Scripture for the last Sunday after Epiphany (the Sunday before Lent):
Exodus 34.29-35 (Moses’ face transformed after speaking to God); Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3.12-4.2; Luke 9.28-36 (transfiguration of Jesus).
One of the thoughts arising from this year’s World Day of Prayer is that God, through Christ, offers us invitations that we all too easily overlook and miss. This was based upon reading the scripture assigned for this year, Luke 14.15-24, which recounts Jesus’ parable about the host who organised a grand dinner and invited many, only to have his invitations declined by his guests.
It raises the question about how much we miss, and why we miss it. In the gospel assigned for this Sunday, Peter, having previously experienced the revelation of the nature of Jesus, is nevertheless overwhelmed when he, James and John are given a view of what this actually means in the transfiguration. His reaction is to want to freeze the moment but that is not part of the plan. Rather, the voice of God instructs them (and us): “Listen to him.” If only we did! How many times do we not hear the voice of Christ because we are not listening?
What the three disciples see is part of the process that culminates in the tearing of the temple curtain at the crucifixion: the removal of barriers between God and humanity. The Jewish belief, going back to Moses and before, was that no one could look upon the face of God and live. But in Jesus, the face of God is shown in human form, and to look upon it actually enhances life.
The Jewish belief might have some validity: to look upon the face of God might indeed bring a kind of death – because new life in Christ entails the end of the old. And people find that kind of transformation fearful.
The Apostle Paul highlights this in writing to the Corinthians: the veil covering the face of Moses represented a hardening of the mind, and resistance to change – as we are also inclined to do. But that kind of resistance means missing opportunities to see and to be channels of God’s grace and glory. The church today is challenged to be willing to look upon the glory revealed in Christ and to be transformed by it – there is no room for veils.
Transfiguration Sunday offers us the opportunity to reflect upon the times when we might stop, look and listen for God’s invitations and consider what we might be overlooking. Remember that it was the Israelites who instigated the veil for Moses – they drew back before God’s glory. Do we, like Peter understand that Jesus is the Christ, but fail to grasp fully the implications of that? Can we follow the instruction to, “Listen to him?” What if it means being willing to recognise the glory of God in the unveiled faces of those around us, and to hear Christ’s words spoken in different voices? Are we willing to be engaged in transformation, starting with ourselves, and continuing to the world around?
We could turn a blind eye and a deaf ear and get on with life as “normal.” But what a pity to miss all those invitations and opportunities from one who gave so much in order that we might receive them.