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The Transfiguration of Our Lord A, February 19, 2023

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord A, February 19, 2023

On this day when we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord, we should take note of “the cloud” that figures so prominently in our texts for the day. In both the Exodus reading and in the reading from Matthew, the cloud is an essential feature. You may recall how the Lord in his glory led the Israelites in their desert wanderings. His presence went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21). The pillar of cloud also descended upon the Tent of Meeting whenever Moses went in to speak with the Lord (Ex22:9). On the Mount of Transfiguration, a bright cloud overshadowed the transfigured Jesus and the voice of God spoke from it (Mt. 17:5).  In Jesus’ story there is yet one more cloud of importance—that is, the cloud of ascension. On the fortieth day of Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry, he and his disciples were gathered. Jesus was teaching them about the kingdom and of receiving the Holy Spirit. As he was teaching, “…he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9).

Also of significance is the timing of the cloud’s presence: it covered the mountain six days but on the seventh day, the Lord spoke to Moses out of the cloud. The timing calls to mind the six days of creation and the seventh as the Lord’s day of rest. It also calls to mind the seven-day week when Christians worship in honor of Jesus’ resurrection and then busy themselves with their work in creation the other six days. The circumstances reinforce the scriptural understanding of a God who hides and a God who reveals himself. God hides himself in creation. His presence there is ambiguous. You are always uncertain as to whether God is in creation for you or against you. But on that seventh day, the first day of the week, celebrated in remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection, on that day, God calls to you just as he did Moses. On that day, our Lord reveals his glory to you, the glory as of an only Son (Jn. 1:14; Eph 1:6). Our Lord reveals himself unambiguously as “for you” in the preaching of Jesus Christ, him crucified, and him alone handed over to be the life of dead sinners.

Table Talk: Discuss the cloud imagery and its importance scripturally.
Pray: Heavenly Father, roll back the clouds that hide your presence from me and reveal yourself through your one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Exodus 24:8-18 English Standard Version

8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.

9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

12 The Lord said to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction. 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.

15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 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. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.