3 March 2019
Last Sunday after Epiphany
Last Epiphany C (RCL)
2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2
The passage we read from 2 Corinthians has unfortunately often been used as a proof-text for supersessionism – that Christianity has superseded Judaism. Of course, Paul was a Jew, and was critiquing his own religion, so I suggest that we should use this passage as a critique of Christianity. How often do we read our scriptures with a veil over our eyes? Paul’s great criticism was that we had used the law to draw distinction, rather than to create a righteous community. It seems like we do that with our Christian texts as well. Whom can we exclude is often the question we ask.
Paul would instead have us turn toward the Lord as a conversion experience, and then the veil comes off our faces. The echoes with the Moses tradition helps connect the 2 Corinthians passage to Jesus’ transfiguration. When the disciples wake themselves up, or are awoken, they see Jesus shining in glory. Clearly, they do not understand what they are seeing, since they want to make booths and stay there on the mountain top. They mistake this event for the Feast of Booths, or the entry into the promised land. Instead, the cloud settles on Jesus as it does on the tabernacle when the people stop on the Exodus. This is Moses receiving the law, and from the mountain, the people are to begin their journey of forty years.
When Jesus comes down from the mountain, he is encountered by a father who asks him to heal is “only-begotten” (monogenes) son, a title usually reserved for Jesus. The disciples are unable to heal him because they fail to see the glory in the father’s son. They must come down from the mountain top in order to see the glory of Jesus’ humanity in every human being. That is Paul’s critique of the Corinthians. The passage we read echoes of 1 Corinthians 13, where we see riddles in a mirror, but will see face to face, and know just as completely as we are known. We will be changed into Christ’s likeness from glory to glory, and see that glory in ourselves and in others.