The first reading is about the initial call of Abraham; it is used by the editors of the Book of Genesis as the launch of an extended saga of Abraham and his offspring. He is a semi-nomad who moves around with his large extended family from place to place; in this short account of his vocation, he is summoned by God to leave the past – his ancestors – behind and set off to a place that God will point out to him and will make his own. Responding to this, Abraham will not only be blest himself but will be a source of blessing to those who come across him – indeed to all people. But God is not understood quite the way we might envisage Him today, for he tells Abraham that He will curse those who curse him.
The letters to Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles because they take the form of guidance written by Paul to these Church leaders about how to conduct themselves and how to lead the Christian communities under their care. Just as Paul suffered in his vocation of preaching and making converts, so these ‘overseers’ of Christian communities will have difficulties to face up to – that is the pattern of life for those who try to fulfil the tasks God has for them. The developed state of the organisation of the church depicted in places in these letters is one of the reasons that many think that they come from a time after Paul though perhaps using some of his material extant at that time. They are still part of the Bible and as such express something of the Word of God to us. In our short extract from the second letter to Timothy it reminds the church leader that he is not called because of his worthiness but in order to let the strength of God work through him for the fulfilment of God’s overall plan.
In Matthew’s gospel the Transfiguration comes after Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?” In his account it seems that it is beginning to dawn on some of the disciples, that, despite the popular expectation of a Messiah as a political liberator, Jesus the confident but kindly person is the one sent from God as the Messiah. Matthew follows this event with Jesus’ first announcement of his forthcoming arrest, trial and death, followed by resurrection. That last phrase might seem difficult for the disciples, yet there were beliefs that Moses never quite died and that Elijah would return to earth again, before the Messiah comes. It is after these events in Matthew’s story of Jesus, that the inner three disciples are taken onto a mountain (in the bible a place of revelations) and there they had a vision (as Matthew calls it) of the glory of Jesus, in conversation with Moses and Elijah, and then comes a cloud of God’s presence, and they hear God’s voice (which often refers to thunder during a storm). An announcement comes, as made at Jesus’ baptism, proclaiming: “my beloved son” but adding “listen to him!” Hear what he has said, namely, that opposition, suffering and death will come and then new life. Matthew’s good news for you and me might be that life will not be easy all the time, but for those who can see it the deeper reality is there, and there will certainly come death, but just as surely, life after death, when we have fulfilled out vocation.
See Jeffs Jottings – Pass it on!