[Uucf-bible] Lectionary reading
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Fri Feb 16 13:35:11 EST 2007
Sunday, February 18
Last Sunday after Epiphany
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah," not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And !
pt silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
by Kate Huey
We have come to the end of another season of Epiphany, when we are particularly attuned to the ways and the times that God is manifested in our lives and in the life of the world. Here on the edge of Lent, as we set out with Jesus toward Jerusalem and the mount of Calvary, we pause on another mountain for one of those "mountaintop experiences" so sought after even in our post-Enlightenment, scientific, post-modern day. What is that about, that deep human longing to taste, however briefly, the transcendence of God?
Peter, James, and John got much more than a brief taste. They had one of those intense, ecstatic visions that might have transformed their lives then and there, but they weren't sure what to do with it. Sleep-deprived Peter, the text says, practically babbled, "not knowing what he said" (9:33), offering to put up tents and preserve the experience. We are sure that he was, of course, only trying to be helpful. Those of us who think that every situation requires us to DO something, however well-intentioned our efforts, are called back to faithfulness by the voice of God in the story: "This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!" One can practically imagine God's annoyance that Peter didn't have sense enough to remain silent at such a moment. If Moses was told he couldn't see God and live, perhaps Peter should have been told that he couldn't see God and talk so much.
As usual, however, Peter is just like us. We often try to talk our way into understanding, trying to process an experience so that we can absorb its meaning and make that meaning part of who we are. But this story is about Jesus and who Jesus is, and the disciples are invited into an incredibly intimate moment, when God speaks of Gods own Child. Ann Svennungsen compares and contrasts Moses's encounter with God on Mt. Sinai and this one, with Peter, James, and John on hand, in one short sentence: "On Mt. Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments--on the Mount of the Transfiguration, the disciples received only one commandment--listen to Jesus (New Proclamation Year C 2007). In the midst of teaching and healing, Jesus calls his followers to stop and pray, to be open to God's unexpected and indescribable grace, to be strengthened by it, instructed by the voice of the Stillspeaking God, and empowered to continue on the path of Jesus, no matter where it leads. Peter and the ot!
e not keen on Jesus' words about suffering and death; after all, they're understandably hoping for deliverance from, and maybe even triumph over, their enemies, the Romans. But Jesus hears another call, and he follows it faithfully, inviting his friends, and us, to come along. R. Alan Culpepper has written that Peter's attempt to enshrine and, in a sense, concretize his mountaintop experience wasn't what Jesus had in mind: "Faithfulness is not achieved by freezing a moment but by following on in confidence that God is leading and that what lies ahead is even greater than what we have already experienced."
As we end our Epiphany season (although the Epiphany experience goes on) and prepare to embark on our Lenten journey, how do read and hear this text as a call to take what we have experienced out into the world? How do we integrate our glimpses of God's love, our tastes of God's glory, into the everydayness of our lives? Is transformation really a sudden thing, or a day-by-day, perhaps even hour-by-hour process? As the United Church of Christ looks back on its first fifty years, where were mountaintop moments when we caught a glimpse of God's glory right here, in the very human existence of our denomination? How are we listening to the Stillspeaking God's command to "listen to Jesus"?
All Readings for This Sunday
Exodus 34:29-35 with Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
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