A Tale of Two Mountains

2020-02-23 – Year A – Last Sunday of Epiphany (Transfiguration)
The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas
Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; Philippians 3:7-14; Matthew 17:1-9

  • Epiphany “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something” or “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being”
  • Transformers – “more than meets the eye”
  • The Transfiguration reveals, yet again the fullness of who Jesus really is, and it points the way towards what he came to do.
  • The readings this morning show us two very different but connected encounters with God on mountain tops and they show us what these two things mean for our lives.

The Mountain of Moses

  • Exodus 24
    • Moses and Joshua go up on the mountain to receive the law from God
      • v. 17 The appearance of God on the mountain was like a devouring fire.
    • Exodus 31:18 – Two tablets of stone written by the finger of God
      • v. 12 Not just the commandments, but the whole law. Everything the people needed to know and obey to be righteous before God. How to dress, what to eat, how to stay ritually clean, what sacrifices to offer, etc.
      • Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights.
  • Exodus 32 – The Golden Calf
    • Perhaps they thought Moses had been consumed by God in the fire.
  • Do you think God was surprised by the disobedience of the Israelites?
    • Do you think he is surprised when you sin and turn against him?

The Mountain of Jesus

  • In the Reading from Matthew we see another mountain story. Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up a high mountain where Jesus is transfigured and meets with Moses and Elijah, the two greatest prophets of the OT. These two mountain stories are chronologically separated by more than a thousand years!
    • Malachi 4:5-6 – The Return of Elijah
    • Peter, James, and John must have been thinking, “This is the beginning of the revolution! The Day of the Lord has come!!
    • Maybe this is why Peter suggests that they make shelters for Jesus and the two prophets (v. 4). To preserve the moment, or to make a base camp for gathering an army.
    • God had another plan, he covers them all in a “bright cloud” and he speaks to them (v. 6).
  • Matthew 17:3 Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus. (Luke 9:31, his exodus).

Paul’s Explanation

  • Paul ties the themes of these two mountains together in the reading from Phillippians.
  • Phillippians 3:4-7 – Paul’s accomplishments according to the law.
  • Phillippians 3:8 shows Paul’s reflection on his own accomplishments and rule-keeping and how they compare to knowing Jesus.
    • He counts all of his accomplishments a “rubbish”.
  • v. 9 – The Law showed that it is impossible to maintain a righteousness of our own by obeying God’s rules.
    • This is why God is never surprised by our disobedience. The law works a bit like a mirror, showing us our inabilty to stay away from sin, and disavowing us of the notion that we are good.
    • Even if we could keep all of the rules perfectly, our hearts would still not be right before God, tending either towards pride or resentment.
  • Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother with the commandments in the Bible? No!
    • v. 12 – “Not that I have already obtained this…I press on to make it my own…”
    • We continue to try to strive for obedience, but we do it out of our relationship with Jesus and in his strength. Not trying to earn righteousness before God, but allowing God to transform us into the people he created us to be.
    • Ephesians 5:26-27 – Jesus presents his bride the Church in splendor
      • Jesus was transfigured, showing the fullness of who he is.
      • We are transformed, becoming, by Grace, what we cannot be by ourselves.

Preparing for Lent

  • The season of Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday.
  • Lent is an opportunity to take stock of our spiritual lives;
    • to see where sin has crept in and return to him through repentance;
    • and to draw closer to God through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
  • Over the next few days, prayerfully ask the Lord how he wants you to observe this season. Is there something he wants you to leave behind? Is there something he wants you to take on? Is he calling you to fast in some way.
    • If you want to know more about how to observe the season of Lent, please come a talk to me.

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