Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for February 23, 2020
Exod. 24:12–18 • Ps. 99 • 2 Peter 1:16–21 • Matt. 4:12–23
Closing today is the season after-Epiphany with its emphasis on Christ’s coming, bringing light to a dark world. This Wednesday a new cycle of seasons will begin observing the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Concentrating on the Transfiguration, today is a bright door between the two seasons. At the far end of the Lent-Easter season will stand another bright door, Ascension Day.
A 20th-century British composition, the collect for Last Epiphany conjoins the seasons of Epiphany and Lent by describing Christ’s Transfiguration as a preparation for his suffering to come in Lent and Passiontide.
Ancient numerology crops up Exodus and Matthew. Just as at the creation, so at Sinai, God’s work climaxes on the seventh day, when God seals the covenant with Moses; likewise, Jesus’ ministry in Galilee climaxes on the seventh day after Peter’s confession, when God speaks of Jesus in glory on a mountain. As Moses was forty days with God in the desert, Jesus was forty days with God in the desert; and so too Lent will last forty days.
Psalm 2 is about God’s “beloved Son,” the anointed one. A king of Judah must have been the newly-anointed one which the pre-exilic psalmist had in mind when some Gentile provinces must have been threatening revolt. With hyperbole, the new king is assured that God will subdue the rebels. Acts (once in a speech attributed to Peter & John) and Hebrews (twice) will lift v.7 out of its context and apply “Thou art my Son; this day ....” to Jesus.
Like many psalms, Psalm 99 regards Mt Zion as the height where God’s glory is now to be found. The One who spoke on Sinai to Moses (Moses called a priest) is the same One now worshiped by priests as Zion’s King. Clouds accompany God’s presence in all the scripture passages for today, passages also to be used on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6.
A book in the style of last testaments of religious leaders, 2 Peter refers to the Apostle Peter’s having personally witnessed Christ’s Transfiguration as evidence of his teaching’s authenticity, in contrast with the myths in fraudulent 2nd century gnostic writings. “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased,” repeats exactly Matthew’s wording of the divine voice’s message.
By presenting Jesus’ theophany in the company of the two greatest figures of the Old Testament, Matthew signals Jesus is the culmination of the Law (Moses) and of the prophets (Elijah). Like the voice from the cloud at Jesus’ baptism, today’s voice from the cloud identifies Jesus as God’s [true] Son.
—Rev. Stephen Weissmann | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
February 23, 2020 — Final Sunday after Epiphany