Thoughts on Transfiguration

Posted by Fr. Tere on 02/10/2016

The Old Testament often foretells and shows physically what is seen in the New Testament both physically and spiritually. In the readings today from Exodus [34:29-35] and Luke [9:28-43] we see this happen. The reading from Exodus begins the rule of The Law, now codified for the People of God; in the reading from Luke we are freed from that very Law. There is a move from the physical People of God to the spiritual Church of God, the Bride of Christ.

In both of these instances God shows his shekinah glory, his majestic presence of God which has descended to ‘dwell’ among Man. It’s not a Biblical word, but a rabbinical word to describe a phenomenon. So God’s glory settles on the face of Moses, so strongly he has to keep it covered for the rest of his life. It also is shown as settling on Jesus, so strongly that even his clothing appears in glory, along with Moses and Elijah covered by the same glory.

What a contrast here!

Moses is on the mountain for 40 days and nights, while the people were warned not to walk up to or touch the holy mountain, which was covered in thick smoke, assaulted by violent lightning strikes, shaken by deafening thunder. Through the smoke could be seen flames shooting to the heavens. Imagine being on top of Mt. St. Helena a few years ago when the cap blew off, while standing in the midst of the worst thunder storm you’ve ever heard, enveloped in an impenetrable fog. Then multiply that by 1,000 or maybe by 1,0001,000. God wouldn’t need to tell me not to get too near that mountain! I couldn’t stop running! The whole account certainly raises Moses in my estimation – brave and trust Moses.

In the midst of all that, God to Moses The Law. And then had to etch tablets again, because the very motley crew God was calling (again) to be his People, a light to the nations, had been partying the whole time, getting drunk, getting down, and melting all the gold God had given them from the Egyptians, to craft a golden calf, which they began to call God and worship.

Born in fear, broken immediately, ignored at will, except for certain groups who tried to enforce every piece of The Law, in all their interpretations, on the People of God. It’s not unusual for the self-proclaimed elite to force their interpretations on everyone else, and to belittle them and call them names when they fail (or are not “PC” enough – truly, nothing ever changes!).

Contrast all that with Jesus’ transfiguration. Jesus took only Peter, John, and James with him to climb another mountain to pray. Quietly he talked with his Father, and, as they were talking the Father sent his shekinah glory on Jesus, quietly, and also sent Moses and Elijah (also covered in his glory) to talk of Jesus’ final days and death in Jerusalem. This was all so quiet the three disciples slept on for most of the time the other three talked.

When the disciples did finally wake, they realized what they were seeing. There was no fear, no fire, no lightning, no smoke, no tablets. With this meeting Jesus set his eyes on Jerusalem, fully on the Cross, fully on his death, so through his blood the new covenant could begin, and his Church, his Bride, could come into being.

The disciples, and through them, the Church, heard directly from the Father: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him.” God’s very command to the Church: Listen to Jesus.

No need for stone tablets – through a relationship with Jesus the Law is written on our hearts of flesh. We are not called to read the Law, but to listen to the Law, the Way, the Truth, the Life – to Jesus. Even more important than talking to Jesus in prayer is to listen to him all the time. Seek the quiet place to still our minds, then LISTENShhhh! Hearing in progress.

Much easier – much harder – than keeping written rules, even if there are 613 of them!

Pastor Tere

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