Tag Archives: Transfiguration

Behind the Veil

Behind the Veil (CaD Matt 17) Wayfarer

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Matthew 17:1-3 (NIV)

I was never much of a science guy back in school. It just wasn’t my jam. The further I get in my life journey, however, the more fascinated I’ve become by it. In particular, I find it fascinating the mysteries being uncovered and discovered. I learned as a child that the atom was the smallest “building block” of matter, but physicists have discovered a number of subatomic particles, with even more of them theorized. What’s crazy is that they behave in strange ways we don’t understand. I find it fascinating that we are at once discovering the expanding universe and its mysteries at the same time we’re discovering newer layers of the building blocks of the universe and their mysteries. In either direction, macro or micro, we’re making mind-blowing discoveries beyond our current comprehension. Amazing.

I mention this because the further I get in my spiritual journey, the more aware I’ve become of the connectedness of the Great Story and the mysteries of eternity to which it points. Jesus was always making a distinction between earth-bound thinking and eternity-centric thinking. He continually contrasted the kingdoms of this world to the kingdom of God, earth as opposed to heaven, temporal as opposed to eternal. This is not confined to Jesus. In fact, it’s connected throughout the Great Story.

In today’s chapter, Matthew records one of the most mysterious episodes in Jesus’ story. Jesus takes His inner circle of followers and goes up a mountain. In an instant, Jesus is revealed in His eternal glory. Light brighter than you can imagine, a dense cloud, a voice from within the cloud, and then two beings appearing with Him: Moses and Elijah.

Jesus said in His message on the hill that He didn’t come to “abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.” The climactic event for the Hebrew people was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the God giving of the Law to Moses on a mountain. If you go back and read about that event in Exodus chapters 19 and 20, there are amazing parallels between that episode and the episode described in today’s chapter.

Both events happened on mountains. Jesus shines like the sun, just like Moses whose face was so bright after returning from the mountain that he had to wear a veil over his face (Ex 34:29-35). Both involved seemingly natural phenomena of clouds/smoke and God’s voice from the midst. The former event precipitated the giving of the Law, the latter precipitated the fulfillment of it. Why did Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus? Moses was the instrument of giving. Jesus was the instrument of fulfillment. Moses represented the Law, Elijah represented the Prophets, and Jesus was the fulfillment of both just as He said He came to do. The Transfiguration was a bookend event to Moses’ receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai.

What struck me as I read the episode again today was the instantaneous transfiguration from temporal normal to eternal glory and then the instantaneous transfiguration back from eternal glory to temporal normal, along with the disciples’ terror.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself contemplating the probability (based on evidence in the Great Story) that the veil between earth and glory is thinner than I’ve ever imagined. I live, move, and have my being in an earthbound, three-dimensional world which frames my thinking and perception. But physicists now theorize that there are actually 11 dimensions (or more). There’s more to it than I ever realized, which is exactly what Jesus continually tried to get His followers to understand.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In essence, Jesus is saying that there is an eternal reality that is more real than the earthy reality I experience in three dimensions with my five senses. He called it “the Kingdom of God” and He asked me as His follower to seek it, find it, see it, believe it, and allow it to transform the way I live, move, and have my being on this earthly journey.

Jesus chastised Peter in yesterday’s chapter for being so bound to his earthy perceptions that he couldn’t see heaven’s intentions. The further I get in my spiritual journey, the more convinced I am that every time Jesus tells His followers to expand their faith, He’s encouraging me to open my mind and spirit to see what is beyond my human senses yet just as real as physical matter. It is already woven into creation itself. I believe it’s right there behind the veil that is thinner than I imagine.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Positively “Horny” with Light

Positively "Horny" with Light (CaD Ex 34) Wayfarer

When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
Exodus 34:30 (NRSVCE)

“Let there be light.”

That’s the first act of creation in the poetic description of the beginning of everything in the opening verses of Genesis. This simple beginning, however, is not so simple. In fact, it’s hard to contain its meaning. It is part of the mystery of God and the universe that both theology and science have endlessly been attempting to understand. I can’t explain it any better than the Encyclopedia Brittanica does:

No single answer to the question “What is light?” satisfies the many contexts in which light is experienced, explored, and exploited. The physicist is interested in the physical properties of light, the artist in an aesthetic appreciation of the visual world. Through the sense of sight, light is a primary tool for perceiving the world and communicating within it. Light from the Sun warms the Earth, drives global weather patterns, and initiates the life-sustaining process of photosynthesis. On the grandest scale, light’s interactions with matter have helped shape the structure of the universe. Indeed, light provides a window on the universe, from cosmological to atomic scales. Almost all of the information about the rest of the universe reaches Earth in the form of electromagnetic radiation. By interpreting that radiation, astronomers can glimpse the earliest epochs of the universe, measure the general expansion of the universe, and determine the chemical composition of stars and the interstellar medium. Just as the invention of the telescope dramatically broadened exploration of the universe, so too the invention of the microscope opened the intricate world of the cell. The analysis of the frequencies of light emitted and absorbed by atoms was a principal impetus for the development of quantum mechanics. Atomic and molecular spectroscopies continue to be primary tools for probing the structure of matter, providing ultrasensitive tests of atomic and molecular models and contributing to studies of fundamental photochemical reactions.

In the same way, light is fundamentally a part of the spiritually supernatural:

  • Light was the first order of creation on the first day of creation in the Genesis creation ( keep in mind the sun, stars, and moon weren’t created until the fourth day).
  • After healing a boy born blind, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
  • In the sermon on the mount, Jesus told his followers, “You are the light of the world.”
  • Jesus took his inner-circle (Peter, James, and John) up on a mountain (just like Moses in today’s chapter) and was “transfigured” before them (e.g. Matthew records the He shone like the sun while Luke describes it as bright as a flash of lightning). And Moses appeared with Him.
  • Angelic beings are consistently described throughout the Great Story as shining radiantly.
  • At the very end of the Great Story in Revelation (spoiler alert: the end is a new beginning) “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”

In today’s chapter, Moses returns to the top of the mountain and spends another 40 days with God. When he returns, the text says that his face was so radiant that it freaked out the Hebrews (for the record, Peter, James, and John were equally freaked when Jesus revealed the light of His glory).

Here’s a bit of additional mystery for you. The Hebrew word used here is actually translated “horns.” That’s why many artistic depictions of Moses (the most famous is Michaelangelo) show him having horns on his head:

Moses

So, what’s up with that?! I talked in my podcast, A Beginners Guide to the Great Story Part 1 about the fact that when thinking about the ancient stories we have to consider the context of the times in which they were living. The mystery of Moses’ horns is a great example. There is an ancient Babylonian text that uses the Sumer word si which is also the word for “horn” to describe a solar eclipse in which the sun’s light appears like “horns” (think “rays of light”) shooting out from behind the darkened moon. It’s quite possible that the word “horns” was layered with meaning and the ancients understood what we call “rays” of light to be “horns of light.”

In the quiet this morning, I find my brain buzzing with all sorts of thoughts about light and how it is part of the mystery of both the spiritual and the scientific. Humanity has so often made the two into binary, either-or, opposites and enemies. The further I get in my journey, the more I am convinced that, in the end, we will understand that they are two parts of the same mystery. It’s a “both, and.”

As a follower of Jesus, I can’t help but go back to Jesus’ call for His followers to be “light” to the world”:

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

-Jesus (Matt 5:13-16 [MSG])

What does that mean for me? Am I a light-bearer? Do these posts and podcasts shine? More importantly, do my daily words and interaction with family, friends, neighbors, strangers, community, enemies, acquaintances, and foreigners radiate with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? Am I being generous with my life? Is my house open? Am I opening up to others?

It’s what I’m endeavoring to do increasingly today, each day of this earthly journey. I want the words of my mouth, the meditations of my heart, the work of my hands, and my interactions with everyone to be positively “horny” with Light.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 17

Isenheimer
Isenheimer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because I am righteous, I will see you.
    When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
Psalm 17:15 (NLT)

This morning as I read David’s lyric that he would “see [God] face to face” I was struck by the notion. In fact, what seems to be a simple thought seemed to be an audacious statement. In all my journeys through God’s Message, I’ve come to understand that seeing God “face to face” is a momentous deal. Few people in the recorded histories of God’s Message actually saw God face-to-face and those who did reacted to the experience – most commonly falling face down to the ground in awe and righteous fear. In fact, whether they knew it or not, their encounter with seeing God’s face was a life threatening experience from which they were graciously spared. God told Moses directly: “No one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

If you’re interested in a little extra-credit research, here is a short list of a few who saw God face-to-face and their experiences:

  • Abram (Genesis 17)
  • Jacob (Genesis 32)
  • Moses (Exodus 3)
  • Isaiah (Isaiah 6)
  • Peter, James & John (Luke 9:28ff)
  • Saul (Acts 9)

Today, I’m reminded that I serve Jesus who, God’s Message says, is the risen and glorified Creator of the universe. I trust His promise that I will someday see Him face-to-face and will dwell with Him in His glory. I’m equally reminded that my finite human mind cannot comprehend the enormity of it.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 17

Spa Treatment at Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort ...
Image by whl.travel via Flickr

His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Matthew 17:2 (MSG)

God’s glory is an inside out proposition. The change that God wants to make in us is not a cosmetic one. The beauty and light that God wants to emerge from us as a calling card of His grace begins as a change of heart and pours out as a change of countenance and a change of behavior.

Feeling ugly? There is only so much that make-up and new clothes can do – and it’s a temporary fix at best. Radiant beauty starts with God giving your heart and life a makeover. Gorgeousness eminates from a spiritual spa treatment of the soul.

In just over one week we will be celebrating Easter and Jesus’ resurrection. Many of us are, no doubt, contemplating Easter dresses, bonnets and looking good for Easter Sunday. Perhaps this year when I put on my “Sunday best” for Easter it should not be clothes I’m talking about, but the attitude of my heart, the purity of my thoughts, the love in my words and actions.

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