Last Sunday after Epiphany (February 14, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ex. 34:29-35; Ps. 99; 2 Cor. 3:12-4:2; Lk. 9:28-36
We spent much of this week preparing reports on last year’s projects and making plans for the coming year. It is an exhausting process, but a helpful opportunity to assess what has gone well and what can be improved. Sometimes it feels like there is a great gulf between the reporting/paperwork needs of Western agencies and the more organic and spontaneous practices of Middle Eastern organizations.
On Thursday and Friday, we also hosted the Serving and Learning Together (SALT) volunteers who are spending a year in Jordan. Julie Lytle is a classroom assistant at the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid, which integrates blind, low-vision and sighted children in the same classroom. She is developing skills in using music therapy to work with children. Brent Stutzman teaches deaf and blind students at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. Julie and Brent are helping transform the worlds of students with seeing and hearing challenges.
In the region this week, Iran marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. President Ahmadinejad used to occasion to announce that Iran has enriched uranium to the 20 percent grade necessary for medical technology. He reiterated that Iran has no intention of building a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, Iraq marked the opening of the parliamentary election campaign. Elections are scheduled to take place in March. This could be a big step toward helping to build a positive future in Iraq.
Also this week, Israel began re-routing a portion of its separation wall near the West Bank village of Bilin, two and one half years after the Israeli High Court ordered it to do so. A small, but important change.
The Common Lectionary readings this week focus on transformation that happens when we are in God’s presence and reflect on God’s glory. All four readings mention Moses.
In the Old Testament reading, after speaking with God on Mt. Sinai, Moses’ face shines so brightly that the people are afraid to come near him. Moses places a veil over his face to keep the shine from fading away (Ex. 34:29-34).
The psalmist says that we should praise, extol and worship God who is holy (Ps. 99:1-5). Moses and his brother Aaron were among the priests who called on God’s name, and God answered them (Ps. 99:6).
In the Epistle reading, Paul says that, unlike Moses who placed a veil over his face to preserve the shine, that “with unveiled faces we see God’s glory and are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (II Cor. 3:18).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus and several of his disciples go up a mountain to pray (Lk. 9:28). There the appearance of Jesus’ face changes and Moses and Elijah appear. A voice from heaven declares: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”(v.35) The experience dramatically marks the transition from the age of the law and prophets to the age of grace and truth that are seamlessly melded together in the life and teachings of Jesus.
These stories of transformation offer hope as we live among situations that sometimes feel intractable. Indeed, Paul writes that because of God’s transforming mercy, “we do not lose heart” (II Cor. 4:1).
As we now prepare to enter the season of Lent, we pray that God’s transforming work will take root in new and deeper ways as we remain in God’s presence.