Law, Prophets, Jesus: Girardian Virtual Bible Study Preview

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday at 10:00 am CT, Adam and Lindsey host a live Girardian Virtual Bible Study following the Sunday lectionary on the Raven Foundation Facebook page. We invite our listeners to join the conversation with comments and questions. I take some notes to help me prepare… and share them with you to help you do the same! This is the Girardian Virtual Bible Study preview!

“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).

Oh Shiny Jesus, it’s the Transfiguration!

The readings for the last Sunday before Lent begins have to do with visions – with a vision and with the process of vision itself.

Eight days after Jesus comes down from the mountain to speak to the people, he takes his disciples – Peter, John, and James – back up the mountain to pray. There the disciples have a vision: Jesus’ clothing turns dazzling white. Beside him appear Moses and Elijah. Awestruck, Peter says, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter isn’t even aware he is speaking, so amazed is he. Then a cloud overshadows them all, a voice says, “Listen to him,” the cloud passes, and only Jesus left the last man standing.

What does this mean? Has Jesus overshadowed Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets?

Or has Jesus fulfilled them? Does the best of them shine within and through Jesus, while all else fades away?

Paul Nuechterlein quotes William Swartley in the Girardian Lectionary with the phrase “cross-fired,” refined through transformation.” Is that what happens when the law and the prophets are seen through the Christ-lens? Are the law and the prophets truly gone, or is the God who shone through them fully visible in the unclouded, shining Jesus?

At the next Girardian Virtual Bible Study, we will read (if we have time — or at least discuss) all 3 lectionary texts: Exodus 34: 29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2, and Luke 9:28-36 (and 37-43). Each of these passages is about changing our vision — fundamentally changing our sight and our understanding of the world.

There is so much to unpack. Themes of continuity with the old and transformation into the new.

Veils and clouds. Moses’s face shines with rays of glory from God, and he veils himself — to what? Protect the people? Protect himself? Is God’s glory dangerous? The disciples must pass through a cloud before they see Jesus standing alone. What confused ideas lurk in the fog that must dissipate before we see clearly?

Light that illuminates and light that blinds. They may be one and the same light — it’s our eyes that need adjustment and time.

Sacrifice and mercy. To build temples on mountaintops is to live under the shadow of sacrifice, and Jesus will have none of it.

Sickness and healing. A demon is cast out of a boy. What demons must be expelled from our own hearts and minds?

We will talk about anti-Semitism, ignorance, and arrogance. Our readings can easily be misinterpreted. We have to open ourselves to the Spirit transforming our old understandings, and recognize that same Spirit working throughout history and humanity.

From the structures of the old something new emerges, something that connects to what we knew before, and yet takes us completely by surprise.

What do we need to see in a whole new light? We ask this question as divisions tear apart people in churches, in nations, in the world. Bigotry and systemic oppression, schisms and wars — life circumscribed by sacrifice and rivalry. Confining the new wine of God’s message of life to the systems and structures of death has done tremendous harm. Opening ourselves to God’s grace and recognizing it all around us, in every person and every living thing, can heal and make us whole.

Can this passage light our way on our upcoming Lenten journey? Can we see by the light of the transfigured Jesus through the darkness of our own soul-searching and the depths of our violence to the dazzling radiance of the risen Christ?

Join us this Wednesday. Let us change our view — and our world — together.

Whether you’re a minister preparing your Sunday sermon or a lay person trying to better understand the Bible, whatever you believe, question, or doubt, we warmly invite you to participate with comments and questions as we seek to grow our virtual community. Your presence is more than an honor and a blessing – it’s a necessity! Since we are interdividual beings, growing in relationship with one-another, we need each other! Your participation is an integral part of the Girardian Virtual Bible Study!

Image: Screenshot from Vimeo: DisciplesNet Worship #235, “Counterpart Transfiguration” (Smith, 02.15.2015).

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