Sunday next before Lent

19th February 2023

Reflection (readings below)

The overarching theme of today’s readings is that of glory. 

God’s glory settled on Mount Sinai for six days and on the seventh day Moses goes up the mountain and enters into that cloud of glory – a glory that appears like an all consuming fire. 

Jesus ascends Mount Tabor and from a cloud,  God declares that Jesus is his beloved son  in whom he is well pleased. The disciples with Jesus, not only hear God’s voice, but see God’s glory shining through Jesus. It is like a blinding light. 

In both these encounters God’s glory isn’t something unobtrusive, something you might blink and miss. It is unmistakeable!  But how many of us have had such full on encounters with God? Perhaps we are more likely to just glimpse God’s glory, to catch a sight of it fleetingly. 

Nevertheless I suspect that glimpsing God’s glory is more common than we imagine. Think of sunset radiant with bright colours. Think of a sunrise as the great orb of the sun appears above the horizon. Think of the gold-dusted interior of a fully open crocus. Think of light dancing on the surface of a lake. Think of lucid movement of an incoming wave on the sea. Think of the minute detail of a single bird’s feather. Think of the smile in the eyes of someone who loves you. Think of the out-of-this-world experience of arriving at the top of a mountain and embracing the view. 

Last seek’s reading from Genesis described how God declared each thing created as being good. The Hebrew word is ‘towb’ meaning good, or beautiful or pleasing. If everything God has created is, in God’s eyes good, well pleasing, then we should not be surprised to see glimpses  of God’s glory shining through all manner of things, places and people. It maybe that we need to sharpen our eye sight, or re-attune our hearing, and be more alert to what is around us – for I am sure we are surrounded by the glory of God but don’t notice because our attention is elsewhere.

As Ash Wednesday approaches, maybe we can use this Lent as a time to pay more attention to the world around us, to be open to God’s presence and to be entranced by God’s glory. 

Exodus 24:12-18

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 99

1 The Lord is King;
let the people tremble; *
he is enthroned upon the cherubim;
let the earth shake.

2 The Lord is great in Zion; *
he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome; *
he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity; *
you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

5 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and fall down before his footstool; *
he is the Holy One.

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests,
and Samuel among those who call upon his Name, *
they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.

7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; *
they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 O Lord our God, you answered them indeed; *
you were a God who forgave them,
yet punished them for their evil deeds.

9 Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and worship him upon his holy hill; *
for the Lord our God is the Holy One.

2 Peter 1:16-21

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 honour 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

Six days later, 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.”

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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