The Transfiguration of our Lord, February 14, 2010, “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, on the mount of Transfiguration, you enable your Son’s beloved disciples to gain a glimpse of his glory. Come to us in our worship, transfigure our doubts into faith, our questions into your answers, our fears into your reassuring peace. Give us grace to silence all competing voices and to listen only to your will for our lives. Above all, give us the courage to witness to other of your redemption, which is in Christ Jesus our lord. Amen.
William H. Willimon in his commentary on our lessons for this morning, begins with the following statement. “Sometimes, as the rabbis noted, Scripture interprets Scripture. One passage of Scripture is utilized in the illumination of another.” End quote. [Pulpit Resource, Logos Productions, 1998]
This, I believe, is very evident as we look at our three lessons for this morning. In our lesson from Exodus, we have the story of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, after receiving from God the tablets of the covenant for the second time. We are told that the skin of his face was shining because he had been talking with God and had beheld God’s glory. As a result, the people were afraid to come near to Moses, so he put a veil over his face when he talked to the people.
Clearly, this imagery of God’s glory shinning brightly, is evident in the depiction of our Lord’s transfiguration before Peter, James and John. We are told that the appearance of Jesus’ face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Clearly, the implication in this text is not that Jesus face changed as a result of being in the presence of the glory of God, nor of being in the presence of Moses and Elijah, whom we are told appeared to Jesus in glory. For it was not just Jesus’ face that reflected the glory of God, his whole appearance, including his clothes exuded God’s glory, indicating Jesus’ oneness with God. Jesus could not hide his glory with a piece of cloth.
Finally, in our lesson from Paul’s Second Letter to the churches in Corinth, Paul picks up on the detail of Moses hiding the glory of God with a veil. He does this to describe his understanding as to why some Jews come to faith in the good news of the redeeming grace of God in Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and why some do not. Listen to Paul’s words: “Indeed, to this very day, when they [the disbelieving Jews] hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still their, 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.”
It is as if Paul, remembering the image of the veil over Moses’ face, twists that image a bit to suit his purpose in confronting the discouragement that is brought about by declining membership in the congregations of the Corinthian churches. As Willimon states, “It is as if Paul is saying, “The gods of this world have veiled the faces of unbelievers. When they hear the words of the Gospel, it is as if a veil has been placed over their minds. They are unable to see the full glory of God in Jesus the Christ.” End quote.