The Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Thoeni
Mar. 3, 2019
Years ago a woman told me of a Sunday School discussion she had with a group of grade school children. She was using a curriculum that employed Montessori ideas. It was more important for the teacher to ask questions and to lead the children to wonder and ponder rather than provide them with answers.
The woman told me of leading a discussion about the Transfiguration, the event described in our Gospel today. She recapped the story of Jesus on the mountain, being transfigured in glory and speaking with Moses and Elijah. She asked the group, “How do you suppose they knew it was Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus?”
After a moment of silence one of the children spoke up and said, “Um, they were wearing their name tags?”
Well, that may have been true. Luke doesn’t tell us how the disciples knew it was Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus. But Luke apparently was privy to a piece of information that the other Gospel writers weren’t.
The events of the Transfiguration are told in Matthew, Mark and Luke. John also, some would say, refers to it in his opening chapter. But only Luke tells us what the trio discussed. Only Luke gives us this detail: they were speaking of his departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
This is a rather astounding piece of information. Especially when we dig a bit deeper and ponder a bit more.
New Testament Greek has several words that can be translated as depart or departure. But the Greek word translated in this passage as departure is a word that is chock full of meaning. It is a word that, I suspect, all of us would recognize. The Greek word translated as departure here is exodon. Exodus.
Jesus was not just merely taking exit or going on a simple sojourn. Instead he was enacting a new exodus. I am certain Luke chose this word very, very carefully. It is the only time it is used in any of the Gospels. Given that and given the events Luke describe this morning Luke clearly chose this word to make the distinct point that Jesus was about to embark on a significant enterprise.
The Transfiguration is a pivotal moment in Luke, as it is in Matthew and Mark as well. It is the moment when the story of Jesus starts to turn from simply a ministry of teaching and healing to the monumental and stunning mission of redemption.
That is why Luke uses the word exodus. Here, on the cusp of Lent, we do well to take that word to heart, to pray and consider that as we walk through the next six weeks we will be walking through the story of our Lord’s exodus, our Lord’s journey through the grave and gate of death, and into new and eternal life.
But we would also do well to consider this: with every departure, even with every exodus, there is an arrival.
So I offer you this question this week: As we depart this season after the Epiphany, as we walk through Lent, as we embrace the glory of Easter morning, where, or how, or in what spiritual condition do we want to arrive?
Lent is a season of penance and preparation. The Church, in her wisdom, always calls us to prepare to celebrate the mysteries of our faith. Christmas is preceded by the season of Advent. Easter is preceded by the season of Lent.
The Church calls us to fast before we feast. This is to sharpen our focus and to bring our bodies, minds and spirits to more fully experience and glory in the grace and love our Lord has for us. Lent is a season many people dread. It is seen by many as a time of drudgery and sacrifice.
It is also a time that many people choose to give up chocolate or start a swear jar, maybe cut back on their internet consumption or perhaps their alcohol intake. All of these are noble disciplines.
But I suggest that this year you consider a different approach to Lent. Instead of focussing on sacrifice, consider Lent as a time of fostering growth. Consider a discipline or practice that you can nurture for the next six weeks; a practice that will deepen your faith, compassion and spirituality. Who knows, you may even find that the practice is so rich that you will gladly embrace it long past the morning of Easter.
In your bulletin this week there is a list I put together called Forty Ways to Keep a Holy Lent. Peruse the list and pick one or two. Or maybe the list will inspire a new idea. Choose wisely. Chose a discipline that will bring life and joy so that, in the exodus of Lent, you will arrive at Easter filled with grace and wonder.
As a part of Lent we will hear these words in our Eucharistic Prayers weekly, “You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fulness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you.”
Take the time between now and Ash Wednesday and consider what type of departure you would like to make so that your arrival on Easter will be one of blessing.