Engaging the Word: Readings for 8/7/16 (The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ)

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 By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Luke 9: 28-36. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary.

The Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is observed on August 6, and we will use the lectionary for the Transfiguration instead of the Sunday lectionary for Proper 14. We’ll read the amazing story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. Our readings this week inform and support each other, creating a lovely unity.

Moses on Mt. Sinai by Jéan Leon Gérôme (1824-1904). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Moses on Mt. Sinai by Jéan Leon Gérôme (1824-1904). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exodus 34:29-35: After the Israelites escaped from the Egyptians, it was three months before they reached Mt. Sinai. Then Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and the statutes and ordinances. Moses told all the words of the Lord to the people “and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.’” They ratified the Covenant with the sacrifice of oxen and blood—“the blood of the covenant.”

This week’s reading is a holy drama. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.’” Moses must have had an inkling that this visit would take awhile, because he sets out with his assistant Joshua, and leaves Aaron and Hur to settle any disputes while he’s gone.

When Moses went up the mountain, the cloud (the glory of the Lord) settled on Mt. Sinai and covered it for six days. Then on the seventh day, God called to Moses out of the cloud. “Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.” Our reading ends there, but it is during this time the people become tired of waiting and persuade Aaron to make the golden calf.

Psalm 99: Our psalm this week is the last in a series of enthronement psalms, which give expression to the holiness and awesome power of God, who is enthroned on the holy mountain. The psalmist calls on all the people to praise God for his holiness, “The Lord is King; let the people tremble.” Our great and awesome God is a lover of justice, who answers those who call on him, who punishes when necessary, and who forgives.

Here is Psalm 99 in Anglican Chant by the Chapel Choir of Boys and Men Ensemble, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland, California.

2 Peter 1:16-21: In the judgment of many scholars and Church fathers, both ancient and modern, the apostle Peter was not the author of 2 Peter. Yet I found a useful comment in The Life with God Bible: “No matter who we settle on as the author though, it is important to remember that the Church has accepted this letter into the canon as a trustworthy guide for us who wish to follow Jesus as Lord.” This works for me, and I will call the author Peter.

The letter was written to contradict the false teachers who said that the hope of the Second Coming was untrue. Peter says the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is not a myth. He was an eye-witness to the “Majestic Glory” of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the Mountain, and Peter heard the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased.” Thus, the authority of Peter’s prophetic message regarding the Second Coming trumps the teachings of false prophets.

Transfiguration of Christ by Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Transfiguration of Christ by Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 9:28-36: This week’s reading takes place eight days after Peter has declared Jesus to be God’s Messiah and Jesus predicted his suffering, death, and resurrection to his disciples.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on the mountain to pray. “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Then Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets) suddenly appear and talk with Jesus about his “departure,” his coming death. Peter wants to make three dwellings: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Peter may want to preserve the experience, or he may be mistaken that Jesus is in the same category as Moses and Elijah.  At this point a cloud came and overshadowed them; and the disciples were terrified. From the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Moses and Elijah vanished; Jesus was alone. “And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.” It was not until the events of Jesus’ Passion had taken place that they could begin to understand what they had witnessed.

A Wikipedia article referred to Professor Dorothy A. Lee’s book, Transfiguration. I think she helps us to understand the significance of this miraculous event: “In Christian teachings, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, and the setting on the mountain is presented as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.”

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