Transfiguration C

image: “The Transfiguration of Jesus” by Armando Alemdar Ara (wikimedia)


153: February 7, 2016

313: March 3, 2019

Featured Musician: Christopher Grundy

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Luke 9:28-43

Initial Thoughts

  • Frederick Buechner: “It is as strange a scene as there is in the Gospels...“Even with us something like that happens once in awhile...Every once and so often, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it's almost beyond bearing.”

  • Transfiguration Sunday: Why is this a thing?

    • UMC Discipleship article gives two reasons:

      1. “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”

      2. “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

  • Literary Context

    • Eight days after Jesus asking “Who do crowds say that I am?” and disciples saying John the Baptist, Elijah, or another ancient prophet. Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. Then Jesus warns of the rejection, death, and resurrection that is to come.

      • “Take up your cross and follow me”

      • No Peter denying this and no “get behind me Satan”

    • Immediately before another warning about arrest and Jesus “determined to go to Jerusalem.”

    • Transition between Galilean ministry and journey to Jerusalem and Passion.

      • This Sunday is the transition between birth and Epiphany stories and Lent.

    • Named one of Five pivotal events of Jesus’ life Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension.

  • Two parts - The Transfiguration itself, and coming down.

    • 28-35 Jesus took Peter, John, and James up to a mountain to pray.

      • “On Eighth Day” could be allusion to Resurrection, which happened on the ‘eighth day’ - the day after the Sabbath. Also could be seen as the second ‘First Day.’ The start of a new week, a new creation.

        • Answers old joke about “What did God do on the eighth day?”

      • Inner circle is a good lesson for leadership in church.

        • Matthew and Mark say these three were also pulled aside as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. Not mentioned in Luke’s passion.

      • Fred Craddock points out that “As he was praying” confirms Jesus’ prayer life as an important part of his ministry. Linked to his baptism in 3:21, where the Spirit comes “while he was praying.”

      • Moses and Elijah

        • The Law and the Prophets

        • Both men had mysterious deaths

          • Moses was buried by the Lord, and ‘no one knows where Moses’s grave is.” (Deut. 34:6)

          • Elijah was taken up by a chariot in 2 Kings 2:1-11

        • Only Luke tells us that they talk about “Jesus’ departure” interpreters say “Jesus’ exodus in Jerusalem.”

        • Much of this action is reminiscent of Moses on Sinai.

      • Disciples: Want to build a shrine to all three.

        • Had already confessed Jesus as Messiah, but now see him in all his glory.

        • Almost overcome by sleep (like in Gethsemane, or almost fainted out of sheer terror)

        • No shrine, must keep moving.

        • No longer about all three - but must listen to Jesus. It is through Jesus, God’s son, that we must now understand Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the lens through which we read and know the Law and the Prophets.

        • Of course, we built a church there. Peter ended up getting his way.

  • 36-43 A strong argument can be made - by Craddock - that the Transfiguration should stand alone. Telling this story afterwards can lessen the impact of what just happened.

    • Text after 37 really fits more with stuff until 50, when Jesus actually sets out for Jerusalem.

    • However - perhaps this is a reflection on the lack of transformation in the disciples. Jesus - empower by the knowledge that he is God’s beloved is transformed and then becomes an agent of that transformative love in healing the boy.

      • Peter and the disciples are not transformed, they don’t “get it” (see Luke 9:43b-50). Therefore, because the good news has not changed them, they are unable to affect change in others

Thoughts and Questions

  • This is a story about transformation which is the hoped for outcome of the Church- the transformation of people into disciples and the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God. How many of our churches/church members are aware of this? A good question to ask is how has the good news changed you (and if it hasn’t-then perhaps we haven’t been sharing the good news)?

    • An opportunity for celebration- how has your community of faith transformed your local community?

    • An opportunity for challenge - in what measurable ways will you transform your church and community in the future?

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Initial Thoughts

  • Trump’s favorite Scripture - Two Corinthians 3:17

    • He quoted this passage in his speech at Liberty University. Classic case of proof-texting because it used the word “freedom.”

    • A lot can be made of this passage - if you tread into political waters.

  • References to Moses’ veil are a clear allusion to the Exodus passage. Must do some work to figure out why Moses wore a veil. So if you’re going to preach from this text, you should stay tuned to our discussion of Exodus 34.

Bible Study

  • 2 Corinthian background

    • Actually Paul’s third letter to Corinth - the second letter, or the “Letter of Tears” is lost to history (we think).

    • 1 Corinthians ended on positive notes. It appears that there was a deep rift between Paul and Corinthian church. 2 Corinthians appears to have helped mend the relationship.

    • “Since the major theme of 2 Corinthians centers on Paul’s defense of his missionary work in the face of conflict and criticism, the letter’s theology is deeply tied to Paul’s understanding of his apostolic ministry. A significant concern is the paradoxical relationship between suffering and power. Paul’s opponents point to his physical suffering as a sign of weakness. But Paul says his suffering and weakness… show he’s an authentic apostle. Indeed, Paul’s suffering points to his identification with the crucified Jesus.” (David Downs, intro to 2 Corinthians in the Common English Study Bible, p. 337 NT).

  • Paul and Moses

    • Read back to verse 7

    • Strong connections between this passage and Exodus text this week.

    • Be careful with supersessionism “The ministry that brought death was carved in letters on stone tablets” (2 Cor. 3:7) is a dangerous passage. Paul’s connection between the Law and death has been used to justify Jewish persecution. Paul’s understanding of the Law is much more nuanced than this.

      • Paul struggles with why some Jews who heard about Christ did not accept that he was the Messiah.

      • His answer here is “God kept them veiled.”

      • “God has dulled the minds of the Jews. He is responsible for the veil on their minds as he was once for its presence on the face of Moses… Yet even if God is responsible for the veil, he argued Israel was still morally responsible for its failure [to accept Jesus]. Paul cannot excuse those of his own race, and yet he cannot really see why with the Old Testament in their hands they fail to recognize Christ. It has all been blindingly clear to him since his conversion.” (Ernest Best, Interpretation: Second Corinthians, p. 33)

    • Moses:

      • The Law brings death and condemnation (because we are unable to follow it)

      • Carved in stone tablets

      • Came with glory, but a fading glory

      • Moses wore veil to hide the passing glory (Moses glowed for awhile, but that faded in time)

      • Minds of readers were closed. Hearts remained veiled. (Common English Study Bible)

    • Paul:

      • Spirit brings righteousness and is life-giving.

      • Written on human hearts.

      • Glorious, bright, everlasting.

      • “All of us are looking with veiled faces at the glory”

      • Those who look to and trust in Christ remove their veil

  • The nature of the veil

    • Veil was for the people’s protection. Now it is unnecessary because the truth has been revealed through Jesus.

    • God’s glory is so great that it transforms people, and if they aren’t ready for it, it can be dangerous.

    • Paul is encouraging the people that they can now see God clearly.

    • Before, they had to be veiled because God’s glory was too much for anyone to take. Now, because of Christ, we can see.

    • Christ reveals to us God’s glory, so we no longer need to be veiled. We no longer need to hide or be hidden because God’s grace is perfect.

Thoughts and Questions

  • This is a complicated, theological argument that Paul is making based on a fairly obscure fact of Moses’ life. He is using the only Scripture the church had at the time to show why the Scripture wasn’t as important as Christ. He appears to be arguing against those who want to put too much emphasis on the Law, and not enough emphasis on Christ. But he is using the Law, and its apparent frailties, to make that argument.

  • Imagine this as an illustration about the veil. If you meet a new person, you get to know them by talking to someone. The more you talk to them, the more you get to know them. Yet if the person is wearing a veil, you are going to miss a huge part of communication. You miss smiles, frowns, nods, eye movement. You miss an essential part of relationship when the veil. The Law is like to talking to someone with a veil. You get to know the heart of God, but not fully. Christ removed the veil, and now we can see the face more clearly and get to know the person on a much more intimate level.

    • Seeing God through the Law alone is like talking to  a person wearing a veil (or just getting to know someone through texts)

    • Seeing God through Christ is like talking to a person face to face.

Exodus 34:19-35

Initial Thoughts

  • I give it a 1/10 shot at getting preached this Sunday

  • Seems to be a weird Moses/ Shiny connection

  • Horny Moses! - Shining rays or horns- awkward translation

Bible Study

  • Context:

    • Moses received the 10 Commandments

    • Moses comes down the mountain to deliver them to the Hebrews and find them worshiping the Golden Calf

    • Moses destroys the 2 tablets

    • God threatens to destroy the Hebrew people and start over

    • Moses reminds God of God’s promise

    • God sends a plague instead

    • God banishes the Hebrews from Sinai, but then calls Moses back to make a new covenant

      • God will forgive Israel and grant them the Promised Land, but they must remain faithful (no other Gods, observe festivals and rituals, dedicate offerings to God, Don’t eat cheeseburgers, etc)

    • Right after Moses peeks at God’s butt (Ex. 33:23)

  • Glory of the Lord

    • Beautiful and Terrifying (Eric is reminded of Galadriel from Lord of the Rings, “All shall love me and despair”)

    • Moses’ shining face is a reflection of the God’s glory, not his own

      • Not about Moses, but about God

      • Terrifying because it acknowledges that God, but Moses (or us or the church) is in control

        • The light of God reveals falsehood, deception, oppression and manipulation (all of which were embodied in the Golden Calf)

      • Liberating because we are only to reflect the glory of God

  • Relationship has changed- the people can no longer see God- Only Moses can see God (Ex. 33:11) Moses reveals God to the people who have been cast out of God’s presence

    • Moses shining face is a reminder of both the judgment and grace of God

    • How might we as individuals and churches allow the presence of God to shine through us to those who cannot see/feel it?

  • “May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you”

    • Connection to the best known benediction- what does it mean to have God’s face shine upon you? It is the promise of God’s love and grace

  • Moses’ face shines when he goes to spend time with God alone - how often do we take the time to spend with God alone?

    • If we don't are we truly able to reflect the glory of God? Are we able to shine as brightly as we should?

  • "We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works that sanctify us, but who sanctifies our works." Meister Eckhart

Thoughts and Questions

  • How do we balance sharing our own glory vs God’s glory? Do we as individuals and churches proclaim that it is God’s glory that shines through us? If it is God’s glory and not our own- how does this free and terrify us?

  • There are times when people cannot see God except through us. What God are you showing to them?

  • Too often prayer times gets consumed by other “more important” aspects of ministry- is there any more important aspect? Without our time with God are we truly able to shine as God intends?

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 Bryan Odeen for our closing music.