The Transfiguration and the Inauguration of the Eschatological Age


           


   This coming Sunday I am taking my sermon from the reading in 2 Peter 1:16-21. I don’t spend much time in 2 Peter, but it is a Transfiguration text, which offers me a different vantage point to engage the day beyond the reading from the Gospel. While 2 Peter lacks some of the details present in the Gospels (Moses and Elijah aren’t present, nor are James and John), but they aren’t necessarily relevant to the point the author is making. I follow the scholarly consensus that suggests that 2 Peter is late, which means Simon Peter wasn’t the author. Nevertheless, the letter offers a witness to one of the defining events in the story of Jesus.  

                I have tended to read the Transfiguration as a moment of divine self-disclosure, but Richard Baukham suggests that it is the point at which the eschatological age is set in motion. He suggests that the author “refers to the Transfiguration because he sees in it God’s appointment of Jesus as eschatological king and judge.” Later in his commentary on 2 Peter he writes:

Thus the author tells how, at the Transfiguration, Jesus received from God the Father a share in the divine majesty, because he was appointed to a divine task, and how the apostles saw him clothed in this visible glory in which he will be seen by all at the Parousia. They also heard, in a voice from heaven, the divine declaration that God’s Son had been selected by God to be his Messiah. The emphasis of the account is that God himself has elected Jesus to be his vicegerent, appointed him to the office and invested him with glory for the task. If the apostles’ witness to this is trustworthy, then their message about the Parousia is not a human invention, but is based on this divine action and declaration.  [Jude, 2 Peter: Word Biblical Commentary, pp. 205, 222].
I am sharing this word, in part to help myself work through the message of 2 Peter as I prepare the sermon. Baukham’s suggestion that the Transfiguration, and the author’s witness to it, has an eschatological dimension fits into my ongoing reflections on the topic in preparation for a major writing project.

                While many Christians, at least in Progressive circles, have chosen to avoid engaging in conversation about matters eschatological (and many of the responses to my earlier posts confirm my suspicions), I don’t think we can avoid it forever. Yes, we do have plenty on our plate right now, but the future beckons. We have major issues facing us that impact the future (consider climate change for one). Part of the problem is that we tend to equate eschatology, which includes matters of last things, including life after death, as escapist. Sometimes it is, but at the same time, it needn’t be. In fact, an eschatological vision can be a vision of hope.   

                I’ll end with this word from JΓΌrgen Moltmann:
Christianity is wholly and entirely confident hope, a stretching out to what is ahead, and a readiness for a fresh start. Future is not just something or other to do with Christianity. It is the essential element of the faith which is specifically Christian: the keynote of all its hymns, the dawn coloring of the new day in which everything is bathed. For faith is Christian faith when it is Easter faith. Faith means living in the presence of the risen Christ, and stretching out to the coming kingdom of God. It is in the creative expectation of Christ’s coming that our everyday experiences of life take place. We wait and hasten, we hope and endure, we pray and watch, we are both patient and curious. That makes the Christian life exciting and alive. The faith that “another world is possible” makes Christians enduringly capable of future. [Moltmann, In the End—The Beginning, pp. 87-88].
The reading from 2 Peter offers us this word concerning the prophetic word regarding the Parousia: “You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19). The day will dawn, and the meantime, may the lamp shine on our path forward so that we might experience the hope engendered by the one whose glory has been revealed by God.  


Image attribution: Jesus Mural of Faith, Hope, Love, and Peace, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56412 [retrieved February 18, 2020]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36847973@N00/3342340183.

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