Summary: When we recognize, internalize, and externalize Jesus Christ in our lives, we too become transfigured.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
When I saw our Bible readings for today, I was amazed at how they fit perfectly for us today. As Moses and Jesus were transfigured, so are we and our church today. And Paul speaks of spiritual gifts, which are meant to be used and used in love. Your coming here this evening, some of you from Carlsbad and Oceanside, is a demonstration of that loving use of our gifts.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we’re expected to use our gifts. But before we can do that, we need to understand what God is saying to us. As humans, we often mess that part up. God shows us his glory, and we misread it.
We need to do three things. I call them the three “I’s” of the church:
Recognize, Internalize, and Externalize.
We need to recognize God’s Word.
We need to internalize it.
And then we need to externalize it.
In the late fourth century, from 382 to 405, a biblical scholar named Jerome translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into the common language of that time: Latin. It was called the Vulgate Bible, because it was written in the common or vulgar language. It’s hard to believe that Latin was once as common as English or Spanish is now, but it’s true.
However, Jerome’s translation has a flaw. And we find it in today’s Old Testament reading from Exodus 34. The Hebrew word that means “to shine” (karan) sounds a lot like another word that means “horn” (keren). Without going too much into Hebrew, I think it’s important to know that Hebrew has no vowels, so a word spelled “krn” might be pronounced karan or keren, depending on which word the person meant to use. That’s probably one reason we don’t write many contracts in Hebrew anymore.
That mistranslation led to images in the Middle Ages of Moses with two horns growing out of his forehead. Around the year 1505, 11 centuries after Jerome finished the Vulgate Bible, Michelangelo sculpted an eight-foot tall statue of Moses, complete with horns, seated majestically on the wall of the Tomb of Pope Julius II. It’s a beautiful statue, so lifelike that Michelangelo is said to have thrown his chisel at the statue as he screamed “Why don’t you talk!?” It’s an incredible, brilliant work. But it’s wrong. Moses did not have horns.
We’re able to see that by realizing that the Old Testament shows us the things that will be revealed in the New Testament. Moses’ face was transfigured by exposure to God’s glory on the mountaintop, just as Jesus’ body was transfigured centuries later on a mountaintop.
The Old Testament points to Jesus Christ, and Jesus doesn’t have horns. You don’t have to take my word for it though. The Apostle Paul in Second Corinthians, Chapter 3 (Verses 7 and8) writes:
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
Many Christians today make a similar mistake with God’s Word. They change what is written to suit what they want to hear, even though their new version no longer points to Jesus.
They create a God in their own image who is more pleasing to them than the one true God who actually created them in his image. They create a God who loves us and welcomes us, no matter what we’ve done and no matter what we believe, into his kingdom.
That’s a much nicer image to us than a God who loves us unconditionally, but holds us accountable for our actions and tells us that in order to be with him in paradise we have to first believe in him.
“Our Father who art in heaven” holds us to a behavioral standard and calls us to turn away from our desire to follow our own will and to obey him instead.
But “Our Grandpa who art in Heaven” is much more like what we’d prefer. And our Grandpa who art in Heaven is the image of God that many Christian Churches have created. And, like Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, it’s a beautiful concept, but it’s wrong.
Fathers have rules and standards for their children. You fathers that are here, would you agree? The same applies to mothers. Parents have rules.
But grandparents … grandparents tend to let their grandchildren get away with all sorts of things that they never let their own children get away with. All you grandparents, aren’t you more lenient with your grandchildren than you were with your own children? And I think most of us would prefer that grandma or grandpa find out we did something wrong, instead of mom or dad. Anyone else feel that way?