The readings let us travel back thousands of years,

Sunday, 2/21/16

A great thing about today’s readings is the way they have our imagination travelling back to life as it was more than two and three thousand years ago.

In the first reading, God made himself known to a sheep herder named Abram. God said that they should bind themselves together in a covenant. 

Now, neither Abram, nor anyone he knew, could read or write to draw up a covenant. However, Abram  had taken part in covenant ceremonies between rival clans who were disputing over rights to  grasslands and wates. So, in obedience to God’s demand for a covenant, Abram set up for the ceremony the way clan chiefs did.

Each chief would have his clan camp in the woods at one side of an open field. He would then have his men dig a four-foot-deep trench across the opening to where it would connect with a similar  trench coming from the other side. 

Then, he had his men would cut in half a heifer, a goat and a ram, placing the halves opposite each other on the ground on the sides of  the trench. Then, each clan chief would jump into the trench from his side, and he would walk towards the other, saying, “If my clan is untrue to our pact, let me be cut in two as these beasts are.”

Abram, having placed the animal halves on opposite sides of the ditch, waited, and waited. Then, after dark, the Lord’s torch came at him through the ditch, touching the animal haves.

Next, we turn to the Gospel story of the Transfiguration. It came just a week after Jesus had sorrowfully announced he was on his way to Jerusalem to suffer greatly and to be crucified. Needing comfort, Jesus climbed to a mountaintop where he could be alone with his Father. Peter, John, and James, having climbed up there with Jesus, fell into a deep sleep.

The three awoke to a vision that was tailored by their understanding of heavenly things. They seemed to see the floor of heaven stretch down. It was like the rubberized canvas of a trampoline, and it scooped Jesus up into that lowered reach of heaven, and it suffused Jesus with heavenly glory. 

Moses and Elijah came to converse with Jesus. (That was in accord with the Jewish tradition that saw the only two mortals already in heaven to be  Moses and Ezekiel.) Luke tells us that they conversed   about his coming to the end of his Exodus in Jerusalem.

While the Transfiguration was preparing Jesus for the trials to come, this story with its promise of heaven is meant to strengthen us for what is to come. 

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