Looking forward to the high feast and holiday of the Transfiguration this last Sunday after the Epiphany. We´re hearing a lot from the great prophet Moses, who points us to the one and only savior of the world, Jesus Christ. He it is, who was promised to Adam and Eve in the garden. He it is, who was promised to our father Abraham. It is He, who spoke by all the prophets in the same vein as He did to Moses. It is He, who says: “I am, who I am!”
The Old Testament lesson for tomorrow is from the second book of Moses (Exodus) chapter 3 and relates the story of the burning bush and calling of Moses:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up. ”When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”Exodus 3,1-15
The sermon text for tomorrow´s high holiday is from the same book:
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.”Exodus 34,29-35
We know many great promises of our good Lord and triune God, which were recorded by His faithful servant Moses. Another outstanding one is from the fifth and final book of Moses:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.Deuteronomy 18,15
And that too was wonderfully fulfilled – like all our good God´s promises – in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, the only Savior of the world. In Him the fulness of God´s grace and goodness appeared (Epiphany) in the fulness of time to His people Israel and for the benefit of all the world as the prophet Isaiah foretold:
The Lord rises upon youIsaiah 60,2b
and His glory appears over you.
Tomorrow´s gospel as recorded by the holy evangelist St. Matthews relates this fulfilment and God´s confirmation of it during His glorious Transfiguration before those select holy apostles and the two outstanding prophets, whose graves were never found:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.Matthew 17,1-9
The great missionary to the heathens and holy apostle St. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians and brings the gospel to shine amongst the Christian congregation and church, which is often hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2.Corinthians 4,6-10)
It is in His name we gather as Christian church throughout the world – called to join in with the Introit:
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all peoples see his glory.
All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods!
Zion hears and rejoicesPsalm 97
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, Lord.
For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.
Thomas H. Troeger (1945) summarizes the glorious experience of the Holy Transfiguration in his hymn “Swiftly pass the clouds of glory…” and puts it into the context of the Christian church and congregation – much like St. Paul does in the designated Epistle for tomorrow. See above.
Swiftly pass the clouds of glory, Heaven’s voice, the dazzling light; Moses and Elijah vanish; Christ alone commands the height! Peter, James, and John fall silent, Turning from the summit’s rise Downward toward the shadowed valley Where their Lord has fixed His eyes.
Glimpsed and gone the revelation, They shall gain and keep its truth, Not by building on the mountain Any shrine or sacred booth, But by following the Savior Through the valley to the cross And by testing faith’s resilience Through betrayal, pain, and loss.
Lord, transfigure our perception With the purest light that shines, And recast our life’s intentions To the shape of Your designs, Till we seek no other glory Than what lies past Calv’ry’s hill And our living and our dying And our rising by Your will.Lutheran Service Book 416