with splattered blood from the sacrificed oxen. Half over altar, and half over the people.

    • 24:9-11 Covenant meal with Moses, Aaron, Badab and Abihhu, and 70 elders, “and they saw Israel’s God. Under the feet looked like lapis-lazuli tiles, dazzling pure like the sky. God didn’t harm the Israelite leaders, though they looked at God and they ate and drank.”

    • This setting makes v. 12 confusing, because they already seem to be “up.”

    • Ch 25-31 are detailed instructions about the Tabernacle, the Ark, and worship instructions.

    • Ch 32 - The people worship the calf, and break the covenant made in ch 24.

  • Lectionary Context

    • End the Epiphany season - Describes an epiphany of God

      • Cloud covered mountain

        • Like a blazing fire on top of the mountain

        • (Skips v. 9-11, “under God’s feet there was what looked like a floor of lapis-lazuli tiles, dazzling pure like the sky)

    • Transfiguration is another moment of meeting God on the mountain.

      • “Thus, in this season of reflection upon God's manifestation and incarnation, today's lesson brings us to the place of revelation--God's holy mountain--where heaven meets earth and humans encounter the divine.” (Frank Yamada, Working Preacher)

    • Transfiguration is a transition piece from epiphany to Lent in lectionary. In gospel, it is a transition from ministry to passion.

      • What comes before this passage: The binding of the covenant

      • What comes after: The instructions, and the breaking of the covenant

      • This theophanic moment is a transition between God’s saving act in Exodus, and the people’s failure to live into covenant.

  • Four movements within the passage (Yamada)

    • The Lord's instructions to Moses (v. 12)

    • Moses' ascent to the mountain (vv. 13--15a)

    • The glory of the Lord settles on the mountain (15b--17)

      • “Settle” same root as “dwell.” God lived on the mountain. Part of instruction given is the instruction for the tabernacle, or “dwelling,” of God.

      • Presence lasted 6 days - recalls Creation account. On the seventh day God calls Moses.

    • Moses enters the cloud (v. 18)

      • Moses is clearly called out from among the leaders. While many of the elders had just experienced a special ‘viewing’ of God, Moses and Joshua, and then only Moses is singled out to be the receiver of God’s instruction.

      • The farther up the mountain, the more glorious is the presence of the Lord, and the more exclusive it is.  Moses slowly loses his companions as he gets higher and higher up the mountain.

      • Moses stays for 40 days - again a significant number.

        • 40 days of rain for the Flood.

        • 40 years of wandering has not yet been established, but probably part of the final editing.

        • Clearly significant when we fast forward to Jesus in wilderness.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Where does God dwell? How is God connected to both the particular and the universal? Is it possible for God to dwell in a place and also be a universal God over all creation?  
  • An unsatisfying ‘end’ of the story. “The texts stops short of directing the departure. We only know that Moses waits and is at risk… All we know thus far is that Moses has indeed met God. Because of that meeting, nothing will ever be the same.” (Walter Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 166)

  • Is there a need/room for a more dangerous God within our theology. There is, rightfully, a desire among many preachers to move away from the “fire and brimstone” days of literally scaring the hell out of people, but perhaps there is a healthy fear of God that needs to be addressed sometimes. Is there anything more terrifying than standing in the presence of God? Standing next to a crib of a newborn you have to care for, Holding the hand of a loved one whose breath is slowly leaving, walking with someone through addiction and recovery, these things are terrifying. Yes, God’s presence can be a comfort, but acknowledging the fear is not the same as succumbing to it.

Thank you listeners and get in touch!

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (, @pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”, "Real Ride" and “Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).