Archive for the ‘Matthew 17’ Tag

Devotion for Transfiguration Sunday, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love

MARCH 3, 2019


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)


Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.









Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:   St. Joseph, by William Dyce

Image in the Public Domain

Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God

DECEMBER 23, 2018


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Isaiah 7:10-17

Isaiah 12 (at least verses 2-6)

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24


Ahaz, King of Judah (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was hardly a pious monotheist.  In fact, he practiced idolatry openly.  2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 gave him scathing reviews.  Ahaz, confronted with an alliance of Israel and Aram against him, chose to rely on Assyria, not God.  That was a really bad decision.  Nevertheless, God sent a sign of deliverance; a young woman of the royal court would have a baby boy.  God would not only protect Judah but judge it also.

Surely God is our salvation, but how often do we take the easy way out and not trust in God?  When God arrives in the form of a helpless infant, as in Matthew 1, one might not recognize the divine presence.  What we expect to see might prevent us from seeing what is in front of us for what it is.  God approaches us in many guises, many of them unexpected.

At first reading Romans 1:4 might seem surprising, perhaps even similar to the Adoptionist heresy.

…and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One might think of John 1:1-18, which declares that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.  One might also ponder the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) as well as the preceding testimony of St. John the Baptist in each Gospel.  One might even recall the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

The proclamation mentioned in Romans 1:4 need not contradict those other proclamations.  No, one should interpret it as a subsequent proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God.  One should notice the theological context in Romans 1:  Easter as the beginning and foretaste of the prophesied age of divine rule on Earth.

“Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the New Testament.  Usually, though, it indicates divine rule on Earth.  This kingdom is evident in the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, written after the death of St. Paul the Apostle.  The Kingdom of God is both present and future; it is here, yet not fully.

As we, being intellectually honest readers of scripture, acknowledge the existence of certain disagreements regarding the dawning of the age of God, according to St. Paul and the authors of the canonical Gospels, may we also never cease to trust in God, regardless of how much evil runs rampant and how much time has elapsed since the times of Jesus and St. Paul.  God keeps a schedule we do not see.









Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   21 comments

Above:  Mount Tabor, Traditional Site of the Transfiguration

Jesus, Consistent with the Law and the Prophets

FEBRUARY 23, 2020


Exodus 24:12-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

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.

So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 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.

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 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. 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. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.


Psalm 2 (New Revised Standard Version):

Why do the the nations conspire,

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

Let us burst their bonds asunder,

and cast their cords from us.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the LORD has them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.

I will tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to me,

You are my son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron,

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

with trembling kiss his feet,

or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are all who take refuge in him.


Psalm 99 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!

He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is exalted over all the peoples.

Let them praise your great and awesome name.

Holy is he!

Mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice

and righteousness in Jacob.

Extol the LORD our God;

worship at his footstool.

Holy is he!

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

Samuel also was among those who called on his name.

They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;

they kept his decrees,

and the statutes that he gave them.

O LORD our God, you answered them;

you were a forgiving God to them,

but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

Extol the LORD our God,

and worship at his holy mountain;

for the LORD our God is holy.


2 Peter 1:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

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. 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.

We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

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. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.


Matthew 17:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

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. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 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.

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!

When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying,

Get up and do not be afraid.

And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

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 Collect:

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; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


When I read about events such as the Ascension and the Transfiguration I suspect that more happened than I read in texts.  I do not doubt the veracity of the accounts, but I suspect that words were inadequate to the full scope of events in question.  One just had to be there to get the full effect, and I am about 2,000 years too late for that.

The Transfiguration was a revelatory experience for the accompanying apostles.  They glimpsed the true nature of Jesus, which entails being consistent with the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).  [A true story:  Recently Beth Long, my Rector, repeated a question a child in the parish asked.  How, this young person queried, did the apostles recognize Moses and Elijah?  Beth replied that she did not know.  Indeed, that is an intriguing question and a plot hole, but it does not distract me from the point of having Jesus, Moses, and Elijah together briefly.]  Yet Peter–”God bless him,” as we say in the U.S. South–wanted to remain in the moment and institutionalize it.  This reaction, although well-intentioned, was misguided, for Jesus and the apostles needed to move along.

They were headed for Jerusalem, where the Passion Narrative would unfold. The Gospel of Luke contains another account of the Transfiguration. Just a few verses after that passage, Jesus “turned his face toward Jerusalem,” and his impending death. (Luke 9:51) This is an important turning point in the Gospel of Luke, and one should read verses before it and after it in its context.  With that in mind, I propose that the Transfiguration was also a “booster shot” for Jesus, who was about the embark on a difficult, yet necessary, course.

When pondering the calendar of the Christian Church, one needs to remember that the earliest feast Christians observed was Easter.  Even Christmas (the observance of which developed later) exists in the shadow of Easter.  And the Transfiguration does, also.

The placement of the Transfiguration on this Sunday is appropriate because the next season in the Christian year is Lent, and the next Sunday will be the First Sunday in Lent.  At the end of that 40-days season is Holy Week.  So we Christians need to set our faces toward Jerusalem, too.



Fourteenth Day of Advent   8 comments

Above:  The Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Zarapheth

Jesus:  In Continuity with the Prophets



Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 48:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Then there arose Elijah, a prophet like fire,

whose word blazed like a torch.

He brought famine on the people,

and in his zeal reduced them in number.

By the word of the Lord he shut up the sky,

and three times he called down fire from heaven.

How glorious you were, Elijah, in your miracles!

Who else can boast such deeds?

By the word of the Most High

you raised a corpse from death and the grave.

You sent kings and famous men

from their sick-beds down to destruction.

You heard a rebuke at Sinai,

a sentence of doom at Horeb.

You anointed kings for retribution,

and a prophet to succeed you.

You were taken up to heaven in a fiery whirlwind,

in a chariot drawn by horses of fire.

Scripture records that you are to come at the appointed time

to allay the divine wrath before it erupts in fury,

to reconcile father and son,

and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who see you,

happy those who have fallen asleep in love!

(For we also shall certainly live.)

Psalm 80:1-3, 14-19 (Revised English Bible):

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,

leading Joseph like a flock.

Shine forth, as you sit enthroned on the cherubim,

Leading Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh,

rouse your might and come to our rescue.

God, restore us,

and make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

God of hosts, turn to us, we pray;

look down from heaven and see.

Tend this vine,

this stock which your right hand has planted.

May those who set it on fire and cut it down

perish before your angry look.

Let your hand rest on the one at your right side,

the one whom you have made strong for your service.

Then we shall not turn back from you;

grant us new life, and we shall invoke you by name.

LORD God of Hosts, restore us,

and make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Matthew 17:9-13 (Revised English Bible):

(This reading is set immediately after the Transfiguration.)

On their way down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead.  The disciples put a question to him:

Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

He replied,

Elijah is to come and set everything right.  But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they failed to recognize him, and did to him as they wanted; in the same way the Son of Man must suffer at their hands.

Then the disciples understood that he meant John the Baptist.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


I am a Christian.  By this simple statement I mean that I am a partisan of Christ, one who follows Jesus of Nazareth.  As such I affirm the humanity, divinity, life, death, resurrection, and teachings of the Lord and Savior.  Jesus is the incarnation of God, in line with the Prophets, the last of which was John the Baptist, and the ultimate expression of what a human life can be and can be worth.

I grew up in southern Georgia, the buckle of the Baptist Belt.  There the dominant church culture places great stress of verbal confessions of faith–too much, I think, often at the expense of a quieter, lived, non-verbal orthodoxy.  My faith runs deeply, but rarely in Baptist-style vocalizations.  So, for example, very little of my prayer life is oral, especially in public.  From time to time I have had negative encounters with earnest Baptists and other Protestants who have not understood my faith and approach to it.  And I felt no obligation to justify myself to them.  I still don’t.

Growing up in southern Georgia, I was a relative heretic.  (Not that anything is wrong with that, to borrow a phrase from a Seinfeld episode.)  Nevertheless, I am actually more orthodox than many people might suspect.  Seldom do I get into this with people, for God, not they, is my judge.

Anyway, I make these points at this time and in this place because they fit the readings.  I am writing these words on Memorial Day 2010, but the stated occasion is the Fourteenth Day of Advent, in December.  (I like to write ahead of time.) These readings indicate that Jesus stands in line with the Prophets of Yahweh while one of them foreshadows his death and resurrection.  In the midst of expectation we find a mention of the dark side of the narrative.

So, while the countdown to Christmas continues, let us remember the rest of the story.


Written on May 31, 2010