Last Sunday After Epiphany (Year A)
Scripture Readings*: Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9, Psalm 2 or 99
Relationship with God is not just a matter of moral and religious duty. There is a mutual commitment: God will protect and bless His people, if they remain separate and committed to Him. God’s covenant, offered to the people of Israel, had been welcomed, enthusiastically. In fact, they vowed to do “everything the Lord had said” (24:1-3).
Moses ascends the mountain and enters into the very presence of God. The “covenant making King” invites us – not only to enjoy the benefits of the covenant – but to enter into a personal relationship with Him.
2 Peter 1:16-21
In a court of law, it is common for the prosecution to ask the question: “What did you see?” Eyewitnesses are key in any case. Peter declares that the stories of the power and coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ, were not a fabrication or a figment of imagination. He (along with many others) had personally witnessed this glory. At the transfiguration of Jesus, they had heard the voice that came from heaven, declaring that “This (Jesus) is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Mt. 17:5).
Despite voices that suggest that Jesus may not be the only way to God… there is no way to satisfaction, life and glory other than through the well-beloved Son of the ever-living God.
This passage affords us clear echoes of Old Testament theophany (an appearance of God); like the appearance of God on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24). In similar manner, Jesus takes three representatives to a mountain, where his appearance is transformed to the extent that his native, divine splendor radiates through his clothes and in his face.
The voice from heaven serves to reveal that Jesus is one with the prophetic tradition, represented by Moses and Elijah, but that he is also the consummator of that tradition.
Down From the Mountain
We all want mountain top experiences – those awe-inspiring moments in God’s presence when we are transformed. We want God’s “big voice,” speaking words of affirmation, reassuring us that our faith is not misplaced. And in certain circumstances and seasons, God reveals Himself to us in these mountain top moments.
Like the disciples, we are tempted to escape the daily responsibilities of life and want to “set up camp” where we can bask in the glories of God’s presence. But notice what happens in today’s readings. In the Old Testament readings, Moses eventually had to come down from the mountain. So did Jesus and the disciples. So do we.
We come down from the mountain bearing the radiance of God’s transforming and revelatory power – and we re-enter everyday life, shining His presence into our world. This is the work of Epiphany in us; it is the work of God through us to illumine our world with His life.
Prayer for Last Sunday After Epiphany – “Almighty God, as I experience the illuminating light of Your presence, help me to shine Your light into the world around me. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”
*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A