Did you discover the harmony of the three voices in last week’s readings? The theme this week is covenant, but especially explained in the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The Second Sunday of Lent is always dedicated to this story.
Before we look at this week’s readings we need to understand the meaning of covenant. A covenant is similar to a contract but has an additional clause. In a contract, two people (companies, groups, etc.) agree to exchange something to each party’s benefit. It might be goods for money, trading goods equally or some similar arrangement. A covenant does both of those things but the extra clause is the inclusion of a blessing. Let’s see how a covenant enters into our readings.
The First Reading from Genesis is the story of Abram’s call to follow God to a new land. Abram lived in Ur in Chaldea, or Iraq today. God chose Abram and his clan to be the origins of the chosen people who would descend from them. Abram was a wealthy man who owned large flocks of sheep and had an extended family to supervise. These are the people who accompanied Abram and Sarai on the journey. God called Abram to, ”Go forth to a land that I will show you.” God promised Abram that a great nation would come from him and his name would be great among them. Abram would be so revered that merely mentioning his name would be a blessing. So the deal was Abram would go to a new land, God would guide and protect them, and all who descended from them would be blessed by God if they were faithful. That is a covenant. It is the first covenant promise between God and the Jews who came centuries later.
The Second Reading is from Second Timothy. The man for whom the letter is named travelled and worked with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. Paul did not write it to Timothy but it is meant to sound as though he did. Paul is trying to encourage Timothy to bear the hardships of ministry because God will give him strength to do what he must. God saved both of them and called them to a holy life because it was God’s design that they do so. The grace of God is evidenced in Christ Jesus, the savior of all people. Christ destroyed death through his resurrection and gave us eternal life. This is the second covenant. It is between Jesus Christ, who is God, and all those who follow his gospel. So the second covenant promise is our faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus as Christians. The blessing is the gift of eternal life.
Now we get to the story of the Transfiguration in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus wanted to go away to pray and he took his three best friends with him. As they prayed they saw a change come over Jesus. His face began to glow like the sun and his clothes were dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared on each side of him. Their presence indicated an announcement that Jesus was the Messiah promised to the Jews by God. The person who is the Messiah is the fulfillment of the covenant promise. Just to make sure they got the message, God announced that Jesus was his beloved Son and they should listen to him. The three disciples were scared to death at this experience. Jesus told them to be calm and not to tell anyone what they saw and heard. Why was it a secret? Jesus knew few people would believe this vision because his ministry was still in its early stages. We can believe in the vision.
First, we had the covenant between God and Abram. Then Second Timothy explained the second covenant founded on faith in Jesus Christ. Then the gospel seals the deal by explaining Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, is the fulfillment of both covenants. Jews and Christians equally share in this covenant relationship with God that started with Abram all those centuries ago.