Monday, February 28, 2011

Lectionary Notes for Transfiguration Sunday, Year A

Readings for Transfiguration Sunday, 3/6/11
Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

Exodus 24:12-18:
  • "The Lord was like a devouring fire." How do you see God? How does God appear to you? The people in Ancient Israel saw God in such concrete ways. New Testament folks saw God concretely in a different sense: embodied in Christ. We still see God as incarnated in Christ, but how else do we speak of God, see God concretely in our world?
  • going up the mountain - we talk a lot about mountain-top experiences - places where we feel "high on life" and maybe high on God. What did Moses feel up on the mountain with God? What has been a mountain-top experience for you?
  • Forty days and forty nights! My mountain-top times rarely are so long. We forget being close with God and how God spoke to us so quickly, don't we? I think of The Chronicles of Narnia, as always, The Silver Chair this time (C.S. Lewis) where Jill is hearing The Signs from Aslan on the mountain. And Aslan's voice (he's the lion Christ-like figure) is always clearer on the mountain than on the ground. It is the same for us, isn't it? But like in The Silver Chair, the trick for us is to remember God's voice, God's instructions, God's presence, even when our mountain-top time is over.
Psalm 99:
  • "lover of justice, you have established equity" - this is definitely my favorite phrase in this Psalm. God loves justice. And we don't need to wonder what is meant by justice in this case. This is not God-lover-of-justice who loves to punish and condemn. The justice that God loves is the justice that brings equity. That's equal-ness. Fairness for everyone. God tells us what justice means. Let's not try to define it on our own when God already does it for us.
  • "you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrong-doings." An interesting verse. God who is both forgiving and avenging. According to dictionary.com, avenge means "to inflict a punishment or penalty in return for" Can God forgive us and punish us? I'm not sure. I always hesitate to think of or speak of God in terms of punishing us, because I think our theologically can get really out of hand when we go there - we like to point out how God is punishing others who are not like us, or we worry that everything that happens to us that we don't like is due to God's punishment. But does God punish? What do you think?
  • "Worship at [God's] holy mountain. For the Lord our God is holy". For the Israelites, the mountain was a holy place to meet God. For us, our sanctuaries are sometimes holy - what other places are those you consider holy places?
2 Peter 1:16-21:
  • "for we did not follow cleverly devised myths" (emphasis added) - ah, what a sentence. Most Christians will agree that Jesus Christ is not a myth, though prodding into how we understand Jesus might expose areas of disagreement. We're good at calling what others believe myths, while what we believe we call truth, right? human nature...
  • "we ourselves heard this voice." Peter draws on the power of personal witness. He was there!! That is the reason you should believe his message. Indeed, we're more likely to believe something that's from a more direct source. I think of the internet sites, like truthorfiction.com, that are dedicated to filtering the truth from the junk in email forwards. With matters of faith, it is more important, isn't it, that we can filter out truth and fiction, but we have no handy website to do so. What tools do you use to identify truth?
Matthew 17:1-9:
  • Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain where the three disciples witness Jesus' 'transfiguration' - Moses and Elijah appear and Jesus is changed, dazzling and dressed in white. Transfiguration Sunday is generally under celebrated and underappreciated, I think, but there are lots of ways we can relate to this story.
  • Unlike other gospel accounts, like Luke's, where Peter, confused, offers to build tents for Jesus and company, here, the disciples' response to what they see is fear. Has an experience of God and who God is ever caused a response of fear in you? We often fear what our relationship with God might require of us. Seeing God and God's glory face to face in such an undeniable way would leave us with an undeniable responsibility to act, wouldn't it?
  • "tell no one" Why do you think Jesus wanted to keep the transfiguration hush-hush for all but these three? Perhaps he knew it wouldn't make as much sense to them until later? What do you think? What would cause you to keep a really awesome experience of God quiet? When and why would you tell or would you not tell what you saw? 
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