I am preaching at a local church this morning on the Transfiguration. I liked how the sermon turned out, so I thought I would share in hopes it would bless you.
When I looked over the Scripture choices from the lectionary for this week, I accidentally picked the ones for yesterday, which was the Feast of the Transfiguration. Even after I realized my mistake, I pressed on with the transfiguration scriptures, one because I like the transfiguration story and two because I LOVE this passage from Exodus.
I don’t know if you know the history of this Scripture or not, but today’s Exodus passage is actually the reason why Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses and certain paintings from that same era depict Moses as having horns growing out of his head.
Moses, with pointy horns on top! Now most people attribute this to what they call a mistranslation by St Jermone when he was converting the ancient Hebrew into Latin, back when people read the Bible in Latin. It turns out the words for “horn” and “gleaming or shining” are quite similar, with only a vowel or so difference. This week I found out there is a whole controversy on the internet on whether this was a mistranslation or not. Some people say the horns are actually horns of light and some refer to a “horn of truth” that was a thing back in Ancient times.
Personally, I think these people on the internet have too much time on their hands. But I love the horn controversy for two reasons. One, it shows us words matter. And two, I love the point of both of these translations.
Moses was changed by his time with God up on Mount Sinai. He came so close to the Almighty in this time, that either he shone with the very glory of God or he grew some sort of horn. (I gotta admit, I fall in the shining with light camp on this one, let’s just go with that!). This light filled transformation of Moses was so startling that it scared the Israelites. Moses took to wearing a cloth over his face so that they people wouldn’t be so spooked out by his God induced gleam.
Man I love this. Gleaming with God. Getting so close to the Holy One that some of the God light just rubs right off on you. Since I geeked out on the Hebrew words this week, I’ll tell you the Hebrew word for this God light is Shekinah. That just sounds right doesn’t it? Shekinah. It just sounds like sparks of divine light flying off God and lodging themselves into our souls.
Have you ever met someone who glowed with this Shekinah, this God light? Maybe not so much so that you were scared of them, but enough that you noticed something was different? I think this is what we talk about when we say a woman simply glowed on her wedding day or that we knew someone was pregnant because they were glowing. Now men can glow too. When they hold their child for the first time or when they are in love. When we are in the midst of a truly holy moment, it makes sense that God’s light would shine extra bright in us.
But have you ever met someone who seemed to gleam with God’s light all the time? Someone who spent so much time with God on such a regular basis they were radiant?
Well, we know there was one person on earth who was like this. Jesus. When Jesus takes Peter, James and John, men who were described as weighed down with sleep up on another mountain, he reveals his true self to them. I am thinking the guys were glad they made themselves stay awake once they got to the top of the mountain to see what came next, because what came next was that Jesus takes off the veil he had been wearing so to say and shows them his true essence in all its awe and wonder. The Greek words that describe Jesus’s clothes as dazzling white in our translation can also be translated as “flinging glitter.” I kind of like that better. Jesus was so radiant with God’s glory that is was if he was flinging glitter from himself. The thing about glitter is that it sticks to everything. I can do a glitter craft project with the kids and three days later still find glitter stuck on my skin. I wonder how long James, John, and Peter had some of that glory glitter on them. Surely being in this holy moment wore off on them, transformed them to a degree too.
Do you think that can still happen with us? That if we show up and spend time communing with God on a regular basis that some of the glitter will rub off on us? That we can shine and gleam with God light too?
This question reminds me of an old story. A disciple once asked a teacher how we can know God. The teacher responds, there is nothing we can do to know God. It would be like us trying to make the sun rise. The disciple gets upset and asks “Why have I been spending so much time in prayer and study of Scripture? Is it all for nothing?” Then the teachers answers, no my student, we do these things so that we may be awake when the sun rises.
I encourage you today to stay awake. To seek God so fiercely that you will be there when the God’s glory is revealed to you. And then you too will be transformed into a version of yourself that is a little more like Christ, a little more full of his light and covered with the glitter of heaven. So that we may shimmer and shine for others, leading them step by step closer to the source of all light and love.