RCL A Last Epiphany
Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Saint Matthew 17:1-9

The word that comes to mind today quicker than any other word is theophany. A theophany, the dictionary tells us, is a manifestation to us human beings of God. A theophany is a manifestation of God to mere mortals. Each lesson today involves a theophany. And while I plan to focus on the Gospel, I want to point out that the first lesson concerns the manifestation of God to Moses on Mount Sinai when God delivered into Moses’ hands the stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. The Epistle looks back on the Transfiguration from the perspective of the disciples who were present for the Transfiguration and who later were witnesses of the Resurrection. The Resurrection was no cleverly devised myth, the Epistle claims, because Jesus Christ had earlier been declared God’s Son by God’s heavenly voice at the Transfiguration.

The Gospel is Jesus’ Transfiguration, the theophany of theophanies. Remember that a theophany is a manifestation to human beings of God. For a moment, a brief moment, the veil is drawn, pulled open, and Jesus’ divinity overshadows his humanity. Jesus’ face shone like the sun, his clothes became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah, both of whom had a direct experience of God in their mortal lives, appear and in front of the disciples directly experience Jesus the Son of God just as they had earlier experienced God the Father.

All of this bears down right to us as we plan to begin our Lenten journey on Wednesday. In the Collect today we ask God that we, seeing by faith the light of Jesus’ transfigured countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.[1]

Remember that it is Jesus’ divinity that shines past his humanity in the Transfiguration. We, you and I, made in the image of God, have only our humanity that can be changed into his likeness. The possibilities lying within our Lenten journeys and our lives are human possibilities. We should not expect our faces to shine with the divinity that Jesus shares with the Father and the Spirit. But our humanity can be brought into a closer likeness to Jesus. That would be a reasonable goal.

As we read through the Sermon on the Mount, I emphasized to you that Jesus’ teaching and expectations for us are humanly possible though difficult. The kingdom of God is where our human abilities are applied to do God’s will. That is our goal. We do not wisely attempt to take God’s place or to be what we are not.

Changed into his likeness from glory to glory may be a bit of a stretch for us human beings. But there is so much that we can do. We can be guided by Jesus to do what Jesus would do. And if we do that, the kingdom is nearer than it was before we knew God’s will. We can show the way to God’s kingdom, and there we can celebrate Jesus’ glorious resurrection that gives us hope that we are indeed marked as his own forever.

[1] The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, BCP, page 217.