Last Sunday after the Epiphany 2019
by The Reverend Jeffrey C. Johnson
29 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. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32 Afterward, all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 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, 35 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.
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 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. 33 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. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 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.
[37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.]Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
We Lutherans struggle with the term “glory.” Luther struggled with it because we Lutherans attach glory with the misguided and false “theology of glory.” Rightfully so, for us to practice a theology of glory is rather heretical. A theology of glory dismisses Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and equates God’s power in the world like that of a conquering military general. Whereas Luther’s Theology of the Cross recognizes the triumph of God’s shame on the Cross. Once again, we have that Lutheran paradox much like sinner/saint. Glory is found in the execution of a state criminal as Jesus in something as shameful as a Cross.
But today’s glory is something else. One of my favorite stories of Glory is that of Moses. Moses is such a wonderful character in all of scripture and that sounds like such an understatement. Not only does he deny his Egyptian upbringing, defects to the Hebrews, but he also murders a man, flees to the desert only to find Yahweh, only to return to Egypt and free his fellow Hebrews. And that’s just the beginning.
Upon the exodus from Egypt, Moses brings the law to the Hebrews even though Moses finds them worshiping a golden idol rather than worshipping Yahweh, their deliverer. Today’s story is Moses picking up the pieces after the golden calf nightmare. Moses has gone back to Yahweh to plead for the Hebrew’s case. If you remember, Moses destroyed the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written upon finding the Hebrews worshipping the golden calf idol. Symbolically, the Hebrews have NO law. They’ve lost their identity and their relationship with God. It must be restored.
After the Golden Calf disaster, Moses returns to God to appease God and for God to make another set of stone tablets. Moses and God’s relationship was unique because as Scripture says, “11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. This is amazing. We looking at God in the face would be sort of like the Nazis beholding the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. No one could gaze upon the face of God. But Moses has this relationship with God. God did not reveal God’s face to Moses, but rather his backside. Once again, no one could see the face of God and live.
After these conversations with God, Moses returns to the Hebrew people and by accounts of Scripture, his face shone so brightly from seeing God that his face beamed. The beams are so very bright that Moses has to wear a veil so that people are overcome or blinded by Moses’ bare face. Sit back and think about this. This sounds like something out of Harry Potter or Disney. Magical, yes! Magic, NO! The glory of God.
Today we have the glory of God reveals itself in the face and body of Jesus in this Transfiguration Story. Do I know what it means? NO! But I know three very important words from this story and this story’s takeaway. “This is my Son….LISTEN TO HIM.” That’s the crux of today’s story.
We too, like Moses, need to listen to God and to be in God’s glory here in the presence of the Eucharist, in the hearing of Scripture, and as importantly in the presence of each other. That the glory of God found here at First Lutheran: in the faces of all the people here every Sunday, from every child to every senior, to today’s celebration of Pastor Ken Bjorklund’s 90th Birthday. And I expect every one of you to BEAM during our celebration of this birthday.
Why do we need to beam? Not only to reveal God’s relationship in our personal lives but to witness to God’s love in the world. I don’t think we need to wear veils on our faces. In fact, the Apostle Paul basically says the veil is no longer needed. But we need to greet and beam for each other, those unknown to us, and those especially who will come to us in the future.
Finally, God commands us in the Luke gospel today to listen to Jesus, his Son. Literally, God tells us to LISTEN TO HIM. Those three words need to be our mantra, our daily prayer, whatever ever you need to call it as we prepare for the journey through Lent. This same journey begins today actually on this mountaintop moving to a desert moving to the Cross. I ask you to listen to Jesus on this journey.