Transfiguration / Last Epiphany C / Lent 2C
February 7, 2016 / February 21, 2016
I once went to Greece, and was amused to see airport signs saying EXODOS – way out!
What does that have to do with our reading? Well there’s an exodus here too. ‘Departure’ in verse 31 is the same word in Greek, and that set me thinking. The original exodus, back in the book of … Exodus was God’s ‘way out’ for the children of Israel – out of slavery and into to the Promised Land.
But hold on a minute. Hadn’t they already got there, with Abraham? You know, they guy who had the promise and left Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) to settle in Hebron in Canaan. That’s the Promised Land. So if they were already there by Genesis 13, how come they ended up somewhere else and needing rescuing?
It’s all about settling. They settled. They settled for less than God’s plan. They settled for Egypt.
In case it’s all a bit confusing, here’s the story so far:
- Abraham was in Mesopotamia when God said the bit about stars and sand, and told Abraham to go to ‘the land I will show you’. (I’ve always thought that a most unhelpful instruction).
- Abraham pootles around and arrives in The Promised Land.
- Three generations pass and we arrive at Joseph, who is sold into slavery in Egypt and sings a West-End musical.
- Huge famine hits Canaan. Joseph’s family move to Egypt, and – and this is the important part – settle there.
There was nothing wrong with going to Egypt. It was God’s plan for saving the Israelites from the famine. The place where it all went wrong was the very end of Genesis.
“Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. … Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised … then you must carry my bones up from this place.’ So Joseph died … and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (Gen 50: 22-26)
Joseph was happy. He had his family all around him. He had a great job with plenty of respect and life was good. So it’s hardly surprising he didn’t want to throw that away and rebuild his life in a backward country recovering from economic disaster. Who would?
Well, Joseph actually. He knew he was not supposed to stay in Egypt. Neither were his family. But he stayed and they stayed because it was so comfortable, so familiar, so easy. They had got used to Egypt and it felt too hard to go back. They needed an exodus to bring them to their real home.
So what about our reading? We are made to be in God’s kingdom, but we have become used to this world. We unconsciously soak up its values and customs, and it starts to feel like home. Now, of course we have to live in the real world, just as Joseph and his brothers had to live in Egypt. But they were not supposed to make their permanent home there. And we are not supposed to make our permanent home here.
We need a way out, another exodus. A way out, not from slavery in Egypt, but from slavery to sin and death. Christ’s ‘exodus’ – his death, resurrection and ascension – brought about our exodus, our way out to a new life in Christ.
And here, as Jesus is shown in glorious splendour, he is affirmed by God the Father, and by the Law and Prophets (signified by Moses and Elijah). He is bringing about the ultimate rescue plan, the way out, the final exodus.
Where feels like home for you? Here on earth or heaven?
You will need A5 card and paper, coloured pens and a stapler.
“But our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). We are going to make a passport. Fold a sheet of card in half for the cover, and a few sheets of paper for the pages. Staple them in the crease if you have a long-arm stapler, or close the book and staple the fold if not.
Use the coloured pens to write ‘Citizen of Heaven’ on the cover and decorate it appropriately. Decorate the inside pages too, with a ‘photo’ of yourself on one page, and spaces for travel visas on the rest.
Now draw visa stamps for the various places you visit – your home, school, work, hobbies, studies, sport, friends. All of these are good places to go, but let us remember that we are just visiting. Our citizenship is in heaven.
As we think of your transfiguration,
when we see a glimpse of your heavenly majesty,
let this remind us that our true home is in heaven,
and that we are just visitors on earth.
Luke 9:28-36 (37-43) New International Version – UK
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
(The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’
‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’
Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.)
New International Version – UK
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