The Revised Common Lectionary outdoes it self, in my opinion, this week. Because Easter comes so early this year, we are already at Transfiguration Sunday this coming weekend. Transfiguration Sunday marks the beginning of our journey through the season of Lent. But we are also at the Presentation of the Lord celebration when Jesus, as an infant, was brought to the Temple to be blessed and when Mary completed her purification rites. It is a wonderful theme of Jesus, as infant, being dedicated to God and Jesus showing his Divine nature to Peter, John and James. I am using all both sets of scripture passage this week, matching scripture type to scripture type. I am looking forward to what we may discover as we hold these two sets of four-fold scripture passages together.
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4)
The theme of a refiner, one who will purify God’s people, is an established one. And it has been applied not only to the Divine but to those who have been and are prophets of God. This passage is used for the Old Testament Passage for the Presentation of the Lord. The Christ first comes to the Temple as an infant, powerless, but grows to the man Jesus Christ who is transformed on the mountain top before the eyes of Peter, John and James. Jesus refines his disciples, preparing them for their ministry as Jesus was prepared as an infant. Encounters with the Divine change us in ways that are both seen and unseen.
“Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” (Exodus 34:29-35)
As I am sure you well know, beloved reader, Moses appeared with Jesus on the mountain top where Jesus was transfigured, that is, where Jesus took on the sheen and glow of the Divine that he was. Elijah was there also, shining also. They had been changed, not just because they passed through this world to the next, but because they had been touched by and had seen God all through their lives. And while it took some time Peter, James and John were also touched and transformed by touching and seeing Christ. It is a “natural” outcome of walking with God.
We, beloved readers, may not “shine” as Moses did, or be lifted up to heaven as Elijah was; but we are touched and transformed. It may not be a obvious external change, but there is a definite internal change – if we can sustain that connection to God. That is the task, beloved reader, to stay connected to God. I do not know about you, beloved reader, but that is something I want to think about for a little bit.
The story for many of us is that when we were young, we were taken to church, and presented and dedicated to God. For others, they came to God when they were older, perhaps through/because of the efforts of another or that they found their own way. Nevertheless, all of us who believe were presented to God in our spiritual infancy. We grew in faith and understanding, and were touched and transformed. But being human and fallible, that transformation did not and does not always hold true and remain. That is why we need to confess and do penance, and then we are transformed again.
The penance that we do is God’s way of refining us and purifying us. And from literal sense, that which is refined and purified will glow and shine. Think about that beloved reader – our souls glow and shine! That most certainly is worth doing penance for!
May you, beloved reader, think deeply in your own mind, heart, and soul about these passages. Tomorrow we will look at the next set. Shalom!