Bible Study: Last Sunday After the Epiphany (C)

February 10, 2013

Caleb Tabor, Virginia Theological Seminary

“And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.” (Luke 9:29-30)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

Exodus 34: 29-35

This may seem to be an odd bit of scripture. It is not very often that a person’s face actually glows before us. Still, the importance here is that Moses’ closeness with God changed him. Before this moment, the Book of Exodus tells us of Moses’ whole life and how an encounter with God in an unexpected place changed him, and later the Israelites, whom Moses led out of Egypt. Here, we see Moses’ closeness with God literally shining out from his face as he goes to tell the people what he heard. A prophet is someone who listens for God and then tells others what he hears. In this instance, Moses was a prophet, when he came to speak to the people. Further, his glowing face was an outward and visible sign of his change as he encountered the Divine. It scared people somewhat, so Moses placed a veil over his face. This helped the Israelites listen for God as well without being distracted by Moses. Still, today, sometimes people are uncomfortable with us when our lives reflect our encounters with God. It is important to be understanding, as Moses was when he placed the veil over his face, as well as true to who we are, which Moses did by still speaking to the Israelites about God.

How has an encounter with God changed your life? Did people notice?

Have you ever been made uncomfortable by someone speaking of their experience with the Divine? Why? Is that discomfort warranted?

Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation were the first to come to Moses after he called to them, the rest followed. How are you helping lead people to understand how God is working in the world?

Psalm 99

Psalms are poems or songs. Like most poems and songs, the Psalms like to use metaphorical imagery to communicate a point which might be otherwise difficult to say. Here, we find that the major points of Psalm 99 are God’s power and majesty. There is something about God which is great and powerful beyond any human ability. In the days when this might have been written, images like a king, of people trembling before a throne, and so on communicate just this. God is a majesty and power to be stood in awe of. Still, the Psalm assures us that God does not misuse divine power. Rather, God is justice and mercy at the same time, in their most perfect sense. For that, we ought to be glad and proclaim the greatness of our God, who is the perfection of power rightly used.

How do you see justice in relation to God?

What does God’s perfect justice mean for situations of injustice in the world?

How is justice work a part of participating in not only the justice but the power and majesty of God? Are we, when we are working for justice, showing the beauty of God to a world which is hurting?

Moses, Aaron, and Samuel are examples of people who had a relationship with God. What is your relationship with the Divine? What does it mean for you to “call upon the LORD”?

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

During St. Paul’s time there was a great amount of tension between Christian and Jewish communities. Neither was particularly generous or kind to the other. This tension is reflected in St. Paul’s writing here when he speaks of the Jewish community of his day. Still, that tension aside, there is something very important and beautiful to be gleaned from this passage of Scripture. Paul wants us to understand our vision of Jesus Christ as an image of God without a veil. The love, redemption, forgiveness, and oneness with God we find in Jesus are God unfiltered, unfettered, unhidden. As such, our lives ought to reflect this beautiful Light as we go into the world. Part of doing that is being aware that others understand Christ by how we represent ourselves. It is important for us to consider the negative aspects of who we are and try to understand how that might be veiling the Light of Christ within us. Then, it would be appropriate to work on improving those aspects of ourselves, knowing that we can do so because of the Spirit present with and within us.

How do you feel you are exemplifying Christian values in your life?

What are things on which you need to do a little more work?

Are you generally conscious that others may be judging the Christian faith and even Christ himself by the actions you take when going about your daily living?

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

There are two things going on in this reading from Luke. The first is an encounter with holy people. This incident where Jesus appears with Elijah and Moses is known in the Church as the Transfiguration. Here, we see that Jesus is being elevated to the status of the greats in Jewish history. Peter immediately wants to make little houses for them to live in. It is important to understand that it was commonplace at the time to construct shrines for deities so that they would live there and you could visit them whenever you wanted. While Peter’s intentions were noble, it is clear the Christ will not be put in a box. The second thing going on here is a healing. While they may seem unrelated, we must consider that if the first segment here is about not putting God in a box, the second shows why we mustn’t. Jesus, because of the free-flowing power of God, heals a child and saves a family from their torment. He also shows the world the greatness and compassion of God. Jesus is frustrated with the disciples as they ought to have been able to heal the boy themselves, had they been faithful enough to the free-flowing power of God. Still, Jesus uses this moment for teaching and healing and showing the world Divine Compassion.

How do you try to put God in a box?

How does your life reflect Divine Compassion as seen in the healing of the troubled child?

Do you ever let doubt hold you back from bold action that might help others and yourself? Why? What does this passage have to say about taking a bold step of faith in an uncertain world?

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