Saturday, January 30, 2016

We have an Awe-Full God!

The Lukan story of the Transfiguration, found in Luke 9:28-36, is a story which leads us into wonder.  We see a Christ who is far removed from us and our experiences. He stands in dazzling white garments with figures of the Old Testament, long dead.  He speaks of things that none, especially the disciples, can understand.  He is announced by a divine voice to be "My Son, the Chosen One."  There can be no doubt that this Jesus is Truly Other.

(The following questions attempt to unearth issues that Law/Gospel preachers are concerned with.  For a complete look at this form of preaching see my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted.)

1. How does the Word function in the text?  The writer, Luke, by his description of this scene, inspires fear and awe in us.  Jesus is being proclaimed as equal to Moses and Elijah, the figures of the Old Testament, long gone, yet revered.  He is the Chosen One, he is the one who will accomplish all things in Jerusalem (i.e. Death and Resurrection).  This Word to us functions as Law insofar as it reveals our smallness compared to Christ, but it is Gospel in that it presents Jesus as the One who will "accomplish" all things for our salvation.  A very interesting mix of functions, to say the least.

2.  How is the Word not functioning in the text?  The call to obedience, that word which instructs us how to live a life of faith is nearly absent.  The divine voice says, "Listen to him!"  This is certainly a call to obedience, yet it is up to us to figure out what this will mean for our lives, so it is nothing more than the general call to obey the Lord.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  Certainly we identify closely with the disciples who are completely baffled and terrified by the events of which they are a part. Peter speaks and shows his confusion.  We are these who are similarly baffled in the presence of the divine.

4.  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text?  Our identity in this text is our clue:  confused/enlightened, in the dark/understanding, full of fear/full of faith.

5.  Exegetical work:  It is often fruitful to look at the other synoptic versions of a story.  This text is  no exception.  Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this story in much the same fashion, yet  Luke includes a few additional details that are interesting.  Luke says that Jesus and the disciples ascend the mountain to pray, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah is in the context of Jesus' prayer.  What significance is there in this detail? I wonder.  Also Luke is the only one to give us details about the conversation between Jesus and the other two figures.  Luke says they speak of Jesus' "departure" and all he will "accomplish in Jerusalem."  Since this text comes directly on the heels of Luke's record of Jesus' first passion prediction, it seems that this serves to confirm that prediction.  Luke also tells us that the disciples are "heavy with sleep."  Is this an allusion to Gethsemane, where this will happen again?  Finally, Luke alone tells us that the disciples are "terrified" by the overshadowing of the cloud,and that the voice calls Jesus the Chosen.  It is clear that Luke's account gives us details that the other versions fail to include.  It behooves us to ask why.  There just may be a sermon somewhere in those very details.

6.  Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic:  Fred Craddock was always concerned that the preacher bring the experience of the text to the listener.  How are we going to bring the experience of awe and fear to our listeners?  How will we, the preacher, enter into this experience and find ourselves, also in the presence of the divine?  Good questions to ponder.

Blessings on your proclamation!

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