* Exodus 24:12-18 •
* Psalm 2 or Psalm 99 •
* 2 Peter 1:16-21 •
* Matthew 17:1-9
"I stood in chapel this week and recited the Nicene Creed. Now our church community (Kittamaqundi Community Church) is NOT a credal community, meaning we don't as a group subscribe to one creed and share that as a central commitment of membership, participation, and belonging. But at the seminary where I work and attend, creeds are a shared experience of that community. And I was aware that as I read the words, I felt both myself sculpted and molded into the shape of the beliefs I was articulating. And frankly, it was comfortable space. My rational mind can sometimes trip over these words...words like "eternally begotten of the Father" and "he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man." Yes, my rational mind sometimes can't wrap itself around these concepts.
But there in the space of worship, having just heard a powerful message on these very texts, these words and their tradition and comfort was shaping my soul and I was leaning into the sculptor's hands, allowing myself to be shaped. They were warmth and light, infused with the ringing of voices who had spoken the same words over thousands of years, ringing with the spirit of early Christians who chose them so carefully. These words and the emotion and sense of well-being they evoke are a revelation to me of things that I cannot know in my rational mind but of things that my very cells know somehow to be true. They call me back to being God's beloved."
It is "Transfiguration Sunday" on the liturgical calendar - a time when Christians reflect on the visible revelation of Jesus Christ in his lifetime before his disciples Peter, James and John -- Jesus bathed in glittering light, standing alongside Moses, the Lawbearer and Elijah the Prophet as if he were a completion of the two kinds of Godly revelation - the law and the prophets - all in one human divine package. Then clouds gather and a voice emerges, "This is my Son, the beloved..." It is the Sunday that precedes Ash Wednesday and the Descent into 40 days of Lent, a time of reflection, of penance, of awareness of our humanity, our mortality, our sinfulness and our fellowship in that space with every other human on the planet.
But if the journey begins today, it begins in the light of God's revelation to the disciples on that mountainside. And the disciples weren't invited or encouraged to stay there in the light...instead, Jesus sent them back down the mountain to face a lot of hard work, travel, dusty feet, persecution, criticism and self-doubt. In our artful imagination, we are guessing that these disciples needed to face all of what was coming to even begin to understand what they experienced on that mountain. We are so like that...we can't see the gift that life is sometimes except from the depths of pain or unbelievable mistakes...and it is that realization that drags us out of that low place and back to the mountain.
Our texts for this week all tell a story of revelation - of God showing God's self to God's creation. Each revelation, like a creed, is a reminder of who God is.
In the passage from Exodus, Moses heads up on to Mount Sinai which is then covered by a cloud for six days. On the seventh day, God's voice is heard to Moses, and the people that Moses had left at the base of the mountain knew God was there on the mountain because of the spectacular firey vision of the mountain. Moses entered the cloud and then spent 40 days and 40 nights with God. Now beyond this verse, we know that Moses comes down off the mountain with the ten commandments, the laws that were to be central to the Hebrews that had fled Egypt and were moving toward the promised land. God has made a covenant with the people and named the expectations they are to keep in the Law.
We have two different messages from the psalmists. First is a warning - a threat - a reminder that none of this world is wholy ours. The second is a brighter message - a praise psalm for God's revelations to Moses and Aaron and Samuel.
In Matthew's gospel, we have a detailed account of the magnificent transformation of Jesus that Peter, James and John experienced on the mountain side. They want to hold on to the moment, to create a Place for Jesus and Moses and Elijah, to bask in the presence of the light. But Jesus not only sends them all back down the mountain -- he tells them that they cannot tell of their experience until he has been raised from the dead. We can only imagine this must have been a let down. First, they weren't able to share their story and second, they've been told that their first reaction (building a shelter for everyone to hang out in) was inappropriate. Their experience on the mountain certainly was different from that of Moses. However, both experiences offered a chance for them to see their lives and purposes from a different perspective.
In the 2nd epistle of Peter, the disciple is finally able to tell of his mountain experience...and he is less telling of his own experience but of his experience of God. He encourages the early church to be watchful. Prophecy doesn't come out of our human experience, it comes out of our experience of God. We are not telling our own story when we witness, we are telling God's story. And that story is shared by so many others and it echoes through time and space and shapes hearers.
We repeat these stories because they have power. We tell them around dinner tables, we re-read them, we recite them in creeds because they form us. The biblical stories of transformation Transform us.
God, I want to be open to change.
I want to be open to allowing
to seep in to all of the cracks
and crevices of my life
and direct my steps
and inspire my actions
and redirect my ugliness
and empower me to be
the beacon of Light
You have created me to be.
© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world;
we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words.
May Grace & Peace be with you.
* Exodus 24:12-18 •