By Daniel Malakowsky
One of the least developed elements of early Christian thought was the role and work of the Spirit. A read through the early creeds of the first centuries reveals a significant emphasis on the kerygma (preaching of Christ). Subsequently the triune God and how one could be both God and man consumed the thought life of the church, only to be followed by debates on the sacramental nature of worship and weather images (icons) were to be a part of it.
Soon after the church splintered over centuries, initially in the east and west, but then further in the west via the Reformation. One of the most profoundly impactful thinkers of this era was the Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. Known for his robust debates with Martin Luther, especially on whether the presence of God was to be found in the eucharist, his de-emphasis on the mystical nature of worship influenced western worldview and how God was to be known. This loss of a sacramental worldview played a part in the continued minimization of the role of the Spirit.
In recent times a renewed interest in the Spirit has shaped the life of the church. Much of this is due to the fact that the Spirit has been moving in profound ways through spiritual awakenings, as in the 18th and 19th centuries, and through the charismatic and Pentecostal movements. This has given rise once more to not only an interest in and pursuit of the supernatural, but tangible experiences of how the Spirit is at work in the world and in worship.
Moving Beyond Spontaneity
One of the key understandings of this has been derived from Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus in which the Spirit is described in an analogy as being unharnessed and spontaneous, just as the wind is. While not necessarily emphasized in doctrinal statements, it is popular in practice to equate the Spirit with a sense of spontaneity and power. The search then becomes one of equivalence whereby order, liturgy, and history become obstacles to knowing God, rather than means by which he can also be known. A 'spirit filled' service or experience is one that is unplanned, unstructured, and unprompted. While there is a gift in this to the body of Christ in reminding us that God is actively at work in this world and can be known in power and intimacy, it also leaves one wondering, perhaps even longing, for the Spirit outside of the moments of unexpected arousal and encounter.
The Spirit is shown throughout scripture to be active beyond these moments of mysticism though. It is the Spirit who baptizes us into the body of Christ, renewing us from within, giving gifts so that the church may be built up and edified by one another. This same Spirit is also the one who takes our unutterable groans from the depths of our being, and brings them before the Father, indwelling us and forming the life and mind of Christ in us through righteousness and peace. It is the Spirit, too, who was hovering over the waters as God brought into existence that which was not.
What this means is that all of life is supernatural, not just the spontaneous moment in which we become physically present to the reality of the world beyond what our eyes can see. That we exist is a testament to this power. Taking the dust of the ground, God breathed his likeness and image into the hearts of men and formed life.
By the power of his word and Spirit, God brought forth creation out of nothing, meaning even the rising and the setting of the sun, the seasons that greet us in fidelity and consistency each and every year, also testify to the nature of the Spirit. It is not just the spontaneous, but the ordinary moments that meet us in the power of the Spirit.
A Holy Ordinary
So we see at times the Spirit at work in marvelous ways, but also in the routine and the normal, bringing a sanctity to all of life and existence. We are reminded that there is no ordinary in life, only supernatural, and while periodically that supernatural moves in such a way as to remind us that the created realm lies in submission to its king, it also speaks to the fidelity of God in the consistency and faithfulness of its order.
The sun does not spontaneously decide not to rise, nor do the stars decide one night not to shine. The winter, spring, summer and fall greet us each year, reminding us that the Spirit who created them is also faithful and true.
In this Jesus also revealed the Spirit in terms of what could only be described as an alongside one, a partner in our redemption who reveals himself in humble submission. The Spirit who fixes galaxies in their place and sets their course, is also one who does nothing to exalt himself, but in obedience only that which exalts the Father.
The power and spontaneity of the Spirit are not then against order or the ordinary, but more often than not are to be found in it. The unharnessed wind is most frequently felt in the simple acts of service, love, and faithfulness in the cycles and seasons of life.
This quiet working reveals that the fruits of the Spirit's activities are the inward transformations of the heart. In the encounters with those who injure us, tearing at the fabric of who we are, the Spirit is working to grow us in love, cultivating a genuine desire for goodness to those we might ordinarily despise. In the interruptions and unexpected delays the Spirit is working to fashion patient hearts, hearts that are filled with the peace of God's shalom, so that joy may not just be a momentary experience, but an inner disposition.
A.W. Tozer called this sanctifying the ordinary. If we are honest though there is no ordinary. Life is supernatural and sacred, creation and existence a miracle, and every sunrise and sunset invites us to rediscover the Spirit in the ordinary. This means our morning commutes, our interactions with family, colleagues, and neighbors, our coming and going, eating and sleeping, resting and reading, whatever activity we find ourselves engaged in is no ordinary moment.
As the Spirit has been deeply at work in the past centuries to remind us that there is a God who cares, who left us with something better than the incarnate Christ, and who is engaging those who know and are known by him, may he also remind us that he has been at work through the hum drum of history. Perhaps it is time once more to rediscover the Spirit of the ordinary. The wind is set in the order of its boundaries and does not leave earth to find its way into the cosmos. In the same way the Spirit has been at work revealing the faithfulness and consistency of God in the ordinary moments of life.
6 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Day 7 - Now is the Time
Despite what many think about grace, the unmerited favor of God's goodness and love, it is possible to make vanity out of it. This is to diminish God's work in such a way that it becomes lifeless and without result in the lives that it is to be at work among. For Paul this vanity of grace came in the unwillingness to embrace God's work in and through him and his team. The appeal to receive them was due to the fact that they themselves were working with Christ and to receive them was to receive God's grace at work in them.
Paul proceeds to remind the church in Corinth that the Lord is one who hears prayers and not one who abandons them in their time of need. His desire for them is to know his love in its fullness, which is why they must also receive the ways in which he as work in the world to express that love. The day of God's deliverance is not some distant reality and Paul emphasizes the favor in which they now stand in light of the resurrection.
The church in its 2000 year history has done much to make vain the grace of God within it by its splintered fellowship and the discord found between those who confess the reconciling truth of the Gospel in Christ. It has forgotten that its working together is a working with the one who expresses his love in service, humility and sacrifice. This appeal to remember God's favor and working is now an appeal through the Spirit to us, reminding us that God is once more a deliverer and is capable of bringing his saving power to our disunity and divisions.
Much time is spent speculating on the circumstantial will of God and how we are to use our time. We can become mired in our inability to know how and in what way the Lord is leading us. In situations like this though the will of God is clear. Now is the time of God's favor, the time of healing and reconciliation, where once more his grace finds its fullness in us, those who are working together with him in his salvation.
Thank you for journeying with us during this 108th annual week of Prayer for Christian unity. We hope that God spoke to your hearts throughout this week and pray that you continue to have the grace and courage to move closer to the heart of Jesus, who still prays that we would be one in him.
O generous and loving God, we praise and thank you for your gifts.
We acknowledge our failure to heal the divisions
that exist among the followers of your Son, Jesus Christ.
We pray for your help and guidance to overcome
the barriers that continue to separate Christians.
We ask that the power of your Holy Spirit be fully alive within us;
and for Your love to give us the strength
to mend the hurts that separate the followers of Jesus.
Help us build bridges of love and understanding with all humanity.
May the love and forgiveness of Jesus guide us each day
as we journey with our sisters and brothers in Christ's name.
We pray for the day when it will truly be said
of all who follow your Son, Jesus Christ:
"They love one another as Jesus loves."
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
Day 6 - The Inverted Justice of Love
The foundation of the Christian life is a sacred exchange. The prophet Isaiah spoke of it in that the wounds of another would be the healing of many and that by chastisement there would be peace. The chosen one who was despised and rejected, would himself become the sin offering through the altar of his life and death. In this, Christ, in his righteousness, bore the Father's wrath by taking upon himself and becoming our sin, exchanging his glory so that men and women may walk in union with him.
For centuries the anticipation of this exchange played out in the sin offering prescribed to Israel in Leviticus. The unblemished lamb who was without spot was now revealed in the sinless life of Christ, only now the atonement would bring more than just peace with God, it would bring union with his very essence. His righteousness became ours as our sin became his.
Moving against our natural inclinations to what is just and fair, the call to be ambassadors and representatives of the one sending us is to walk also in his nature. That God is just is true, but in Christ that justice was inverted to reveal the depths of his love and redemption. The one who was worthy gave himself for the unworthy that they themselves may be worthy as well. This inverted exchange, which is our foundation in the Christian life, is also the foundation of reconciliation.
Just as Christ gave himself as sin so that we may become the righteousness of God, we also must lay our lives on the altar of God's love so that our enmity and strife with one another may become peace and fellowship. The sacred exchange invites us to lay down our sense of what is just and right, and in turn to move in the initiating love of God. That we now belong to the righteousness of God means that not only are we capable of living it out, but that in Christ it belongs to our nature as well.
I will never forget a meeting I was part of in a small German city in 2003. A group of Christians from different traditions and countries had come together to pray for God’s blessing on this particular city, suffering under the weight of un-forgiveness and division. During the meeting a young Lutheran pastor said some hurtful things about the Catholic church, rooted in his own painful experiences. The tension in the room was palpable as we waited to see what would happen next. An older Catholic woman walked towards this young pastor and knelt down before him and asked for forgiveness for the specific ways he had been hurt by some in the Catholic Church. He extended his hand to her and helped her up, then they embraced and wept. Forgiveness and healing in Christ, won the day
Have you ever considered asking someone for forgiveness for sin that was done against them by someone that you represent. In Daniel 9:16, Daniel confesses to God not only his own sins but the sins of his father and of his people.
Triune God, following the example of Jesus, make us witnesses to your love. Grant us to become instruments of justice, peace and solidarity. May your Spirit move us towards concrete actions that lead to unity. May walls be transformed into bridges. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20
Day 5 - Be Reconciled
Central to the Gospel is the redeeming work of Christ in the cross. This work that began in Christ, the reconciling love of God towards those who had so grievously rebelled against him, would find its continuation in the tangible and visible community of the redeemed. In Christ, God became a man and united heaven and earth in order that those who walk on earth may be able to continue the ministry of heaven.
What Christ left the apostles was his true presence. This presence, now entrusted to the church, would be the chosen vehicle and method of the continuation of this ministry. That God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself would now be seen in the fact that God was now in the church reconciling humanity through Christ's presence in it. It is imperative that this reconciling work not be detached from its corporeal expression in the church.
Paul here was writing to those who had already put their faith in Christ, yet were now estranged from him and his companions who were carrying the message of the Gospel. This fragmented relationship gave way to a disconnect from God's purposes towards them. To be estranged from God's ambassadors and community was to be estranged from God himself. Alternatively, to be reconciled to them was to be reconciled in Christ to God.
There is an urgency in Paul which invites his pleading with this fragmented community. Reconciliation and unity are not subsidiary realities to the Gospel, but at the core of salvation and what it means to be the church. If God was in Christ to reconcile the world to himself, and he is now in the church, then he must be at work within the church to reconcile men one to another.
God continues to work to reconcile the community of the redeemed and the church is still his chosen method in revealing himself. The message of salvation is incapable of being disconnected from its incarnation in the community of Christ. As Christ works through to us to plead to the world, he is also at work among us in a similar way with the plea, 'be reconciled to God,' and with it, 'be reconciled with each other.’
Ours is an age hungry for the healing of broken relationships. The church is tasked with the job of taking up the deepest conflicts of the world into itself and to confront both sides there with the forgiving, transforming power which breaks and remakes them into a new community, with a new hope and a new calling.
What are the deep and overwhelming conflicts and broken areas in our communities that cannot be solved without the church in our city working together? The refugee crisis, foster care, education, the homeless. Find out where collaboration is already happening in your city and find ways to support it. If this is not happening then what is your part?
Lord, hear the prayers of your people and bring the hearts of believers together. Give us the strength to unite together in common mission, serving the most broken and vulnerable in our communities. Amen
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Day 4 - A Ministry of Reconciliation
Within the realm of Greco-Roman society the idea of reconciliation was found to be the work of the one who caused offense. If one was offended then it became the responsibility of the person who caused the breach in relationship to work towards its restoration. This notion of reconciliation was entirely inverted in the cross as the one who was offended, God, took the first and culminating step towards repairing the present disconnect between himself and humanity.
Whenever Paul spoke of reconciliation he did so recognizing that God was always its active agent and man the recipient of this loving action. Still, in the goodness and grace of God's mercy, he entrusted the ministry and message of reconciliation to those whom he had already restored to himself. The recipients of God's love thus become his instruments of goodness to humanity.
The transgressions and missteps of fallen men and women are no longer held in the heart of God to be counted against them. In Christ, God initiated and expressed his love and his desire to share once more the unobstructed union of knowing him and being known by him. In this way friendship with God was being restored and the proclamation of that truth has been gifted to those who now enjoy it.
This fullness of this restoration is found in the trusting commitment of its proclamation to the world through the church. The nature of this reconciliation is not solely in the private realm of the heart, but belongs as well to the public square. In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus this message was first proclaimed and manifest to the world. Now it cries out from the hearts of those who once more belong to God in Christ.
This section hits home hard for me. I find it easy to close my heart off to those who have hurt me and even more difficult to face the reality that I have hurt others and that my attitudes and actions have directly and indirectly led to division and disunity. There are conflicts in my past where I have hidden behind the letter of the law, and fallen short of the spirit of law that calls me to follow Jesus to the cross. Jesus is teaching and helping me to keep my heart open and pursue those who have brought me deep pain and to never lose hope that God can heal and restore in even the most hopeless situation.
Ask God to show you a broken relationship in your life that He desires to bring healing and restoration to. Begin to pray about this asking God to show you what to do. Trust that He will speak to you and then obey what He asks you to do. Consider inviting others to pray with you. Never underestimate the rippling effects of healing and peace that can come from a restored relationship.
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see and confess our sin and being forgiven and restored prepare us to be bearers of reconciliation wherever you place us. Amen.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Day 3 - New Creation
Many missed seeing and understanding Jesus in his day as the Christ because they were not looking at the right things or in the right way. Seeing him in his weakness and humanity, they missed the glory of God that was present among them. This failure to see Jesus for who he was and is, was not simply a mistake for those who walked with him, but is the mistake of all who have at one time or another forsaken God's mercies and graces towards them.
The failure to see Jesus in the fullness of who he is, also reveals our tendency to view one another in the same way. We look to one another's frailties, mistakes, failures and limitations and make judgments that lead to separation, division, and condemnation. The failure of this limited perception is that in it we miss the nature of God's work in redemption to make all things new.
This new work of God is to bring life to that which was dead and to bring union once more between God and man. The old had gone, meaning the ways in which we related to God and one another, and a new thing had come that continues to unfold itself in the working out in the redemption of the Gospel. No longer are we to view one another in our discord, disunity and hostility, but in our union and belonging to Christ as he makes all who are in him new.
Just as we are to look and see God at work in Christ, we are to look to one another and see God at work in the lives of those who are in Christ. The eyes of new creation our now ours and invite us to look beyond our superficialities and see the hand of God.
The old way of seeing causes us to be deeply insecure and views others, even our Christian brothers and sisters as competitors. Often threatened by the success and wellbeing of others we feel the need to try to prove that our tradition or church as right and theirs wrong. But if we look through the eyes of new creation we become secure in who we are and our unique place in God’s purposes and no longer as competitors with other Christians. We are now free to redirect our energies from defending our own position to now affirming, supporting, and blessing others.
Ask God to lead you to a Christian brother or sister not part of your church tradition and find a way to bless them. It could be as simple as taking the time to listen to their faith story or ask them what they appreciate about their tradition. Consider attending a worship service or other special event with them, or sharing a meal together.
Father we ask that you would help us to become instruments of healing and reconciliation full of compassion, and comfort, never distant, never on the defensive, freed of all harshness, a clear reflection of the Risen Christ. Amen
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Day 2 - The Love of God
While most of the focus in 2 Corinthians 5 turns towards the verses that follow this passage, the fact is that those verses begin with several "therefore's" that point back to what Paul states in these verses above. Before one can begin with new creation and the ministry of reconciliation, they have to begin with the fact that Jesus came, died, and was resurrected unto eternal life for the forgiveness of sins. For Paul this had two significant implications.
First, in the death of Jesus all of humanity was crucified. This does not mean that all are granted eternal life, but in his death Jesus died for all. Secondly, the death of Jesus was not simply to bring death to humanity, but to bring life through living for the one who was raised on our behalf. Now that this has been made known in Christ and is recognized, the love of Christ is to reign in the hearts of men.
It is this love manifest in Christ that controls the aim and intent of Paul's existence. Literally this is the binding element that holds together Paul's life and causes him to act as he does, in total pursuit of the Gospel and the impartation of the life and promises within it.
The death of Jesus holds within it the invitation to live. The life that it cultivates and calls forth is not the life of self-seeking consumption and personal gratification. It is the life of living for the sake of another, specifically the one that Paul now recognizes that life in, the one who died for all, Jesus the Christ. This is to be the binding element that holds together and controls us as well.
Jesus came to bring life that is deeply satisfying, full of purpose and born out of the love of God. I often experience doubts in my ability to love God and to love others but am encouraged to know that God delights even in the smallest desire to love others that flickers in our hearts. If we seek God with all our hearts and abide in Him he will turn this flicker into a blazing fire of love that can transform our families, communities, and cities.
Spend some time reflecting on those God has placed in your life that desperately need the love of God. Ask God to show you how you can ‘grab hold of their hand’ and lead them to God’s loving embrace.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen
-The Book of Common Prayer, 101
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:11-13
Day 1 - The Apostle's Heart
The apostle Paul knew firsthand the pain and brokenness of a divided church. In his first letter to the believers in Corinth he dealt with the arrogant factions that threatened to destroy the body of Christ and the Gospel message from the inside out. Now in his second letter, after having his commissioning as an apostolic messenger of Christ challenged by those who wished to oppose him, he is having to validate his role as a bearer of the message of reconciliation that is the Gospel. At stake was not his reputation, but the tangible union of fellowship within this church and subsequently the fullness of their union with God.
For the first half of this letter Paul's focus is his defense of himself as an ambassador of Jesus and how intricately woven into the nature of the Gospel it is to be found. Paul knew that in not receiving him, the church would not be receiving the one by whom he was sent, namely the one Paul had given his life and ministry to, Jesus, the resurrected hope of the world. The grace of God was not some abstract ideal, but was found in the historic act of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. The on-going working out of the promises of God in Christ would be equally concrete, fleshed out in the work of his commissioned representatives and in the church.
The division and discord that came through the false apostles who challenged Paul and his character, also challenged the heart and nature of the Gospel. If God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, then he was also reconciling those who would be found in him to one another. A church that could not receive the one Jesus sent was a church that was also making vain the grace of God in not receiving his message of reconciliation.
So Paul attempted to persuade the church of Corinth to receive him and the message of unity that resided so deeply within his heart. His words continue to persuade today as the body of Christ has an entrenched history of rejecting and not receiving one another.
When I was in college I had several confusing and painful experiences with Christians from a particular tradition that caused me to be judgmental and closed off to this tradition. It took some time but God has redeemed these painful experiences and I now have wonderful friends who are part of this tradition and have received the gifts and strengths of this tradition I once rejected
Think of an experience in your life when you had an encounter with a brother or sister from another Christian tradition that you dismissed in your heart because they were ‘different’. Ask God for forgiveness for any critical and competitive attitudes towards other Christian traditions and other brothers and sisters. Ask God whom He might want you to receive that until now you have kept at a distance.
O God the Father of all, you ask every one of us to spread love and reconciliation where people are divided You open this way for us, so that the wounded body of Jesus Christ, your church, may be leaven of communion for the poor of the earth and in the whole human family. Amen
-Brother Roger (founder of Taize)
By Daniel Malakowsky
With the onset of a new year there will be plenty of people looking to make plans, goals, and resolutions to focus and give direction to their lives (even joining the fad of non-resolutions). This desire and the aims of most of these plans tend to be God honoring and are generally a desire either for a better version of ourselves or the situation and circumstances we find ourselves living in. One of the most significant faults though in most of these plans and goals is that they tend to be rather superficial and temporal in their nature and orientation. This does not mean that they are bad or to be avoided, only that they in and of themselves are not enough.
As Christ came to reconcile fallen men to himself and to one another, he also gave way to what life was to be within what he called the kingdom of God, where God and his purposes reign supreme. The difficulty comes in the fact that we live in this unique place in-between the resurrection and Christ's triumphal return, a place torn between that in Christ God is making all things new and yet these things have not been fully revealed. A place between our brokenness and our healing, our death and life, where we have the fullness of God, but not its consummation.
Jesus and the Exodus
One of the most powerful passages of scripture is the story of Jesus' transfiguration. While it liturgically is reflected upon and preached at the onset of Lent in the church calendar, it is a narrative that speaks to this season in the New Year. The reason for this is that it ties together the past while calling forth and anticipating the future. It sums up all of God's work in anticipation of Christ, but also gives interpretation to the work that God is doing in and through Christ. Ultimately it roots the future in the anchors of God's established works, while simultaneously bringing those anchors into the future of God's redemptive purposes.
While this story of the transfiguration is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36), it is specifically Luke's Gospel that I want to highlight. Before I do though, there are some key elements within this text that are worth highlighting.
Metamorphosis - While the word for transfiguration is translated appropriately as such, focusing on the visible transformation of Jesus before the disciples, it also the same word used in Romans 12:2 to describe the inner transformation we are to experience in Christ. The glory revealed in Christ is the same glory and power at work in us to form us in his likeness.
Moses and Elijah - These two central figures in the Old Testament (Tanakh) symbolize its summation. John Crysostom (c. 349-407AD), church father and bishop of Constantinople, saw in these two men the representation of the Law and the Prophets, God speaking to men in revelation, and the symbol of the living and the dead, as Moses had a natural death and Elijah was caught up to heaven.
Overshadowing - Luke uses the same word here as he does when Mary is overshadowed by the Spirit and the immaculate conception occurs. It invokes the Spirit's presence in this moment and the power of God's miraculous work in revealing Christ. The same one revealed in the overshadowing power of the cloud is also the one works as the Paraclete (one alongside) in the church.
The Voice from Heaven - Each of the three Gospels in which this story is recorded, have slightly different emphasis as to what the Father speaks over the Son in this moment. These unique emphasis give us insight to the fact that the Father sees in Christ his good pleasure and messianic role as the chosen one, doing such as the Son of God. While these things were spoken over Jesus in his baptism, another explicitly Trinitarian moment, the voice now speaks these things not for Jesus, but for those in his company, giving them the direct command to listen to him.
The Transformation - When Moses came down the mountain his face was filled with God's glory, but it was a glory that faded as it belonged to another. In Christ the transfiguration would reveal a different glory. Christ's appearance changed, transforming his face and clothing, but did so not from the glory of another, but from a glory that radiated within him. Where Moses veiled this glory until it faded, in Christ this glory which had been previously veiled, was now being revealed.
While these things frame what is happening in this passage, there is one element within Luke's version that is worth noting. In each of the recollections of the transfiguration it reveals that Jesus and the figures of Moses and Elijah are speaking. While this shows that Moses and Elijah are in a way transferring and giving the baton to Christ in being the ultimate interpreter of scripture, it is only in Luke's Gospel that we discover what they are actually discussing.
In this discussion we find that they are speaking of Jesus' departure that he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem. This speaks to the death of Christ, but it is important to note that the word for departure in the Greek is actually the word exodus. The death of Christ and subsequent resurrection are thus the fulfillment of the exodus called forth by God through Moses, and Jesus the culminating deliverer of not just Israel, but the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
With Christ a new exodus has dawned. Where Moses delivered from the chains of Egypt and led Israel on dry ground , Christ delivers from death to life, becoming himself the bridge between. This new exodus is one that stands not just between Egypt and Canaan, but between heaven and earth, between the temporal and eternal, between the Garden and the glorious triumph in the heavens.
Goals for the New Year
This New Exodus requires new eyes that are ultimately shaped by our understanding of how God was at work in Christ to cultivate this transformation from death to life. Where the first exodus delivered Israel from the chains of Egypt, the exodus of Christ would deliver men from death to life, once more reconciling them to the divine presence and will of the God who would now make himself known as Father. Ultimately this would be an exodus of becoming, where the life in Christ would manifest in our metamorphing and transfiguring into the image of Christ.
The story continues in our lives and gives form to the goals of becoming that should not just shape us in this new year, but in our journey into the life and heart of God in Christ, a journey that shows that while we walk in the deserts of this life, we already belong to the promised land of knowing and belonging to eternity. As we walk into a new season and contemplate our own histories and future, the framework of the New Exodus calls us to form goals that go beyond the temporal ones that dominate our own floundering attempts at transformation.
1. Seeing - The Eyes of Eternity
The glimpse the inner three were given was into who Christ really was. Just prior to the story of the transfiguration we find Peter confessing Jesus as the Messiah. This was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven. In Christ and the radiating glory of his transfiguration, he shines the light of eternity on the temporal world and circumstances giving ultimate meaning to them.
Paul in Ephesians 1:18 tells us that God is at work to enlighten the eyes of our hearts. This has two specific manifestations that are to transform our way of life in this world. First, this enlightening allows us to see things as they really are in Christ. To, as Paul states once more in 2 Corinthians, no longer view things according to the flesh, but in terms of Christ's work in new creation. Second, we are enlightened to see not just the unseen world of the Triune God revealed in Christ, we are also to see with the eyes of Christ.
Where most of our resolutions are commitments of the will, this ultimately is one of surrender. It is God who is the one actively revealing and opening our eyes. Our role is to yield and to receive that active love at work within and among us to see who we are, those we belong to, our families, friends, neighbors, and the work, circumstances, and seasons of our life in light of the work of Christ in the cross, but also the promise of his return.
Significant within this story of the transfiguration is the voice of the Father. Again, in this narrative, the voice is speaking not for the benefit of the Son, but the for edification of those present with him. In this new year there will be many voices that speak into us to define us and shape our own understanding of ourselves. Most of these voices are negative, whether it be the voices of those around us, in the media and culture that we can't escape, or the the one's that come from the prison of our own minds and how we see ourselves, shaped by our experiences of pain, brokenness, and rejection.
Resounding throughout eternity though is the voice of the Father over the Son. A voice which calls him his beloved child and speaks the pleasures of his heart over him. It is a voice that gives him a name and purpose, Chosen One, the only begotten of God. This voice of the Father is the voice that speaks over us who are in Christ and now belong to that love, identity and purpose that is revealed in its proclamation. We are no longer slaves and servants in the house of God, but those who belong as children.
Ultimately this is a goal of believing and belonging. It is believing in the voice of the Father that speaks over and into us, and giving ourselves to our belonging in Christ. The presence of Elijah reminds us in this story that the voice of the Father also comes through his silent whispers, and invites us into the stillness of his love that we too might be able to hear it over the thundering onslaught of all that attempts to speak into us. This then is a goal of identity and that requires we take the time and actions necessary to sit with the One who defines us. Only in his love can we rest secure in times of trouble and discouragement, and the New Exodus of Christ invites us walk out of our own Egypts in this new year, and into the promises of God's love for us in Christ.
Central to this story is the metamorphosis of Christ before his disciples. This outward transformation revealed the inner realities of who he was. As we stand in Christ through our faith in him, we too are being inwardly transformed as he conforms us to the fullness of his image. The radiant power and glory of God that the disciples could only describe as a light so pure that it appeared as the sun with the majesty of bursts of lightning, and so undefiled that even the purest bleaches couldn't approach the hallowed manifestation of Christ's holiness, is now at work in us.
As Christ gives us eyes to see and a new identity in him, he is also shaping us and forming us to walk in the fullness of life. The New Exodus then is a journey of becoming, where those who were once dead in their transgressions walk in light of the fact that they have been made alive together with Jesus. This frames the new year in that we are to make goals of becoming and inward growth. This then is a commitment of the will to cultivate the practices of becoming, the tangible acts of following Christ that form us to his ways and life.
This means that our goals are to be framed by who we are. On our list of what we want to accomplish should be the fruit of the spirit, where those hidden parts of who we are that reveal themselves in our relationships are maturing into the fullness and abundance of life found in Christ. We lay aside our pursuit for temporal riches to pursue a wealth of soul that no thief can ever take away.
Obedience is an act of love because it is a surrendering of the will in trust to another. The Father commands obedience as it is in obedience that our life in Christ will be found. In him and him alone are the words of life. His command is to surrender our darkness and death and walk in the light and life of the resurrection. It is an obedience that shakes off the isolated existence of our arrogance that leaves us disconnected from our Father in heaven and hiding behind our self-made fig leaves, and into the light of our belonging to light of Christ, where the nakedness of our souls can be exposed once more without shame.
The Father commanded obedience to his Chosen One, because in him was also his chosen way. Through the suffering obedience of the Christ would men be atoned for, and with the simple command of 'follow me' would the path to life be found. The obedience of Israel led them out of their bondage and into the freedom God desired for them and allowed them to know the fullness of his love towards them. In the same way our obedience to the words and commands of Jesus lead us into the tangible love of God towards us.
The New Exodus that manifest in Christ shows us that God is still at work in this new year. In it we find another opportunity to conform ourselves to the ways of life in Christ. That way of conformity is one of trust and love, of life and abundance, one that calls us to look beyond the temporal trials of this world and into the eternal treasure of now belonging to God in Christ.