Lectionary Scriptures and Comments

Posts tagged ‘Epiphany’

“Mountaintop Experience”

March 2, 2014– Transfiguration Sunday

 

Exodus 24:12-18

12The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.” 15Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm 99

The Lord reigns;
Let the peoples tremble!
He dwells between the cherubim;
Let the earth be moved!
The Lord is great in Zion,
And He is high above all the peoples.
Let them praise Your great and awesome name—
He is holy.

The King’s strength also loves justice;
You have established equity;
You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God,
And worship at His footstool—
He is holy.

Moses and Aaron were among His priests,
And Samuel was among those who called upon His name;
They called upon the Lord, and He answered them.
He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar;
They kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them.

You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.
Exalt the Lord our God,
And worship at His holy hill;
For the Lord our God is holy.

2 Peter 1:16-21

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

19So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

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. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then 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.” 5While 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!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As 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.”

 

 

Comments

Transfiguration Sunday marks the end of the season of Epiphany, the series of weeks after Christmas when the church lingers on the significance of the appearance of Jesus on the stage of human history.  With the Transfiguration story, the church turns toward the season of Lent and Easter, a time of reflecting on the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The luminosity of the transfiguration story reaches toward the vision of God as transcendent, other worldly, mysterious and dimly apprehended.

The story of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop is found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  The Matthew and Mark versions are very similar.  Luke’s version varies a bit and has Jesus praying and Moses and Elijah’s words are described as saying something about Jesus’ impending death in Jerusalem.  The transfiguration story is not in the Gospel of John.  The word “transfiguration” is used to translate the Greek word METAMORPHOO in Matthew and Mark.

The setting of the story has Jesus fully aware that his journey is toward suffering and death.  The disciples, initially feeling very good about being with Jesus and having this mountaintop experience, end up being fearful and not sure about the future.  Jesus touches them and tells them not to be afraid.  I think this is the heart of the story.

Through the ages this story has influenced Christian spirituality.  The Eastern Christian Church interpreted the story as representative of the human transformation possible in Christ.  Western Christianity tended to emphasize the cross experience of Jesus.

The appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus opens the awareness of God’s presence in the lives of previous heroes of the faith. The mountaintop experience of Moses and the mountaintop experience of Elijah are well known narratives of Israel.

After encountering a burning bush on the mountaintop, Moses leads the transformation of a slave people toward self-determination.  After encountering God on the smoky, fiery mountaintop, Moses helps Israel find its character and vision as a people of law and justice and shalom.  Moses’ final mountaintop experience was overlooking the Promised Land before his death.

Elijah’s mountaintop experience was different.  The sheer sound of silence, or a small inner voice, guided Elijah in speaking God’s word to the powerful and to those in need.

Jesus in conversation with these figures reminds the reader of the long history of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the establishment of a covenant community and the sometimes irksome habit of God calling and raising up prophets to remind everyone of this intersection of divine and human activity and the ongoing dream of humankind’s transformation.

A few years ago a prophet appeared in the life of this nation and offered these words:

I have a dream…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

Martin Luther King Junior was a modern prophet who helped this nation move toward a more expansive view of humanity.  The “I Have a Dream” speech was a mountaintop experience for many of that generation and continues to inspire.  King was giving a speech to 250,000 people who had marched to WashingtonD.C. to demonstrate for civil rights.  As King was speaking Mahalia Jackson called out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”  And he did.

What is the expansive vision we need today?

  • Care of creation?
  • Narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor?
  • Including sexual minorities fully in the church and society?

Some Christian spiritualties, if not all of them, have emphasized the role of prayer in Jesus’ transfiguration.  Jesus and the disciples going to an isolated setting is interpreted to mean they spent time in prayer and meditation.  The disciplines of prayer and meditation as a ways of raising awareness of the divine presence and mystery have motivated many to work at disciplined ways of finding the presence of God.  Controlled breathing, chanting, meditating on words and phrases, observing extended times of silence, fasting, and praying have been pathways to mountaintop experiences for many through the ages.  As we struggle to stay afloat in the deluge of the information age and navigate the complexities of the 21st century, we often long for the focus and simplicity of a quiet place and a method to journey into God’s presence.

The disciples thought they had found that place.  “Wow! This is good, Jesus.  We’ll stay right here.  We will build new institutions to commemorate and perpetuate this mountaintop experience.”  As they are speaking and carrying on and planning, they are interrupted by divine speech.  “This is my beloved with whom I am well-pleased.  Listen to him.”

Almost the same words were heard at Jesus Baptism and the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days of testing.

This time, God’s voice declares, “Listen to him.” Then there is a series of exorcisms, confrontations with the authorities, healings, teachings and parables by Jesus as he continues his ministry among the people and continues the journey toward Jerusalem and his death.  This the Jesus we listen to.

We are not a people called to linger long on mountaintop experiences.  If we listen to Jesus, we will be a people who are transformed as we engage in the work of creating a world as God intended it to be.

 

Maybe the ultimate transformation is the movement from loving our idea and image of God to loving our neighbors in all their variety of colors, social class, physical appearance, gender, sexual orientation and circumstances.

An Epiphany for Today 010813

Paint, icon. The title: "Revelation of Go...

Paint, icon. The title: “Revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ, Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos (1774) at Kondopoga. See Epiphany (holiday). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Epiphany for Today 010813

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www.peacemennonitechurch.net

 

Today’s Scriptures Click the following links to read today’s scriptures or scroll to the very bottom of this blog post for those scriptures also. Lectionary Scriptures for the day selected by http://www.commontexts.org/

 

Psalm 72 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2072&version=MSG

Daniel 2:1-19 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel%202:1-19&version=MSG

Ephesians 4:17—5:1 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%204:17%E2%80%945:1&version=MSG

 

An Epiphany for Today 010813

We might wonder exactly why this season is called epiphany ( no others). It is the season when the magi realized suddenly (hence ‘epipany’) that the child was the Christ child. One may wonder therefore exactly who and why this season was called epiphany, and not the season when Mary realized she was carrying the Christ, or the earthquake when Jesus was crucified and the Roman soldiers realized that Jesus was the Christ, or…..a hundred other events that brought humanity into a sudden realization.

For me, epiphany happened two thousand years later or so, and each morning when I pray it is an epiphany, each morning is a sudden realization that the amazing event has occurred—that God has come to earth in human form and walks among us. When humankind began to anticipate in Isaiah, prophecy as in Daniel and then observe this completely human, completely God like event, it becomes an epiphany that keeps on coming to us each day.

Pray for our epiphany today, and pray for peace,

Bill

Prayer List: Peace Mennonite Church keeps a prayer list for those in need. If you need prayer, or want to e-mail our pastor, e-mail billd @ peacemennonitechurch.net (Take out the extra spaces to use this e-mail—the spaces confuse spam generators).

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We are praying as a church, and attempting to follow the centuries’ old tradition of praying with other Christians three times a day. We are following the prayer liturgy at www.commonprayer.net

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Psalm 72

Daniel 2:1-19

Ephesians 4:17—5:1

Psalm 72

The Message (MSG)

A Solomon Psalm

72 1-8 Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God,
the gift of just rule to the crown prince.
May he judge your people rightly,
be honorable to your meek and lowly.
Let the mountains give exuberant witness;
shape the hills with the contours of right living.
Please stand up for the poor,
help the children of the needy,
come down hard on the cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon—
age after age after age.
Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers.
Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
Rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the Rim.

9-14 Foes will fall on their knees before God,
his enemies lick the dust.
Kings remote and legendary will pay homage,
kings rich and resplendent will turn over their wealth.
All kings will fall down and worship,
and godless nations sign up to serve him,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
when they bleed, he bleeds;
when they die, he dies.

15-17 And live! Oh, let him live!
Deck him out in Sheba gold.
Offer prayers unceasing to him,
bless him from morning to night.
Fields of golden grain in the land,
cresting the mountains in wild exuberance,
Cornucopias of praise, praises
springing from the city like grass from the earth.
May he never be forgotten,
his fame shine on like sunshine.
May all godless people enter his circle of blessing
and bless the One who blessed them.

18-20 Blessed God, Israel’s God,
the one and only wonder-working God!
Blessed always his blazing glory!
All earth brims with his glory.
Yes and Yes and Yes.

Daniel 2:1-23

The Message (MSG)

King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

2 1-3 In the second year of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that disturbed him deeply. He couldn’t sleep. He called in all the Babylonian magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and fortunetellers to interpret his dreams for him. When they came and lined up before the king, he said to them, “I had a dream that I can’t get out of my mind. I can’t sleep until I know what it means.”

4 The fortunetellers, speaking in the Aramaic language, said, “Long live the king! Tell us the dream and we will interpret it.”

5-6 The king answered the fortunetellers, “This is my decree: If you can’t tell me both the dream itself and its interpretation, I’ll have you ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and your homes torn down. But if you tell me both the dream and its interpretation, I’ll lavish you with gifts and honors. So go to it: Tell me the dream and its interpretation.”

7 They answered, “If it please your majesty, tell us the dream. We’ll give the interpretation.”

8-9 But the king said, “I know what you’re up to—you’re just playing for time. You know you’re up a tree. You know that if you can’t tell me my dream, you’re doomed. I see right through you—you’re going to cook up some fancy stories and confuse the issue until I change my mind. Nothing doing! First tell me the dream, then I’ll know that you’re on the up and up with the interpretation and not just blowing smoke in my eyes.”

10-11 The fortunetellers said, “Nobody anywhere can do what you ask. And no king, great or small, has ever demanded anything like this from any magician, enchanter, or fortuneteller. What you’re asking is impossible unless some god or goddess should reveal it—and they don’t hang around with people like us.”

12-13 That set the king off. He lost his temper and ordered the whole company of Babylonian wise men killed. When the death warrant was issued, Daniel and his companions were included. They also were marked for execution.

14-15 When Arioch, chief of the royal guards, was making arrangements for the execution, Daniel wisely took him aside and quietly asked what was going on: “Why this all of a sudden?”

15-16 After Arioch filled in the background, Daniel went to the king and asked for a little time so that he could interpret the dream.

17-18 Daniel then went home and told his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what was going on. He asked them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the four of them wouldn’t be killed along with the whole company of Babylonian wise men.

Dream Interpretation: A Story of Five Kingdoms

19-23 That night the answer to the mystery was given to Daniel in a vision. Daniel blessed the God of heaven, saying,

Blessed be the name of God,
forever and ever.
He knows all, does all:
He changes the seasons and guides history,
He raises up kings and also brings them down,
he provides both intelligence and discernment,
He opens up the depths, tells secrets,
sees in the dark—light spills out of him!
God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise!
You made me wise and strong.
And now you’ve shown us what we asked for.
You’ve solved the king’s mystery.”

Ephesians 4:17-5:2

The Message (MSG)

The Old Way Has to Go

17-19 And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

20-24 But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.

29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.

31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Wake Up from Your Sleep

5 1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

EPIPHANY 010611

Bible illustration c.1900

Image via Wikipedia

EPIPHANY 010611

 

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

 

Meditation and thoughts follow the scriptures.

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Isaiah 60:1-6

The Ingathering of the Dispersed

60Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
3 Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,*
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Psalm 72

Prayer for Guidance and Support for the King

Of Solomon.
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5 May he live* while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts.
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.
12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

Ephesians 3:1-12

Paul’s Ministry to the Gentiles

3This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for* Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery* was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see* what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in* God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.*

Matthew 2:1-12

The Visit of the Wise Men

2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men* from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,* and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah* was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd* my people Israel.” ’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men* and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,* until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped,* they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the 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.


EPIPHANY

 

Today is the day called ‘The Epiphany of Our Lord’, a holiday to many cultures, but locally not celebrated, except by local Amish communities, and by Eastern Orthodox Churches (Byzantine, Armenian, Greek, Russian). January 6 is also the end of the ’12 Days of Christmas’.

 

Epiphany celebrates the discovery and proclamation of the birth of the Christ by the Magi, the three wise men. (in Western Christian tradition) or the baptism of Christ in the Eastern tradition.

 

Epiphany came to be celebrated first in 361 CE, and may have been the first Christian celebration, practiced before the beginnings of the Christmas celebrations. It has been celebrated in English or European culture as the 12th night, and was the time for ‘mumming’ and ‘wassailing’. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night may originally have been performed in celebration of Epiphany. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany_%28holiday%29

 

Whatever the celebration, Epiphany is a celebration of the illumination of the Christ to humanity, whether the birth of Jesus or the baptism of Jesus is the event. Alternatively the Miracle at Cana, when Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding is also celebrated since it was the first miracle of Jesus, and the first recognition perhaps of Jesus as the messiah.

 

How do we celebrate this day? In some churches, Epiphany is the season, which begins now and lasts until the beginning of the season of Lent. During this season, we hope that Epiphany continues in your spiritual life, that is, that you begin to recognize Jesus.

 

I’ve spoken several times about the continually arising Jesus, that is, that Jesus continues to grow and reveal himself to us, as we continue to grow. It is not as though we have once recognized Jesus and then go forth into life. Instead, we continue to see a new Jesus, as we grow, each year.

 

I pray therefore, that your spiritual life leads you to celebrate Jesus’ revelation to us, and to each of us, and that we spend the next few weeks until Lent, learning about Jesus anew.

 

Blessings!

 

Pastor Bill

 

 

 

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