Transfiguration Sunday (February 19, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ps. 50:1-6; II Kings 2:1-12; II Cor. 4:3-6; Mk. 9:2-9
This week Cindy started a four-week course on teaching English as a foreign language. The requirements are rigorous, but she is enjoying the interaction with classmates. After the course, she plans to teach part-time with one of MCC’s Jordan partners.
The MCC-supported Iraqi delegation wrapped up its week-long visit to Washington, D.C., where the group met with U.S. policymakers to talk about the important role that civil society organizations will play in Iraq’s future.
On Friday, we experienced generous Jordanian hospitality, sharing a delightful meal at the farm of Dr. Kamal Abu Jaber, director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies. Middle Eastern meals are a mixture of great food and conversation, with stories that go back centuries or even millennia in this history-rich region.
It is a time of turmoil and turbulence in the region, with internal and external relationships and systems coming under great stress.
The U.N. General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution calling on Syria to cease from attacking Syrian protesters who are calling for President Assad to step down. The Syrian government maintains that it is defending its people against armed opposition groups and outside terrorists. Meanwhile, Syrian refugees are fleeing to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
Iran announced advances in its nuclear program, adding thousands of more efficient centrifuges that will be used to enrich uranium. In response to new international sanctions levied against Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s Oil Ministry has threatened to cut off oil supplies to six European countries – ahead of the July 1 date that the European Union had decided to voluntarily stop importing Iranian crude oil. In a more hopeful step, Iran proposed new talks with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Meanwhile, the United States has threatened to cut off aid to Egypt if Egypt continues its investigation of civil society groups, including 19 Americans who have been banned from leaving the country. Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid ever since signing an historic peace agreement with Israel in 1979. The Muslim Brotherhood, who recently won the largest block of seats in parliamentary elections, has threatened to review its peace agreement with Israel if the U.S. cuts aid to Egypt.
The Common Lectionary readings for this Transfiguration Sunday challenge us to reflect on what we see.
In the Gospel reading Jesus takes three of his disciples to a high mountain, where he is transfigured before them and his clothes become a dazzling white (Mk. 9:2-3). Moses and Elijah – representing the law and the prophets — appear as well (v.4) A voice from a cloud speaks, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (v.7) Suddenly, Moses and Elijah are gone. When the disciples look around, they see no one with them any more, but “only Jesus.”(v.8) Jesus brings a new way that is superior to the old.
In the Epistle reading Paul writes that the god of this world has blinded unbelievers, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (II Cor. 4:4). On the other hand, those with faith see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (v.6)
The Old Testament reading describes the transition from Elijah’s leadership to Elisha’s. As they cross the Jordan River, Elijah inquires whether Elisha has any last requests. “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit,” Elisha pleads (II Kings 2:9). Elijah responds, “If you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” (v.10) Indeed, Elisha sees Elijah as he is taken by a chariot and horses of fire into heaven. His wish is granted and he begins his prophetic ministry (vv. 11-12).
In this region, as in other parts of the world, political leaders posture, threaten and use force as ways of seeking to order life and maintain control. In the midst of this turmoil and turbulence, it takes eyes of faith to see God at work and to remember that God is still firmly in control of ultimate outcomes.
What do we see as we look at the troubles around us? With Elisha, we pray for a double share of God’s prophetic spirit. With the early disciples, we pray that – amidst the distractions and all that vies for our attention – we will see only Jesus.