Exodus 34: 29-35. In Eastern Christendom God is known as the “sourceless source” and the “uncreated light” and this is the light that glowed in Moses’ face long after his encounters with God. But he chose to veil his shining face from the Israelite people.
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2. The reason, Paul concludes (in verse 13) for Moses veiling his face is to hide the fading of God’s glory over time until his next encounter with God. The contrast Paul wishes to make is that the Glory of God in the new covenant never fades so is superior to the old covenant. This is because the Holy Spirit “which is the Lord” is with us constantly changing us into Christ’s likeness.
Luke 9: 28-36. The “Transfiguration” of Christ when Jesus whole being glows with the uncreated light of God is one of the central revelations of Jesus’ affinity and identification with God. In this vision Moses representing the old covenant (the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) are both subordinate to Jesus who is the fulfilment of both the law and the prophets.
“I am the light of the world” said Jesus
The divine light of God lies at the heart of all three readings today – the light that shines through and unites both the old and new testaments and shines most brightly through the person of Jesus Christ Himself and when we come to believe it we start to shine with that same light through the Holy Spirit.
The first two readings complement each other because Paul refers to the one from Exodus and offers his interpretation of it to explain how this new revelation, this new covenant established through Jesus Christ exceeds in every way the first revelation of the law.
In essence he says that Moses had to wear a veil to hide the fact that God’s glory slowly faded away in-between encounters with God.
This sets the scene for this marvellous revelation that we call the transfiguration of Christ. In a sense this could belong more properly in the season of Epiphany but coming just before we enter Lent when we mark the privation and temptations in the wilderness that the earthly Jesus was to suffer, it serves to reinforce the fact that whatever the earthly Jesus would suffer, ending ultimately with the crucifixion – He was enduring these things as God’s Son.
One of my favourite sayings from Paul (2 Corinthians 5:19) is that
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” and this is ultimately what we need to remember as we prepare to enter Lent.
In the Transfiguration Jesus shines with the uncreated light of God and in this vision, just to make things very clear that Jesus transcends and fulfils everything that has gone before, we have Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets, present at this event and out of the cloud (which represents the presence of God) comes the voice of God repeating the same words that accompanied Jesus’ Baptism in the river Jordan,
“This is my son, the beloved” and then, “listen to Him”.
The vision couldn’t be more clear. Jesus fulfils everything that had gone before. The law and all prophesy finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ.
Peter, in probably equal terms frightened and confused, misses the point and asks whether he should build three dwelling places, but after God’s voice had spoken, Jesus was found to be alone.
Paul makes it equally clear that the Holy Spirit which is the same Spirit that shone out from Jesus is present to the Christians in the church. The same Spirit that shone out of Jesus is present to us in East Devon today.
This is the same light that enlightens us believers who have been given the power to become children of God.
This is the inner light that guides us, comforts us, and directs our lives and worship today.
This is why we cannot and must not fail in our task to follow in his steps and do his will here on earth.
The church is not just a collection of disparate individuals. We are a body – the body of Christ. It is the light of Christ, the Holy Spirit that forms us into that body and we are always a part of it whether we are together as we are this morning or apart during the rest of the week.
It is who we are. Children of the God of light revealed as dwelling completely within Jesus Christ.
I will end by quoting the last two sentences of what Paul wrote in today’s reading because it is a rallying cry for us to keep together, to be open and pure and keep our eyes on the prize by becoming a sign of the Kingdom of God.
Present Weakness and Resurrection Life
4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.