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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Matthew 17:1–9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (NRSV)

The story of Jesus’ Transfiguration is a difficult one to wrap our minds around; indeed, perhaps that challenge is part of its purpose. The setting of this scene is rich and layered, containing numerous allusions to other biblical texts and stories: God appearing to Moses on Mount Sinai, Jesus standing alongside and yet above two of the most revered figures from Israel’s history (Moses—Law; Elijah—Prophets), and call backs to Jesus’ baptism, in God once again proclaiming that “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.” The promises of past, present, and future intermingle in this scene, giving us a small sense of the wider arc of the story God is authoring.

In addition, this Transfiguration story is looked at as one of the major liminal events of the Gospels, in which the boundary between heaven and earth is blurred. In many church calendars it is placed at the conclusion of the Epiphany season as part of the continued revelation of Jesus’ mission and purpose.

Although connecting with this story on a personal level may be difficult, it remains important for understanding who Jesus is—not just for its original audience, but for us as well. Jesus has come to blur the lines between human and divine, enlisting the people of earth for the purposes of heaven. So as we approach the season of Lent, may each of us grapple with the ways that we both strive for and fall short of those purposes—taking inspiration once more as we try to imitate Jesus’ example.

Holy God, it is humbling to know that you’ve called me to follow your perfect way. Inspired by the life and ministry of Jesus—both fully human and fully divine—may I strive to be ever closer to you. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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