Be Thou My Vision – Mike Moyers

Ascending the Mountain

This Sunday, the Last Sunday after Epiphany, or to others, the Last Sunday before Lent, is Transfiguration Sunday. It is the final piece in the series of theophanies (manifestations of God) that we have been witnessing since 06 January – the feast of Epiphany. Beginning 06 January, we celebrated Jesus Christ as King to the World when the Magi who were Gentiles came to worship Him. Following that, on the First Sunday after Epiphany, we witnessed the proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God, the Beloved with whom the Father was well pleased. On the Second Sunday after Epiphany, John rejoiced, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ Since then, our readings have celebrated the majesty of Jesus, the King of Kings!

Photo by Trace Hudson on

It is no surprise, then, that now, as we prepare to enter Lent, the grimmest season of our Liturgical Year, we are yet being encouraged to focus on the sovereignty of Jesus. A few weeks ago, during the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, we were told that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Now, in the Epistle, 2 Peter 1:16-21, we read, ‘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’ (2 Peter 1:19). This encouragement from Peter is fitting as we enter, as a faith community, a period of solemnity – repentance, acts of charity/almsgiving and fasting.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

As Christians, we need periodic calls to remind us of God’s glory, faithfulness, and comfort. Helen Howarth Lemmel in the hymn, ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ wrote:

O soul, are you weary and troubled? 
No light in the darkness you see? 
There’s light for a look at the Saviour, 
And life more abundant and free.

And then, in the chorus, she encourages:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face, 
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His glory and grace.

In another verse, she assures:

His Word shall not fail you, He promised; 
Believe Him and all will be well; 
Then go to a world that is dying, 
His perfect salvation to tell!

The world around us is dark. And we are part of that world. We are part of a world that has convinced itself that right is variable and wrong is always right. We are part of a world where, as we become more sophisticated, we become more skilled at finding justifications for wrong. We are part of a world where people go hungry every day; people lose their jobs every day; women die every day at the hands of their ‘trusted male relatives’; young girls and boys are assaulted by close family relatives and friends; young men easily lose their lives to violence, and crooked deals to favour some and disadvantage others in business and even in school are the way we live. We are part of a world where we easily disregard the traffic laws, we tell off others when we disagree with them, and we routinely criticise our brothers and sisters without seeking to understand them. We are part of a world in which over-indulgence – in drink, eating, partying, phone use and television viewing – distract us, even to our own peril, and from the work we have each been called to do in our stations in life. Friends, we are part of a world in which the bushel basket is threatening our light.

Jesus – The Word of God Revealed

So, the call to be attentive to the lamp, to the Word of God, to Jesus, is crucial to our survival.

This lamp, the Word of God – accessed through Holy Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit – is instruction in the way we are to go. As the Lord said to Moses in verse 12 of the Lesson (Exodus 24:12-18) ‘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.’ The Word of God illumines our path to God. Psalm 119:105 reads, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’. The Word of God has the power to revive our weary and troubled souls. The Word of God has redemptive power.

The Transfiguration – Jesus Mafa

But for us to access the light which the Word of God offers us, we must be prepared to retreat occasionally. As we retreat, we will be refreshed as we are instructed in how we are to continue along the walk of life. Therefore, Lent, notwithstanding its solemnity, offers us a period of refreshment. It also offers a period of instruction. In Exodus 24:13, we read that ‘Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.’ Moses understood the need for retreat. He understood that a revelation awaited him on the mountain of God. Our Lesson today focusses on Exodus 24:12-18, but as you read further (in chapters 25-31), you will see that God revealed to Moses instructions on how the people were to prepare so that God might dwell among them.

Revelation Requires Retreat

Friends, walking in the light of Christ requires periods of silence, of retreat, and of stillness. Our liturgical year provides a deliberate one every year at Lent. I encourage you to commit yourselves to finding the time to be still, to wait on the Lord, so that God may speak to you and provide you with instructions for your personal and communal journey with the Lord. And, yes, it will require waiting. In Exodus 24:16, it is written, ‘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.’ But this wait was nothing compared to the succeeding days during which Moses would receive instruction from the Lord for, it is recorded that Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Hearing from God, then, requires much waiting and a discipline of patience. Note well the definition of patience. According to the Oxford Dictionary, patience is ‘the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset’. By this definition then, how many of us can say that we have patiently waited for the Lord? I know I can’t. It is why we are encouraged to go not by our might nor by our strength, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

Retreat for Revelation; Retreat for Transfiguration

Friends, this Sunday is called Transfiguration Sunday as we celebrate once more the glory of Christ. This Sunday is also called Transfiguration Sunday as we commit ourselves during the upcoming season of Lent to turn our eyes towards Jesus, to study the word of God and, through the Holy Spirit to go in the strength of the Lord.  As we do this, we, too, will experience our own transfiguration as God reveals God’s word, God’s instruction to us so that we can walk more strongly in the ways of the Lord. And, for having done that, our lights will shine as the Lord intends.

Our Gospel today (Matthew 17:1-9) narrates the transfiguration of Jesus while He was on a high mountain. It was there that He was visited by Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the Prophets). It was there that again, He was revealed to be the Son of God. It was there that His glory was once again affirmed. Friends, as we prepare to ascend the mountain of Lent, if we are focussed, know that the glory of God will be revealed to us. Like Peter and the disciples, I pray that we too will experience a holy fear as the glory of the Lord is revealed to us.

Revelation on the Way We Must Go

As I close, I encourage us not to shy away from the period that awaits us. Let us approach it with fear and trembling, trusting God who is faithful and who longs to draw us closer to the Trinity to reveal God’s self to us. Let us open our hands, as Moses did to receive the Word of God because it is this Word that will instruct us in the way we are to go.

It is this Word that will allow us to enjoy more fully the love of the Father, the peace of the Son and the joy of the Spirit.

The Readings: Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

The Lesson: Exodus 24:12-18

The Response: Psalm 2 or 99

The Epistle: 2 Peter 1:16-21

The Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

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