Transfiguration Sunday (March 6, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ex. 24:12-18; Ps. 99; II Pet. 1:16-21; Matt. 17:1-9
We traveled to northern Jordan this week to visit MCC workers. Trisha Fallon is a teacher assistant at the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid, where blind, low-vision and sighted children are integrated in the same classroom. Brent Stutzman is a volunteer at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt. He works in the school’s deaf-blind unit.
We also traveled to Iraq visit with MCC colleagues and partners. It was a quick but rewarding trip. It felt great to be out of the office after an intense period of writing reports.
It is a beautiful time of year here. The winter rains have ended and – for a few short weeks before the punishing dry and hot weather of summer – the ground is covered with green grass and colorful flowers, while white and pink blossoms adorn almond and fruit trees.
Demonstrations continue across the region this week.
Egypt’s prime minister resigned and was replaced by Essam Sharaf, a participant in the early demonstrations. While Sharaf addressed cheering crowds in Cairo, protesters clashed with security police in Alexandria.
In Jordan, the demands of the protesters are growing clearer and stronger. While avoiding direct criticism of the king, demonstrators are calling for sweeping political reforms that give the people more say in the selection of political leaders.
More than 1,000 persons have been killed in Libya, where Col. Gaddafi continues to clash with anti-government crowds. Some protesters are calling for the international community to create a “no fly zone” in the Libyan skies so that Gaddafi cannot fire use aircraft to fire on crowds.
There were also protests this week in Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Oman and Yemen.
The Common Lectionary readings are about mountain top encounters with God, which transform and give new direction to our lives.
In the Old Testament reading, God invites Moses to come up on the Mount Sinai, where the glory of the Lord appears like a devouring fire and God gives the law and commandments to guide the people. (Ex. 24:12-18).
The psalmist writes that, when Moses and other leaders cried out to the Lord, God answered them and spoke through a pillar of cloud (Ps. 99:7). The people are urged to respond by extolling the God and worshiping at God’s holy mountain (v.9).
The Gospel reading Jesus leads three of his disciples – Peter, James and John – up a high mountain where he is transfigured before them, and his face shines like the sun (Matt. 17:2). Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and a bright cloud overshadows the group. God speaks from the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (v.5)
In the Epistle reading, Peter recounts being an eyewitness to Jesus’ transfiguration. “We ourselves heard this voice from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.” (II Pet. 1:18)
We spend most of our lives in the “plains and valleys.” Occasionally, God offers humans a mountain top experience that expands our horizons and fills us with new hope about what is possible. It feels like such a time in the Middle East.