Yr C ~ Transfiguration ~ Exodus 34:29-35
Today is the end of the season of Epiphany which is all about the revelation of God’s light. To top it off we get a story about a guy who was so utterly filled with the light of God that he glowed so much he needed to wear a veil over his face because he was too dazzling for the other people to bear looking at. Wow!
I’m looking around here and I don’t see anyone in a veil. Does that mean we’re not aglow in the light of God? I hope not!
I hope that this reading today, and the conversation we’re about to have, doesn’t seem too alien to you. I hope that you’ve had many, many experiences of feeling all lit up in the Presence of God. I hope that you’ve felt your heart strangely warmed, your pulse race in delight, your breathing fill you so fully that you thought you’d burst, your knees quiver and wobble in awe, and your mind boggle at the wondrous mystery that surrounds and enfolds us. And if you haven’t, after today maybe you’ll be a step closer to that.
Let’s talk about Moses. First it’s a burning bush and now it’s a mountaintop glow – it’s like this guy can’t get away from the Presence of God! (ahem!) Moses goes up the mountain, encounters God’s Presence, gets the 10 commandments, and goes back down. The encounter leaves his face with a perma-glow. He’s radiant, dazzling, oozing light.
It says his face was shining so brightly that the people were afraid. That’s an unfortunate translation that misses the real meaning. The Hebrew word for afraid doesn’t mean “Boo, I scared you!” it means to be so overwhelmed by awesomeness that it overpowers your ability to take it all in. So on a certain level, yes, that’s frightening, but a much better word would be awestruck!
Has anyone ever looked at you after you’ve had an experience of God and become awestruck by the afterglow?
No? Are you sure?
32 Later all the Israelites came up to him and he passed on the commands, everything that God had told him on Mount Sinai.
33 When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face,
34 but when he went into the presence of God, he removed the veil until he came out. When he came out [he] told the Israelites what he had been commanded.
That’s pretty much the whole story. Moses encounters God, gets lit up, and then shares with the people what he’s experienced.
Today is also Transfiguration Sunday. Did hearing about Moses make you think about Jesus? It should have! In the Transfiguration story Jesus goes up a mountain to pray and while there he is bathed in a blinding white light and his face is transfigured – transformed – set aglow! The images of Moses and Elijah appear and the Presence of God takes the form of a cloud from which a voice declares Jesus to be blessed and tells the disciples to “listen to him!”
See any parallels? Mountain – check. Presence of God – check. Glowing – check. Message to be shared – check!
Now, it’s going to seem like I’m dramatically switching gears here and talking about something else but I’m really not. Both of these stories are examples of sacraments. read on