Archive for February 14th, 2018

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are three set of threes in the Gospel lesson: 

First set:  Jesus takes up on the high mountain apart Peter, James and John

Second set:  Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah

Third set:  The Son is transfigured, and then soon the cloud “overshadows” them all.  When Mary asked the angel Gabriel, How can she conceive, “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”  The Greek verb for “overshadow” ἐπισκιάζουσα  is the same in Luke as in today’s Gospel from Mark:   The overshadowing cloud is the sign of the Holy Spirit.   The Father speaks, This is my beloved Son, the Holy Spirit descends and the Son is transfigured.   This should sound familiar for this is what happened when Jesus was baptized:  The Father spoke, the Spirit descended and that time the Son is baptized. The third set of threes is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three yet the one God and Lord of us all.

When Israel had finished building the tent of meeting, Exodus 40:   Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  This maybe the reason Peter offers, with the help of Peter and James, to build three tents. The Greek for “tent” can also be translated “tabernacle”:  of that well known movable temple of God after the pattern of  which the temple at Jerusalem was built.

Peter’s offer to build 3 tents, tabernacles which could have made that high mountain a shrine above all shrines one earth but the Lord’s will is not a place but you.  For you He came down from that mountain as Peter, James and John in the end saw Jesus alone.  Alone to go to the Cross and continue his journey through Lenten Lands for us and for our salvation. 

“Where and what is the strength and power of your salvation?  Christ, Christ assuredly has raised you up again.  He, the Good Samaritan, has healed you.  He, the good friend, has redeemed you with His life and set you free.  Christ, I say, Christ is He.  And so the strength of your salvation is the strength of Christ.” (St. Anselm)

He goes forward so to be our strength. 

Building three tents would suggest that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were equals.  As many teach these days the Lord is equal to Mohammed and Buddha.  Jesus shone  alone  with unborrowed light and Moses and Elijah did not, neither did Buddha and Mohammed.  And none of them died for sinners.  The voice of the Father puts His seal upon His Son by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the one God.  This faith we must cling  to and keep as without  it we are lost and can not be saved. So Jesus brings Peter, and James and John, with their darkness into the light to be enlightened.. “The Voice did not say:  ‘These are my beloved sons.  For One only is the Son; others are adopted.”—St. Augustine. 

 “…He asked them:  Whom do men say that the Son of man is, they said to Him: Some say Elijah;  some others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.  And so He led them up into a high mountain, and showed that he was not Elijah, but the God of Elijah;  that neither was He Jeremiah, but He had sanctified Jeremiah in his mother’s womb; that neither was He one of the prophets, but the Lord of the prophets, and he had that had sent them.”—St. Ephrem

But in another sense, He is not equal to Elijah, Moses, nor Mohammed.  In fact, He became less than Mohammed and Buddha and Joseph Smith and you and I.  The One who is greater than all became less than Moses and Elijah.  The One transfigured would be disfigured beyond recognition, as one from whom men hide their faces (Isaiah 53) He became sin who knew no sin. Jesus is the Way of the Lord to us.  He is love’s pure light shining on us in the darkness of sin and sadness, in the lowest place, on another hill called Skull, He bore the darkness of us all. We look to that forlorn mount where He bore our sin and not the mount of the Transfiguration.  We look to our hope from that Hill, not Capitol Hill. We look to Him the true temple, not these temples, the temples of our  heads. He knew what He was doing when He took Peter, James and John up to the high mountain so it was clear as to the One who would be walking the way to the Cross and another 3, the third day when Peter, James and John would finally report what happened that day on the high mountain apart. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, on the earth to lead us to heaven.

His very clothes shone with light that no bleach could clean. He cleanses us from the inside out by His grace held in the true faith.  Don’t do anything to get His salvation as we can’t. “Grace flows from the Lord not on those who attempt to earn it, but on those who confess their need for it.”  (Reed Lessing, Commentary on Jonah)  Don’t we have to do something to be a Christian?  Yes.  But it is not what we usually think that is by our works and spiritual exertions we can save ourselves.  When Epiphany begins we hear the narrative of our Lord’s Baptism and the Voice speaking, This is my beloved Son and now at the end of this season, the same sentence is preached by God the Father in His most excellent sermon, who is always His Word, Jesus Christ and now He adds: Listen to Him. This is what we are to do:  Listen to Jesus in His Word in prayer, Scripture, fasting, serving and giving to the poor.  The Voice spoke.  Interestingly enough, the phrase, “The Voice” is used of a singer with an unmistakable voice.  The Voice of the Father is unmistakable, without mistakes:  This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.  This is a tender and caring voice of the Father, though angry at our sins, nevertheless  has shown mercy in His only begotten Son and when He spoke Peter, James and John saw Jesus alone: listen to Him in every Word that proceeds from His mouth and everything He did, He will do, the Word made flesh for our salvation. Jesus is unmistakably God who died for you and rose that you are His own in the set of threes that is  ever One, undivided and united as we are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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