Last Sunday after Epiphany

Reflecting the Glory of God

Today we have two readings of an encounter with the glory of God on a mountaintop. One in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. Let us begin with Moses on Mount Sinai:

The 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.” So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To 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.”   (Exodus 24:12-14)

Call Moses up to Mount to give him the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets. This was a monumental event in the life of Israel and in our own lives. Moses soon became aware of the manifest presence of God. A cloud covered the mountain which was the glory of God:

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The 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. Now 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. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.   (Exodus 24:15-18)

Moses commends God face to face. The glory of God is a change agent. Those who are touched by it will never be the same again.

In today’s New Testament lesson, Jesus invited Peter, James, and John up a mountain to have an encounter with God:

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.”   (Matthew 17:1-9)

Moses and Jesus were called to the Mount of God for different reasons, Both callings were pivotable events in our understanding of salvation history. In both cases, God spoke his Word and made his presence felt, Moses, encountered the glory of God. Jesus was transfigured with a heavenly body. Here he is clearly elevated above the commandments and the prophecy that he came to the earth to fulfill.

The bright cloud that overshadowed them was the glory of God. just as in the case of Moses. God’s glory was on the mountaintop – his essence, holiness, majesty, and manifest presence.

What can we glean from these encounters? How do we interpret their impact on Christian believers? Fortunately, we have a commentary from one of the participants. Peter was forbidden to speak about it before the resurrection of Jesus. But later he wrote:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.   (2 Peter 1:16-18)

How might the transfiguration of Jesus impinge upon our lives today? Fortunately, we have a commentary from a participant:

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.   (2 Peter 1:19)

The Psalmist wrote:

O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.   (Psalm 43:3)

Is God calling us to his holy hill? Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration. They were close to Jesus and we’re interested in all that he did or said. Are we today’s Peter, James, and John? That would be up to us. Are we hungry for the glory of God? This is a step beyond our initial salvation.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

For it is the God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ..   (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Our understanding and seeking the glory of God is perhaps the most significant way we can evangelize the world. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.   (Matthew 5:14-16)

Let shine with the radiance of Jesus. The glory is not ours. We are called to reflect his glory. Paul wrote:

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:18)


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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

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