Reading Backward

Monday, August 6, 2012 — Week of Proper 13, Year Two

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER the readings for Monday of Proper 13, p. 979

Psalms 80 (morning) 77, [79] (evening)

Judges 6:25-40

Acts 2:37-47

John 1:1-18

OR the readings for The Transfiguration, p. 998

Morning Prayer: Psalms 2, 24; Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Evening Prayer: Psalm 72; Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; John 12:27-36a

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

I chose the readings for Transfiguration

It might be helpful to read this morning’s second lesson for the Transfiguration — 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 — backwards.

Start with the image of the “face of Jesus Christ.” Jesus’ face is the face of profound love, the image of God. Jesus looks and brings understanding, forgiveness, healing, and hope. He looks upon the tax collector and sees a friend; he looks upon the emotionally ill demoniac and bring coherence; he looks upon the fishermen and gives vocation; he looks upon the one caught in adultery and brings acceptance; he looks upon the leper and bring cleansing; he looks upon the deaf gives hearing; he looks upon the mute and creates vision; he looks upon the enemy and turns the other cheek; he looks upon the hungry and gives food; he looks upon the proud and exposes them; he looks upon Peter’s denial and accepts the deadly consequences; he rises from death to look again upon Peter and commission him.

We look upon “the face of Jesus” and we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” We see and understand how God is gloriously manifest in this loving, forgiving, healing, suffering, rising life. This is the light that shines out of the darkness. This is the light that shines in our hearts.

Our hearts bear the light of Christ. His face turns toward us, gazing upon us with his profound countenance of love, and our hearts are kindled with light. We know ourselves to be loved, and our hearts are warmed. His light becomes our light, the light at the center of our being. From that stillpoint, we are whole, we are empowered, we are loved.

And so we are given the strength and identity to follow the way that he has led, the way of humble, hopeful service. Our identity shifts from defensive self-centeredness to willing openness. It is no longer about us, for we rest in the loving gaze of Jesus. We are empowered to become “slaves for Jesus’ sake.”

It is a counter-cultural calling in a competitive and proud world. We all grow up blinded by the cultural conditioning of fear and selfishness. We can understand that others won’t readily accept this alternative lifestyle. The values of the Beatitudes are a very different set of values from what most people inherit.

But we don’t lose heart. We can simply be — open, honest, hopeful. We know that all that matters has been given to us as a gift from God. There is nothing we need to do except to accept our acceptance and live by the light of that love.

So we read St. Paul’s words again in their original order:

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

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