Law and the Prophets - Reflections 2-22-17

 Texts for Sunday February 26


 Exodus 24:12-18
 Psalm 99
 2 Peter 1:16-21
 Matthew 17:1-9

 Finally, the last Sunday after Epiphany! This has been the longest Epiphany ever! The length of the Epiphany season is determined by the date of Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Technically, using that formula, in some years, Epiphany is one week longer than this year. But this year’s felt extraordinarily long. Probably all those cloudy days in January.

As the last Sunday after Epiphany, it is the Sunday before Lent starts. So here at Gloria Dei on Sunday we will be eating pancakes and donating money to the Crisis Center and an upcoming youth immersion and service trip (and worshiping as usual).

Technically, we should wait to eat pancakes on Tuesday. You know, Shrove Tuesday. OK, maybe you don’t know Shrove Tuesday, but I bet you’ve heard of Mardi Gras (translated Fat Tuesday). People since the Middle Ages have set aside Lent as a time of self-discipline and self-denial, so all the tasty food (and ingredients for tasty foods) have to get consumed before Lent starts; apparently, we need to eat it all on one day, the day before Lent starts (Ash Wednesday).  Pancakes use up milk, fats, and eggs….and sugar. The “shrove” part comes from a word meaning to confess…as in sins. Not quite the same party atmosphere as Mardi Gras, is it? But an important way to start your Lenten disciplines. For more details on the day before Ash Wednesday, check out ShareFaith.com

And as the last Sunday after Epiphany, it’s Transfiguration Sunday. Sounds like a science word, or maybe a science fiction word, doesn’t it? Something is going to undergo a change, a metamorphosis, a transformation.

Transfiguration and the Baptism of Jesus serve as bookends for the season of Epiphany. The word epiphany has to do with experiencing a revelation or sudden realization of something (I could have had a V8!). All these weeks, the Gospel texts have been revealing to us who Jesus is. At Jesus’ Baptism on the first Sunday of Epiphany, God announced/revealed that Jesus was his beloved son and that God was “well pleased” with him. John the Baptist, recognized as a prophet like Elijah, is present

The transfiguration story on this last Sunday tells about Jesus taking three disciples up a mountain where he meets with Moses and Elijah. Moses is known for bringing the law (commandments) to God’s people and Elijah was a prophet for the king of Israel. Jesus has a conversation with them.  And Peter tries to play host. But then God speaks again. In fact, God says the exact same words as in the baptism plus “Listen to him”. The point is not the big show going on; the thing to “behold” is found in Jesus’ words.

Peter, James, and John fall to the ground in fear. Interestingly, the three don’t seem afraid of Jesus shining like the sun, nor the sudden appearance of people from history (ghosts?), but God’s voice makes them collapse. 

So, who or what is transfigured? Certainly sunny-faced Jesus. And certainly, the disciples who have witnessed it all. And hopefully we are. We are no more ready for change than the apostles 

But the thing that caught me this time is how Jesus’ mission in Matthew seems to be a conversation with the “law and the prophets”.  Earlier (chapter 5), Jesus says clearly that he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but rather to fulfill them. And skipping ahead to Matthew 22, Jesus names the foundation for both the law and the prophets. “Which commandment is the greatest”, Jesus answered:

 “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The law and the prophets. They have been transfigured by the coming of the kingdom. These two commandments (or are they one?) are the key to understanding Jesus’ mission.

We are back to love.

Of course, we are. 
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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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1 comments:

  1. What a nice summation; I like how you tied things up together, relating events in the story of Jesus.
    And yes, love, always love.
    "The greatest of these is love."

    ReplyDelete