Week of Proper 12: Wednesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above: Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (Circa 1665)

Image in the Public Domain

Transformed by God

JULY 28, 2021


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Exodus 34:29-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And it was when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’s hand when he was coming down from the mountain.  And Moses had not known that the skin of his face was transformed when He was speaking with him.  And Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses; and, here, the skin of his face was transformed, and they were afraid of going over to him.  And Moses called to them.  And Aaron and all the chiefs in the congregation came back to him, and he spoke to them.  And after that all the children of Israel went over.  And he commanded them everything that YHWH had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.  And Moses finished speaking with them, and he put a veil on his face.  And when Moses would come in front of YHWH to speak with Him, he would turn away the veil until he would go out; and he would go out and speak to the children of Israel what had been commanded.  And the children of Israel would see Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face was transformed, and Moses would put back the veil on his face until he would come to speak with Him.

Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

2 The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

5 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

7 He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

Matthew 13:44-46 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like some treasure which has been buried in a field.  A man finds it and buries it again, and goes off overjoyed to sell all his possessions to buy himself that field.

Or again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he has found a single pearl of great value, he goes and sells all his possessions and buys it.


The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I suspect that the imagery in Exodus is pure poetry.  Some Biblical events are like that–words are inadequate for literal descriptions, so we have prose poetry instead.  The Revised Common Lectionary pairs this reading from Exodus with an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus for Sunday purposes.  And I recognize the same pairing in the readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration.  There is another example of a prose-poetic description.

Whatever the details were, contact with God had altered Moses so much that he was obviously different than he was before recent events on the mountain.  And so, as Richard Elliott Friedman states, the veil over the leader’s face became an indication of YHWH’s proximity, much like the visible, physical shrine.  Something mysterious was occurring, and people recognized this fact immediately.  Those who saw it responded with awe and wonder.  God was truly in their midst.

When one discovers that one is in the presence of God, how should one act?  Two brief parables of Jesus  speak to that issue.  One man finds a great treasure when not seeking it.  But he knows what he has found, stores it safely in the earth temporarily, sells all he owns, and uses the proceeds to purchase the field where he found the treasure.  Likewise, a merchant seeking a pearl, a much-admired object of beauty, finds it, sells all his possessions, and uses the money to purchase it.  So, whether we seek the knowledge that we are in the presence of God, or whether we stumble upon this realization, we ought to treasure this above all else.  Single-minded devotion is the proper response.

We are, of course, always in the presence of God.  If we look closely enough, we will recognize God in the faces of those we like and/or love, as well as those with whom we disagree and/or dislike.  God is present directly, as well as in those we know and those with whom we are not acquainted.  So, when people look at our faces with spiritual perception, will they see God reflected back at them?  And do we seek the same in others?

I choose to avoid much negativity, much of which is present in abundance on AM talk radio and in comments sections on many websites.  There one can find a plethora of vitriolic comments, many of which reflect more rage than anything else.  These are zones for people oblivious to objective reality.  So I will not find God there.  No, I prefer uplifting content, whether secular or overtly religious.  Consider the public domain image at the top of this post, for example.  It is an example of great art, but not of a religious nature.  Yet Vermeer paintings feed my soul, and in them I find the beauty which comes from God.

God is present in many places; may we find as many as possible.  Then may God transform us.



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