Sunday, March 02, 2014

transfiguration 2014

It's been close to forever since I've blogged much in the way of theological reflections, but I liked my own notes in response to an online friend's transfiguration Sunday sermon, so here's a very slightly edited version of them along with a few additional considerations.

Matthew 17:1-9

Transfiguration 2014My friend ran with that all too common biblical and contemporary experience of fear, which I do not perceive as at all central in the texts. My response included:

Fear... we all (most of us, anyway) have too much of it, and need lots of reminders not to fear. But I believe beginning a T-Fig sermon with fear misses the point of the event and obscures the wisdom of the lectionary compilers' placing this event right before we begin lent, before the church zooms in on the journey to Jerusalem, to the cross, to the empty tomb.

The gospel-writer records this mountaintop happening as "six days later" than Jesus' telling his disciples to follow him means to take up *their* cross, lose their lives... and Jesus then will model the ultimate example of gaining new life for the whole world by giving up his own earthly life.

The words of this passage demonstrate God's historical faithfulness in speaking via both law and prophets; Elijah's presence harkens back to a related trinitarian theophany we experienced once again this year only a few weeks ago at the baptism of Jesus by John—remember, Elijah had to return, but as Jesus tells us, for him, John was Elijah!

Probably most important, a few days prior to Ash Wednesday, Jesus tells us he will be raised from the dead.

I don't know if you regularly read the first (typically Hebrew bible) lection during worship, but Exodus 24:12-18 is Moses, God, [Mount] Sinai covenant, 40 days and 40 nights, all of which tie in perfectly with this T-Fig narrative and the forty days of Lent the church is about to enter. Also, in 2 Peter 1:16-21, we find no hint of fear, but rather divine self-revelation in vision, word, and spirit.

I told my friend I loved her next-to-last paragraph reminding us about down to earth Jesus using touch and speech to calm us down. As she observed in her final paragraph, God never leaves us or forsakes us, and we need that reminder. However, I added how I believe retaining "fear does not have the last word," (as true as it is), obscures the focus on the world-transforming (and transfiguring!) crucifixion and resurrection events to come.

In other words, despite Peter's typical not-getting-it again here, fear simply is not central, but rather, so peripheral I probably would mention it only in passing, if at all.

"Listen to him!" Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until The Human One has been raised from the dead." Listen to him—It's about death and resurrection! We charge the baptismal sponsors to "place the scriptures in their hands; bring them to the services of God's house...." so they can "Listen to him!"

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