First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Readings Exodus 24: 12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter, 1: 16-21, Matthew 17: 1-9

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Readings Exodus 24: 12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter, 1: 16-21, Matthew 17: 1-9

Thanks to Feasting on The Word Year A Vol.1 pgs. 434- 457

  

This Sunday marks the end of Epiphany and is intended to be both a final celebration of the light, and the revelation of the  glory of Christ and a transition into the season of Lent.  Of course the glory of Jesus is demonstrated through a physical transfiguration in the presence of Peter , James and John on top of the mountain, “ and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” The words of God from the cloud , very similar to Moses experience even further reinforces the glory of the transfigured Jesus, “ This is my son the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The transfiguration confirmed for the three apostles that indeed Jesus was God. St. Matthew has been all along making comparisons between Jesus and Moses and his telling of the Transfiguration as compared to Luke and Mark clearly is trying to harken back to Moses on the mountain. But the significant difference and the point Matthew is making is that God is not only in the cloud but is indeed in Jesus. Patrick Wilson beautifully highlights the part of the story that I never really think about much because I am too busy  pondering the voice from above and how Jesus is dazzling white( can you blame me). That is when Jesus touched the apostles and said do not be afraid. Wilson writes, “This is the way that God comes into the world: not simply the brilliant cloud of mystery, not only a voice thundering from heaven, but also a human hand laid upon a shoulder and the words do not be afraid. God comes to us quietly, gently, that we may draw near and not be afraid. God’s glory is majestic and so far beyond our capacity to receive it that we can take as much of God’s glory as a human hand can hold. God’s glory and magnificence and power and majesty are unsurpassable, we say ; but we must also declare that that god’s glory and magnificence and power and majesty are surpassed by God’s willingness to shed them all in order that we might finally recognize God’s love and gentleness.”  Wilson goes on to remind us that it is Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus is called Emmanuel God with us which seems to be one of the important statements of the transfiguration.

 

God’s voice from the cloud echoes the words of Psalm 2 which came to be regarded  as speaking of the Messiah King , which of course Jesus was, You are my son today I have begotten you.

 

So one last time this Sunday we will celebrate the glory and light of Jesus in this epiphany season. Let us truly praise God for this as we worship together.

 

But I think there is a transition going on in these readings. The transfiguration is definitely intended to fortify us in the season of Lent and especially Holy Week as we walk with Jesus through the temptations, through suffering  in desert places. In fact it seems that St. Peter is under attack in our Epistle reading because Christ has not returned in glory. Was his preaching false or empty. And to defend himself he thinks back to the transfiguration where it was confirmed to him that Jesus was the Son of God. He  was the messiah fulfilling O.T. prophecy given to the prophets through God’s Spirit.

 

It must have been such a strength for his ministry to remember how God had worked in his life. It would have enabled him to forge on and to look forward to the morning star. What a wonderful image of Christ’s return.

 

I remember watching the Lord of The Rings movie. And there is complete darkness and a city is about to be attacked and destroyed by dark forces far superior in strength. Everything was lost until Gandalf who was thought to be dead returned as Gandalf the White. It was a transfiguration moment or perhaps Easter  ( I am sure Tolkien was intending it to be so) . Gandalf was so bright it was blinding and of course this gave heart and courage and strength for the battle.

 

This week or so the news has been focussed on the tragic situation in Kiev. There have been a few glimpses into the Orthodox Church as people go for prayer. I really know very little about the Orthodox Church so I am only speculating really but it seems to me that their worship is more contemplative or mystical than ours, especially Protestant Churches. They literally use incense which to me is kind of an attempt to appreciate the glory and majesty of God. It is a visual approach to worship and Protestants are more likely to listen to God to listen to God’s word being read and preached and then obeying. I bring this up because in the story of Moses on the Mountain you get both.  At first Moses is called up the mountain to hear and receive commandments. Then he is called up further and he experiences the glory of the Lord looking into realms beyond human knowing. William Danaher comments on this and uses the phrase ethical eye and contemplative eye. I think my approach in worshipping and relating to God is the ethical ear but I think we should explore the contemplative eye. People really appreciated our Taize service  and wanted to repeat this kind of worship. I suspect it was a longing for the contemplative eye.

 

One of the first thoughts I had about these readings is the witness in the epistle reading of the importance of giving testimony to how god has worked in our lives. St. Peter speaks about how God spoke to him on the Mount of Transfiguration. This was one of our NCD action steps. We wanted to give people the opportunity to give testimony to how God has worked in their lives. I think we should follow Peter’s good example.

 

In case you enjoyed the link I sent out last week I will give you the link for this week’s reading. I don’t always agree but I think the author asks some good probing questions.     http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2014/02/07/bible-study-last-sunday-after-epiphany-a/

Wishing you God’s peace and grace until we meet on Sunday.

 

David