Quinquagesima / The Sunday Next Before Lent

Psalms/ Canticles: Psalm 99
OT Reading: Exodus 34:29-end
Gospel: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
NT Reading: Luke 9 28:36 (27-43a)

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests… they called on the LORD and he answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud… Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.” – Psalm 99

Summary and Notes

This is the last Sunday before Lent, which means this week will  see the traditions of Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) or Fat Tuesday, when all the rich food ingredients are used up, and Ash Wednesday following, which signals the beginning of the Lenten period.

The portion in Exodus is right after the incident of Aaron’s golden calf where Moses, appalled, had smashed the Tablets of Stone and so had had to go up the mountain again to receive new Tablets. In this section, when Moses returns from the mountain, his face is radiant from being in the presence of God, and when he realises this, he covers his face with a veil – not because he doesn’t want the people to see the radiance, but because he knows that it will fade.

The passage in 2 Corinthians refers directly to the portion in Exodus (which will come up in a couple of Parsha’s time, incidentally) Only in Christ, Paul says, is the veil taken away and we as believers are to reflect God’s glory “being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory…”

The Gospel portion is the Transfiguration, where God’s glory in Christ is revealed to Peter, James and John.  Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, and a voice in the cloud, reminiscent both of the Dove at Jesus’ baptism and of the cloud which led the Israelites in the desert, tells them “This is my Son, whom I have chosen: listen to him.”


What does it mean to reflect God’s glory? In what way are we being transformed into his likeness with every increasing glory? I think it wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest that not a few Christians lack any obvious degree of Christlikeness. I don’t see a lot of it about, and let’s be brutally honest – I don’t see much of it in me. So how are we to reflect God’s glory? Well firstly and most obvious, we can’t do it unless we spend time in his presence – in prayer and contemplation of His Word. We can’t be like Him if we don’t know Him. In Romans 12:2 we are told “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How can we renew our minds? again, only by spending time with God in His Word, getting to know His heart and His concerns. Secondly and perhaps most painfully, we must be prepared to allow Him to change us, to try us in the Refiner’s fire that we come out as gold.

And as an aside, it is interesting (as a Messianic especially) to contemplate God’s admonition to us to listen to Jesus. Far too often as Christians we take all our doctrine and theology from Paul, whom Peter tells us, in 2 Peter 3:16,  is hard to understand and easily misinterpreted, and we forget to pay due attention to Jesus own words. It’s a shame that Bibles tend not to print the words of Christ in red anymore. Are we listening to what Jesus is telling us?


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