Monday, February 20, 2017

Last Sunday after the Epiphany Readings & Commentaries

The Collect of the Day
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain:  Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; though Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading:  Exodus 24:12-18
In our first reading, Moses is summoned up the mountain to receive “the tablets of stone,” presumably the ten commandments. (This is clearly a separate tradition of the reception of the commandments from that found in Exodus 20). On the seventh day Moses has a theophany, a vision of God’s glory. Moses enters into that theophany and remains there forty days. Forty is a frequent number in the Bible used for a time of trial (there are at least 15 such biblical instances).

24:12 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.” 13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 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.” 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm 2
Psalm 2 is a royal psalm which proclaims the king as God’s son and anointed (messiah). The latter title is always used in the Old Testament of the present ruler, not a future one.

1  Why are the nations in an uproar? *
            Why do the people mutter empty threats?
2  Why do the kings rise up in revolt,
    and the princes plot together, *
            against the Lord and against his Anointed?
3  “Let us break their yoke,” they say; *
            “let us cast off their bonds from us.”
4  He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; *
            the Lord has them in derision.
5  Then he speaks to them in his wrath, *
            and his rage fills them with terror.
6  “I myself have set my king *
            upon my holy hill of Zion.”
7  Let me announce the decree of the Lord: *
            he said to me, “You are my Son;
            this day have I begotten you.
8  Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for
                                    your inheritance *
            and the ends of the earth for your possession.
9  You shall crush them with an iron rod *
            and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”
10  And now, you kings, be wise; *
            be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11  Submit to the Lord with fear, *
            and with trembling bow before him;
12  Lest he be angry and you perish; *
            for his wrath is quickly kindled.
13  Happy are they all *
            Who take refuge in him!

Or this

Psalm 99
This psalm is an obvious one for Transfiguration Sunday.  It is a vision of the majesty of God, involving Moses, a mountain, and a cloud, all invoking a mysterious vision.
1  The Lord is King;
     let the people tremble; *
he is enthroned upon the cherubim;
let the earth shake.
2  The Lord is great in Zion; *
he is high above all peoples.
3  Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome; *
he is the Holy One.
4  “O mighty King, lover of justice,
     you have established equity; *
you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”
5  Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
     and fall down before his footstool; *
he is the Holy One.
6  Moses and Aaron among his priests,
     and Samuel among those who call upon his Name, *
they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.
7  He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; *
they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.
8  “O Lord our God, you answered them indeed; *
you were a God who forgave them,
yet punished them for their evil deeds.”
9  Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
    and worship him upon his holy hill; *
for the Lord our God is the Holy One.

Second Reading:  2 Peter 1:16-21
Our second reading references the story of the Transfiguration, the only place outside the Gospels which does so. The writer uses his witness of that incident to prove his trustworthiness in regards to the second coming of Christ. The prophetic witness is reliable. Scripture (the writer would have been referring to the Hebrew Scriptures) is not a matter of individual initiative or interpretation. Both rely on the Holy Spirit, working through the community of those who follow Jesus, understood in these early days of the church as the primary subject of the Hebrew Scriptures.

1:16 We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 17:1-9
Our Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration. On the mountain with his inner circle, Jesus’ whole being undergoes transformation. The story follows some of the details of Exodus 24, but also echoes the story of Jesus’ baptism. The presence of Moses and Elijah testify to Jesus’ inheritance of the Hebrew tradition (the law and the prophets). Peter’s desire to build booths recalls the Feast of Booths, when Israel celebrated being led by God through the desert. “Tell no one until…” indicates that Jesus understands what has just happened in terms of what he expects to happen in Jerusalem.

17:1 Six days [after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God], Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 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.” 5 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!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 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.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translations are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.  Permission is granted to reprint for individual or group study, with attribution.

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