Readings for Transfiguration Sunday, 2/10/13:
Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-36
- Moses has been on the mountain receiving the ten commandments. His face is shining because of talking with God. I picture someone who is glowing with being newly in love, or the glow of a woman who is pregnant, or the glow of a parent proud of her or his child.
- "Mountaintop experiences" - a phrase we often use to describe those experiences where we feel super-close to God, and super confident that we can live a holy Christian life and do God's will for us. We describe it as 'mountaintop' because we always know we can't stay up there - we always come walking, running, stumbling, trudging, or crashing back to earth again.
- What's your mountaintop experience(s)? For me, one was always attending our conference camp, Camp Aldersgate. I tried to prolong the experience by signing up for more than one week of camp in the summer, or eventually by becoming a member of staff. But being a staff member was never so sweet or powerful as savoring and loving and remembering and being inspired by the one week of camp and then returning back home again. Somehow trying to be greedy and keep camp all summer took away some of its magic.
- Diminishing Returns - Ms. Byrne, my senior year of high-school economics teacher, used the example of eating too much ice-cream. The first cone is great, and you want another. The second is good too - you're almost full. By the end of the third though, you're getting diminishing returns. The cone is good, but you are starting to feel sick. You ate too much, and now the joy of the first cone has decreased because you're stuffed. Can God-experiences have diminishing returns? Why would it be bad to be on the mountaintop with God all the time?
- Chris Haslam writes that Moses' face being "radiant" meant that God's glory was reflected in Moses' face. I really like that description. If we are made in God's image, then we can reflect God in our whole being.
- "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 Corinthians 3:12-4:2:
- Oohhh- Paul takes on Moses!!! "We act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face." (Emphasis added.)
- Chris Haslam writes that Paul interprets Moses' "veil" as his effort to hide from the people how temporary the old covenant was to be. I can't imagine Moses describing it that way! :)
- Paul tells us that in Christ, the veil is set aside between us and God. Christ brings us right up to God, face to face.
- Paul uses reflection/mirror imagery. We are being transformed more and more into God's image, reflecting God's glory in us, since we, "with unveiled faces" can see and experience God's glory.
- Paul plays with the veiled/unveiled imagery - in Chapter 4:2, Paul talks about renouncing the things that "one hides" - we uncover the truth, uncover our sinful selves, and move on in Christ's forgiveness when we remove, with Christ, the veil that keeps us from God.
- "The appearance of his face changed." Obviously, this passage ties neatly with our Exodus reading. How are we changed after experiencing the presence of God? I think it is significant that it is the face in both passages that is described as changing. The face is the window, perhaps, into our soul - the place on our selves where one can read what is really going on.
- Peter wants to prolong this joyful, awesome experience. Who can blame him? Things change so quickly in our world, and we face so many struggles, that we really want to hang on when things are clicking into place. I felt this way during my last semester of seminary. I wasn't ready for the experience to be over. Yet, I knew after seminary I would finally be appointed to a church, something I had been waiting for for a long time. Likewise, Peter and Jesus and company couldn't get to the joy of Easter if they wouldn't leave this Holy Retreat. What if Jesus decided to stay up on the mountain?
- "They entered the cloud." The cloud overshadowing them seems to bring them back to their senses, as Moses and Elijah go their way and Jesus is alone again. The image of being in the midst of a cloud is intriguing. If you've ever flown through clouds on a plane, you know somewhat how it is like - a strange, foggy, unclear, sometimes very bright, sometimes very dark, place that's sort of nothing in its something, something in its nothing.