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Transfiguration Sunday 19th of February 2023

“Responses to change”

Transfiguration Sunday marks the end of Epiphany, a season during which we have been focusing on God’s revelation of His purpose and self to the world. We then move into the season of Lent where we deeply contemplate the journey of Jesus to the cross. We can be changed by our experiences at this time, just as Moses and Peter, John and James were, by their different encounters with God.

Exodus 24: 12-18

The whole of Exodus 24 describes an epiphany experienced by Moses and then shared with the Israelites. In the first part of this chapter (verses 1-11), Moses and other elders receive the words of the covenant from God on His holy mountain and the people promise to obey this. Moving on in verses, 12-18, Moses is once again called back up to the mountain to receive the stone tablets of the commandments. However, nothing happened quickly. There was almost a week of waiting before Moses could even approach God (verse 16), and then a  process of receiving the law that took 40 days and 40 nights (verse 18).

“Forty” of course has a particular significance as a number in the Bible, pointing to completeness and a decisive change from one stage of life to another. Remember also the people who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, the time it took for the first generation to succeed to the next (Numbers 14: 20-23).

What Moses experienced was a moment of awe and revelation, a kairos moment (Kairos is derived from an ancient Greek term translated as the “right time or opportune moment to do or say something). Moses spent time quietly in awe and, as Walter Brueggemann (a) writes, “ At the centre of the Sinai tradition is an act of contemplation, an awed, silent, respectful look at God.”

Matthew 17:1-9

Mirroring the reading from Exodus, today’s Gospel reading describes Jesus also going up a mountain to be transfigured by God in the presence of Peter, James and John. Jesus is joined by Moses and the prophet Elijah, symbolising the Law and the Prophets (verse 3). This is an occasion which celebrates the fulfilment of the law and the prophets in God’s Son, Jesus. A voice comes from heaven saying that this one-Jesus-is the Chosen One, God’s Son, to whom we must listen. Peter cannot remain still and silent as Moses did in God’s presence. He immediately wants to build three dwellings for the guests (verse 4). But he hears God’s voice and it is still a kairos moment for him, although one full of energy and action.

Both readings from Exodus and Matthew tell of a new vision of God, a new way of seeing and experiencing God. It’s new ground. It’s holy ground and it leaves people feeling different. Moses has spent a long time in awe, and is a changed man when he comes back down the mountain, while Peter is excited and desperately wants to hold on to the moment.

At this time before Lent, we should all pause and reflect how we might be changed by encounters with God in this Lent season. Maybe try different experiences and be surprised how you can be changed into the person you are called to be. It may be a contemplative process as experienced by Moses or a brilliant though briefer encounter as for Peter.


(a) Walter Brueggemann, “Exodus.” in The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 1:882

Posted on February 19th 2023

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