A Reading from the Book of Exodus (34:29-35)
Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
1 The Lord is King;
let the people tremble; *
he is enthroned upon the cherubim;
let the earth shake.
2 The Lord is great in Zion; *
he is high above all peoples.
3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome; *
he is the Holy One.
4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity; *
you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”
5 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and fall down before his footstool; *
he is the Holy One.
6 Moses and Aaron among his priests,
and Samuel among those who call upon his Name, *
they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; *
they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.
8 “O Lord our God, you answered them indeed; *
you were a God who forgave them,
yet punished them for their evil deeds.”
9 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and worship him upon his holy hill; *
for the Lord our God is the Holy One.
A Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (3:12-4:2)
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke(9:28-36)
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 they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
The story of Jesus’ transfiguration stands in a strategic spot in the gospel according to Luke. It comes near the very end of his ministry in Galilee and concludes just 15 verses before a major turning point in Luke’s version of the Good News. Chapter 9 verse 51 states dramatically: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” From that moment onward, the rest of Jesus’ ministry will be cast as a journey: a fateful journey to his death and resurrection.
In a similar way, our telling of the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, here on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, stands in a strategic spot in our church year. It comes near the very end of the so-called “Christmas cycle”: that part of the year that includes the seasons of Advent, Christmas and the Epiphany. And it comes just three days before Ash Wednesday: the day that we enter into the larger of the two major sections of the year, the Easter cycle, which includes the seasons of Lent, Easter and Pentecost.
Like Luke’s story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which begins with a journey, the story that we tell and into which we are about to enter begins with a journey: the journey of Lent. Luke makes the destination of Jesus’ journey perfectly clear: “he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” But what is the destination for our journey, our journey in Lent? Many people grew up “doing something for Lent”; but often they do whatever that “something” is without ever stopping to think about why they are doing it in the first place or about whether that “something” really does anything to help them reach some particular goal.
It doesn’t make any sense to try to decide the details of a journey – in this case, the journey of Lent — if we don’t know where it is we want to go. How do we know that whatever Lenten practices we adopt are going to help move us toward our goal if we don’t know what that goal is? What exactly are we trying to accomplish? What is our goal? Where are we trying to go during the season of Lent?
I suggest that the voice that came from the cloud in today’s gospel reading can provide us with a clue. According to Luke’s account, that voice declared to Peter, James and John: “This is my Son, My Chosen; listen to him!” It was a message that had to do, first, with Jesus’ identity and, second, with the disciples’ role in relation to that identity. Jesus’ identity was that of God’s son, God’s chosen one. The disciples’ role was to listen to him and follow him. Seen within that twofold context, I suggest that what we are trying to accomplish in our journey of Lent is, first, to come to know Jesus better and, second, to become more faithful in listening to him and following him.
That approach to Lent, in turn, dovetails very well with our diocesan objective for 2013-2015: to “form and transform disciples of all ages to know Jesus and put the Gospel story into action.” Isn’t that exactly what we are trying to accomplish by whatever we do in Lent: to come to know Jesus and put the gospel story into action? Isn’t that what Lent is supposed to help us do?
So how are we going to do that? Again, the image of a journey might help. If you are getting ready to set out on a long journey — to drive across the country, for example — you probably have several different ways that you can get to your destination. Some routes may be more direct and will get you there quicker. Others may be more scenic and enrich the time you spend on the road. Still others might allow you to visit family and friends along the way. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and so you weigh the pros and cons of each.
In a similar way, our journeys during Lent have a common goal and common destination: to come to know Jesus more completely and follow him more faithfully; but there are many ways to get there. Here at St. Mark’s, for example, we are offering three different itineraries, three different routes, if you will, to help us get to our goal. In our Adult Forum, on Wednesdays at 11:00 and on Sundays at 9:30, we explore our Sunday scripture readings, along with the rest of our liturgy for the day, helping us better to understand what we will be hearing and saying, and enabling us to know more fully the God who is revealing God’s self to us each Sunday in Word and Sacrament. In our Deanery Lenten series, we have the opportunity to consider a more contemporary impression of Jesus and to ask how that presentation reflects, or fails to reflect, our understanding of who he is. And, in our daily reflections and optional online discussion based on the book Lent for Everyone, we are invited to enter more fully into the story told in the gospel according to Luke and, if we choose, to discuss it (in a blog format) with many people, both from our own and other churches, and others who may be part no church at all. Each of these is designed to be an itinerary for our Lenten journey: a way to reach our common destination.
In today’s gospel story, God first transformed Jesus there on the mountain and then sent him to begin his fateful journey to Jerusalem. As we begin this Lenten season, God’s work in us takes place the other way around. God first sends us on a journey so that we, too, might then be transformed: transformed in such a way that we might more fully come to know Jesus and put the gospel story into action.
But God’s work of transformation, begun in Jesus and continuing in us, doesn’t stop there. For if we are willing to take that journey with him, then the transformation that God brings about in us will help enable the people in our time to see and experience in us God’s transforming presence in their lives as well.