On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Monday, February 5, 2018

What do you see?

But hereafter, when we are incorruptible and immortal and attain the blessed lot of being like unto Christ, then (as the Scripture saith), we shall be for ever with the Lord, fulfilled with His visible Theophany in holy contemplations, the which shall shine about us with radiant beams of glory (even as once of old it shone around the Disciples at the Divine Transfiguration); and so shall we, with our mind made passionless and spiritual, participate in a spiritual illumination from Him, and in an union transcending our mental faculties, and there, amidst the blinding blissful impulsions of His dazzling rays, we shall, in a diviner manner than at present, be like unto the heavenly Intelligences. — Dionysius the Areopagite
Transfiguration according to Mark. A time out of time in the story that Mark spins. It is often supposed that the Evangelists moved a post resurrection story into the sequential narrative. One may wonder if this is a western and modern way of thinking. In many parts of the world, when a child comes to breakfast and says something like: “I saw grandmother last night . .” the parents answer is: “Really? What did she say? Tell us. It might be important. “ In the West it is merely dismissed as a dream or the parents will contemplate taking junior to a shrink. So perhaps, as the early Christian document The Sayings of the Fathers would speculate, perhaps the problem of the lack of theophanies is our problem, not God’s and not Mark’s.
Yes, it is a theophany. All the traditional parts are there: Mountains, clouds, bright lights, the voice from heaven: the works. The season of Epiphany ends in a theophany and at the heart of that theophany is Jesus Christ, the Son, as proclaimed by the voice from heaven. That voice proclaims
Jesus’ identity and admonishes all who would be there to be attentive to him, the Son.
And who is in attendance and why is this important? There are two audiences in the Gospel itself: Moses and Elijah and the three disciples. I would guess there is a third, but perhaps that audience: us, the readers, are included in one of the first two.
The first audience: Moses and Elijah is the less obvious one but is there really any reason to believe that they are not addressed by the voice? Moses is the representative of the Law, Elijah is representing the Prophets. Law and prophet must listen to Jesus. Whether they knew that or not, it is being proclaimed by heaven that day: You are subservient to this one, you must now attend to him, and by him you are now interpreted. Moses and Elijah have a second function here. Chrysostom points out that both came out of the fires of trial. Both lived under oppression, Moses under pharaoh and Elijah under Ahab. They were men of spiritual battle. That is to say their victories were won by God directly but they had to have the faith to remain calm while it happened and not interfere. Yes, both men had failures in that but in the main part of their battle, they remained prophets and not warriors.
The second audience is Peter, James, and John, the inner circle of the inner circle, and future leaders of the movement today known as the church. While we have no indication from Mark what Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about, we have a snippet of the reaction from the disciples. They are
terrified, but they grasp that something Holy and significant is going on. When such things happen, monuments are built. Ebenezer (1 Sam 7) is one such monument, somewhere there is a place by the Jabbok river (Gen 32:30), and somewhere there is a pile of rocks by the Jordan river as well.(Jos 4:23) Think of it what you will, plenty of times the places where God was somehow manifest are commemorated, so Peter is not totally out of his mind. He is also not rebuked. The voice from Heaven Comes in a cloud and merely says to everyone there: “This is my son the beloved. Listen to him.” Jesus then tell them on the way down to keep the matter to themselves, so nothing is built or commemorated.
Peter’s suggestion also has a strange flair to it. He would built tabernacles for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Is that appropriate? If Jesus is the Christ is he really merely on par with the other two? Peter has already been corrected for his insolence when he attempted to tell Jesus how to do the Messiah job. (Mk 8:32) There he was put in his place, maybe restored to his place, forcefully, as one who follows and strives to acquire the mind of the Christ he is following. The argument: “Who is the Christ and who is Jesus,” is not over by the time they climb the mountain.
If law and Prophet have to listen and answer to Jesus then so does Peter, and if Jesus is the Son then Law and Prophet will certainly bow to him and like John the Baptist proclaim that they are not worthy to shine his shoes.

As they come down the mountain, they are told not to speak of the incident until the resurrection. They ask Jesus why Elijah had to come first. Jesus tells them that Elijah has already come and gone. A reference to John the Baptist? Perhaps. Both Elijah and John challenge an oppressive king. In both cases a jealous and powerful wife is in play. Elijah escapes the fate that John does not. Maybe Elijah is a standing for all the prophets. They have come but their voices have been silenced by the wicked and unbelieving generations to whom they were send including the disciples’ generation which killed John. (Mk 9:19)
For us, maybe that is good introduction to Lent: You have seen him be manifest among you. But that is not what is remarkable about him. He is powerful to be sure. He is the Son of God and you might even have had celestial visions of him. But as important as those might be, they are all of lesser importance than his cross, which he foretells thrice, and resurrection.

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