“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God”
Today is a celebration Sunday! We have switched back to white hangings and vestments. This Sunday marks the last Sunday in Epiphany - the last time we will say or sing “Alleluia” until Lent is over. This is transfiguration Sunday. A Sunday that Lutherans celebrate the mystery of Christ. And we celebrate this Sunday because Martin Luther suggested the date change from August!
This is the day we celebrate God’s affirmation of Christ’s identity as the voice from the cloud speaks to 3 of Jesus’ closest friends and says this is my son - listen to him!
This Sunday our 1st reading and our Gospel reading are very similar. In the reading from Exodus Moses has gone up the mountain to talk to God. He is given the stone tablets that will be housed in the ark of the covenant. He is given the 10 commandments. Moses envelops the people of Israel with what gives glory to God - the way of living that honours and respects all people. Moses asks to see God - and is granted his request. But this intimate encounter changes him. The change is visible to all who see him. In fact his face is altered so much that the people are afraid to look at him - afraid of him. We are told that Moses wears a veil over his face. His face now shines with the glory of God.
Moses is changed.
In our Gospel reading from Luke we are told that Jesus has gone up the mountain to pray. And while he is praying he is changed. Soren Kierkegard suggested that perhaps the purpose of prayer is not to change God but rather the function of prayer is to change the one praying.
Jesus is transfigured. His clothes become dazzling white - so bright that you would be unable to look directly at him. And the disciples are amazed and overcome and they see Jesus in a new way. And they see him with 2 men. Our Gospel writer tells us that the 2 men are Moses and Elijah. Once more we have the indications that Jesus is the new Moses - he has come to fulfill the words of the prophets. Jesus has come to bring a new law for all of God’s people.
Our readings from Exodus and Luke give us a vision of what it is like to see God. We are told of shining figures on mountain tops. We are shown that the glory of God can transform us. In Luke we have the tension of the terrifying voice from a cloud at at the end of the section we have the one who stopped to heal a child. God’s glory, God’s glorious presence is intimately tied to the world’s pain and brokenness.
On transfiguration Sunday we are encouraged to think about God’s glory - is it terrifying? Awe inspiring? Are we focused on how to understand the mystery of what we have just read? Are we like the people Moses ministered to - terrified of the change they saw in him - able only to come to him and listen once he covered his face? Are we like the disciples - wanting to prolong this wondrous event and remain on the mountain top?
After hearing these stories of transformation and change are we too frightened to approach God? Do these stories make us want to pray or panic?
Can we believe that God can transform us?
I believe that we can. We can hear these stories of transformation and change and believe that God’s glory can transform us too. When Jesus finished praying, finishes speaking to the 2 men about what was to come…..when Jesus came down from the mountain no one saw a physical change in him. He looked like he did when he went up the mountain to pray. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus comes down from the mountain and immediately gets back to work. He does what he does best - he heals and he teaches.
But he was different. He was affirmed as God’s child. He was changed as he prayed. From this point on in the story the path is set. Jesus and the disciples will turn toward Jerusalem. The healing and the teaching will continue but in a heightened political climate.
On Wednesday we will join with Jesus and the disciples and the followers of the way and we will journey toward Jerusalem. We will spend the season of Lent in prayer and worship and self reflection.
Moses and Jesus were transformed by the power of God’s glory.
May it be so for us as well.