Thursday, 25 February 2021

MRUC Order of Service Lent 2 - 28 February 2021

 


Sunday 28th February 2021


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A Covenant Worth Our Lives,

Sunday 28th February 2021

Lent 2 Sunday year of Mark 9.30am

Gathering God’s People       

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land. 

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)       

God’s voice calls to us, naming us in holy love. Christ’s voice chastens us, correcting us when we lose our way. The Spirit’s voice sounds within us, drawing us back to the paths of righteousness. God’s voice heals us, naming us as God’s own.

From generation to generation, God names us and claims us.

Let heaven and earth praise God’s holy name.

From our earliest steps, Christ guides our wayward feet. Let all who draw breath come back to the Lord.

From death to life, the Spirit sets us free.

Let the faithful rejoice in God’s holy covenant.

From generation to generation, God names us and claims us.

Let heaven and earth praise God’s holy name. 

Hymn TIS  052: Let us sing to the God of salvation

                        (Tune – Sing Hosanna)            

Opening Prayer

      Spirit of the ages, as you called to Abram and Sarai, renaming them according to your purposes, call to us this day. Open our ears to the sound of your voice, that we may respond to your call and pick up our cross to follow you. Name us anew this day, and raise us to newness of life, that we may be children of your promise, people of your covenant, and disciples of your grace. Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

God above every name, when our vision dims, and we prefer human thoughts to your thoughts, heal our eyes of faith.

Grace above every grace, when our suffering closes us off from the joy on the other side of suffering, grant us your strength to follow Christ in hope and promise.

Wisdom of the ages, when we seek to save our lives in destructive ways, love us back onto the right paths and restore us to life.

In your holy name, we pray. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

By saying no to ourselves, and picking up our cross to follow Christ, we find ourselves. By saying yes to the good news of God’s Spirit working within us, we find faith and wholeness. God’s promises are sure, God’s love eternal.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

Let all who would become Christ’s followers deny themselves and follow Christ in love and grace. Let all who seek freedom pick up their cross and follow him, even when the road is long. On this journey, let us turn to one another and share signs of grace and peace.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.) 

A Word with the Children/Young People

Theme - Discipleship is not easy

Object - A deck of cards and perhaps a book on magic tricks.

Scripture - Mark 8:31,34

I have a really cool card trick to show you this morning. (Shuffle the cards a couple of times.) First, I need a helper. (Choose a helper and continue.) I want you to pick a card out of this deck. Don't show it to me, but you can show everyone else. I'll cover my eyes so I can't see it. Now, I want you to carefully slide that card right into the middle of the deck.

Don't let me see it! Now, this is the amazing part. I am going to snap my fingers, and the card that you selected will move from the middle of the deck to the top of the deck. Are you ready? (Snap!) Here it is! Here is your card right on top. (Pick up the card and show it to your helper.)

That is your card, isn't it? It isn't? Well, I don't understand what happened. I bought this book to teach me how to do this trick and it didn't work. It said I should let you choose a card and put it in the middle of the deck and when I snapped my fingers it would move to the top. Oh, there was a bunch of other stuff I was supposed to do, but that stuff was all too complicated. I skipped over that part. It is supposed to be a magic trick, so I thought it would work at the snap of my fingers.

That was pretty foolish of me, wasn't it? Well, sometimes we think life should be that easy too, don't we? We think that everything should happen at the snap of a finger. When life is hard, we look for the easy way out.

That isn't anything new. People were like that in Jesus' day too. One day Jesus was talking to his disciples and he was telling them all he was going to have to suffer to save the world from sin. He told them how he was going to be made fun of, beaten, crucified, and buried, but that he would rise again on the third day. That was what his Father had sent him to do.

Peter had other ideas. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and that wasn't what he wanted for Jesus. There had to be an easier way. Well, it is true. There was an easier way. Jesus had the power. He could have taken the easy way out. He could have set up his kingdom right here on earth with the snap of his fingers. But that was not God's plan.

Jesus turned to Peter and scolded him. "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus said to Peter. "You don't have your mind on the things of God, you have your mind on the things of men!"

Jesus wasn't interested in taking the easy way out and he doesn't want us looking for the easy way out either. He said, "If anyone would follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy. It doesn't happen with the snap of our fingers. It isn't easy, but the reward is great! 

Offering

Bless us this day, Eternal God, that we may be a blessing to a world in need. Bless our gifts and our offerings in your name, that they may light the way home for those who have wandered far and lost their way. As these gifts go forth to do your work, may they help others hear you call their names and bring them peace. Amen 

Hymn TIS 412: God sends us his Spirit to befriend

                        (Tune – Natomah) 

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            Romans 4:13-25

The Gospel Reading:                                        Mark 8:31-38

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord

Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Romans 4: 13-25

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 23 Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. 

Mark 8:31-38

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ 

Preaching of the Word - A Covenant Worth Our Lives,

We human beings love our rules. The security that comes from knowing how things should be done comforts us in our chaotic world. God understands this about us, and so God comes to us in terms of covenant. In our lesson from Genesis, God provides a clear agreement that Abraham can refer to and rely on to know that God will come through on God’s promises. God willingly limits Godself out of love, knowing that making this clear and concrete covenant, promising to be our God forever and make our descendants fruitful, will bring us comfort and security.

Where we get into trouble is in thinking that our ideas about rules and regulations should govern God. Once we understand that God will always be faithful to us and care for us, we start to think we know better than God who God should be and how God should act. Consider Peter’s action in our gospel story today. At first, his boldness is shocking – how did he have the audacity to take Jesus aside and rebuke him? But when we examine our hearts, we might realize that we, too, have sometimes wanted to take Jesus aside and rebuke him.

Peter acts this way because he doesn’t like what Jesus is saying. How often have we felt that way ourselves? How often have we wanted to explain the realities of a harsh world to a Jesus who seems na├»ve and unrealistic in his expectations of us? What do you mean, sell everything we have and give it to the poor to follow you, Jesus? How can you expect us to “be perfect as your heavenly Parent is perfect”? It’s simply not realistic to “give to everyone who asks of you.”

The truth is that our human instinct is to remake Christ in our own image, rather than letting ourselves be transformed into Christ’s image. We want to dictate the terms of the covenant, but Jesus makes it clear that that impulse is from the darkness within us, and he will name it and call us out on it. Just a few short verses ago, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah. Peter got it right! He knew the truth about Jesus and was not afraid to proclaim it. And yet barely a moment later, he has made such a mistake that Jesus is saying that evil is acting through him.

What we can learn from this is the truth that even after – perhaps especially after – our mountaintop experiences of revelation, we still have so very much to learn. Even as we gain more and more knowledge of Jesus and enter deeper and deeper into relationship with him, the mystery of his full nature grows at the same pace. Just because we know him doesn’t mean we get to tell him what to do, a lesson that Peter learned in this moment and that we will learn over and over again.

This gospel lesson is full of truths that are hard to hear. Peter’s expectations are dashed by what Jesus says. He and the other disciples have witnessed Jesus’ power – it was very natural for them to assume that Jesus would bring about the fullness of God’s covenant promises by overthrowing Rome and restoring the throne of Israel. Now Jesus tells them that he knows he will be defeated, arrested and killed – and he fully intends to let it happen.

This is a bitter, painful discovery for Peter and the others. It feels like a betrayal. “Jesus, you have the power of almighty God at your disposal. Rather than rescuing us from oppression, you’re going to give in and give up and let the Romans win again?”

This “gospel” Good News is the worst news imaginable.

What Peter doesn’t understand in this moment is that rather than betraying God’s covenant with Israel, Jesus is simultaneously fulfilling it and rewriting it. The original covenant promise to Abraham in our lesson from Genesis set for today which we haven’t read, was for many fruitful descendants, all of whom would be loved and protected by God. It was a covenant promising a future of life. Jesus is inviting us to a covenant of life also – but it is by following a very different path than we would expect. Jesus promises life to us if we have the courage to face death. Jesus promises that if we give our lives wholeheartedly to him and thereby to serving our neighbours, we will have rich and abundant life flowing through us, welling up to eternal life.

It is an enticing invitation – but a scary one. To know that Jesus is entering death willingly and expects us to do the same would give anyone pause. And while we know that one day, we will all confront literal, physical death, there are many other deaths awaiting us. We will face the death of our pride, the death of our comfortable ideas about what God is calling us to do and be, perhaps the death of our financial security and the death of our ambition and slavery to success. The covenant to which we are invited has very high stakes, and the urge to take Jesus aside and rebuke him as Peter did starts to make more and more sense.

It seems impossible, doesn’t it? It seems as farfetched to imagine ourselves brave enough to follow Jesus into death, to lose our lives to save them, as he says, as it did for Abraham and Sarah to have children in their old age. This covenant to which we are invited, this covenant that takes this strange and frightening path of cross-carrying and death, is only possible under one condition. We cannot make it on hard work or determination or power or strength.

Our lesson from Romans tells us what we need to enter into this covenant:

“It depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed. … Hoping against hope, [Abraham] believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations.’ … He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead. … No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Faith is the only bridge through death on the cross to the new life of resurrection with Jesus. But it is not a fairy-tale faith that closes its eyes and hopes for the best, blindly wishing for a happy ending. It is a faith that takes stock of the very real cost of discipleship to which Jesus calls us, the price up to and including our very lives, and deems it a worthy gift to the Christ who withheld nothing from us.

Some of us, including many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world, may pay that cost of discipleship with their literal, physical lives. But most of us will not go out in a blaze of martyred glory. Most of us will carry the cross one small step at a time, one spiritual discipline at a time, one act of generosity or sacrifice or love at a time. 

However, we carry the cross, the giving of our lives willingly to follow Jesus will manifest in one perhaps unexpected cost: the risk of being changed. When Abram and Sarai committed to God’s covenant with them, they were changed at such a fundamental level that they could no longer be known by their former names. The man and woman who were God’s covenant partners had to be known as Abraham and Sarah, names that echoed their former selves but were profoundly transformed, just like their lives and their souls.

This is the risk we take when we sign on to Jesus’ covenant of life, the journey with and through the cross and its transforming power, the road through death to resurrection. We will emerge on the other side with the building blocks of our souls familiar to us, but the temple of grace into which they have been built strange and new and glorious. We can finally let go of our urge to rebuke Jesus, to remake him to be like we think he should be, like ourselves, because we know through faith that he will remake us to be like him.

That’s a covenant promise worth our very lives. 

Hymn TIS 657: God of Freedom, God of Justice

                       (Tune - Picardy)       

Intercessory Prayers - Lent 2 Sunday – Year B –

God of promise and hope, we bring to you our prayers believing that with you all things are possible; hear the prayers we offer.

You promised to make Abraham the father of nations and through Sarah and Hagar your promise came to birth hear our prayers for the nations of the world.

We pray for peace among nations, especially Israel, Palestine and the Middle East; for an end to violence, cruelty and oppression; for just and responsible sharing of the resources of the world; for the leaders of nations and all with responsibility of government; for all who commit their lives to the pursuit of justice; for all who work for the preservation of the earth. God of hope, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

You promised a Messiah to bring salvation to your people, and through the obedience of Mary your promise came to birth hear our prayers for your holy, catholic church. We pray for a servant church where your gospel is proclaimed in deed and in word; for all leaders of churches, theologians and teachers; for those who take the gospel to distant or dangerous places; for all whose witness is met with apathy, ridicule or persecution; for unity and trust between Christians of different traditions; for understanding and respect between Muslims, Jews and Christians. God of hope, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

You promised to send a Comforter to your people, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit your promise was fulfilled: hear our prayers for all who are in pain or distress.

We pray for relief, comfort and healing for your suffering people; for the poor, the hungry and the homeless; for the lonely, the forgotten and the unwanted; for all who grieve the loss of loved ones; for the sick and those who care for them; for the dying and those who watch with them. God of hope, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

You promised that from death would come new life and in the resurrection of your Son your promise was fulfilled: remember, we pray, your faithful servants of every age.

We give you thanks for all who have received and believed your promises; for those whom we love who have gone to your heavenly presence. Inspire us with the faith of Abraham, the trust of Sarah, the courage of H agar, the obedience of Mary and the lives of all your saints and fill us with your grace, that in us and through us your promises may be fulfilled. God of hope and promise, in your mercy,

hear our prayer. 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen 

        Hymn TIS 456: Your hand, O God, has guided...

                                  (Tune – Thornbury)        

         Benediction

        Hear the voice of God calling your name.

        We will follow where God leads us.

        Hear the voice of Christ claiming you as his own.

        We will live as brothers and sisters in faith.

        Hear the voice of the Spirit sending you forth.

        We will go where the Spirit sends us.

        Go forth, called, named, and claimed by God.       

        Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you

                              (Tune – Aubrey)




Thursday, 11 February 2021

Marsden Road Uniting Order of Service - Feast of Transfiguration - 14 February 2021

 


Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford

______________________________________ 

Clinging to the Light,

The Transfiguration

Sunday 14th February 2020

Transfiguration Sunday year of Mark 9.30am 

Gathering God’s People       

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship  (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)       

Chariots and horses of fire . . . a prophet taken up into heaven . . . a gospel unveiled . . . Moses, Elijah, and Jesus shining brighter than the sun . . . the time approaches and now is. Watch . . . listen . . . perceive . . . God is with us. Nothing is as it seems.

The glory of God is too great for you to bear.

We are not afraid. We will not turn back.

The mystery of God runs too deep for you to fathom.

We are not deterred. We will not turn back.

The fiery chariot of Elijah is not for mortal sight to see.

We are blessed with the eyes of faith. We will not turn back.

Come then, and worship our God, who took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind.

We will worship the Lord, who transfigured Moses, Elijah, and Jesus to shine like the sun. 

Hymn TIS 207: Jesus shall reign where're the sun

                  (Tune – Duke Street)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7HD_Aul1bw

YouTube misses out verse 5 

1 Jesus shall reign where'er the sun

does its successive journeys run,

his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

till moons shall wax and wane no more.

 

2 For him shall endless prayer be made,

and praises throng to crown his head.

His name like sweet perfume shall rise

with every morning sacrifice.

 

3 People and realms of every tongue

dwell on his love with sweetest song,

and infant voices shall proclaim

their early blessings on his name.

 

4 Blessings abound where'er he reigns:

the prisoners leap to lose their chains,

the weary find eternal rest,

and all who suffer want are blest.

 

5 Where he displays his healing power

death and the curse are known no more;

in him the tribes of Adam boast

more blessings than their father lost.

 

6 Let every creature rise and bring

the highest honours to our King,

angels descend with songs again,

and earth repeat the loud amen. 

Author: Isaac Watts (1719)
Tune: Duke Street 

     Opening Prayer

     God of mighty tempest and devouring fire, you come to us shrouded in mystery. Just as Elisha followed Elijah until he was taken up into heaven, we will follow Christ up the mountain to behold his glory. Who are Moses and Elijah that we should not join their ranks among the faithful? What is to prevent us from shining with Christ this very day? Give us eyes and ears of faith, Holy One, that we may see the heavens open and hear your voice, calling us to follow your Son. Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

God of mystery, the mountaintop seems so far away as we stand in its shadow.

In our journey of faith, we yearn to have the courage of Elisha, who followed Elijah with a hope and faith that did not falter; we long to hear answers to questions that are only known at the end of the road.

Will we see your presence in the whirlwind?

Will we see the fiery chariot connect heaven and earth?

Will we even have the courage to look up?

Will we inherent a double portion of spirit from those who brought us up in the faith?

May it be so, O God. May it be so. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

Through the light of the one who was transfigured to show us the power and glory of God, we find a way through the wilderness of our doubt and confusion; we find strength for the journey and courage for the road ahead.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

Share signs of peace with one another and behold the light of Christ shining in everyone you greet.

Peace be with you!

And also with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.) 

A Word with the Children/Young People

As this is effectively the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany, lets speak of stars.  What comes into the minds of you children/youth when I say the word "star." 

·       Probably stars in the sky,

·       Pop and movie stars.

·       Maybe you children receive stars at preschool or school for doing good work or good behaviour,

·       We could even mention navigation...

Have you ever met a sailor or someone else who has used stars to navigate or to plot their position? I wonder if you know how it’s done (check this out) and could we describe briefly and in simple language how they do it. 

People throughout the centuries - especially sailors, have used the position of the stars to find their own position and to find their way from one place to another. 

Do you know who once used a star to guide them to find the baby Jesus.  We remember that event by calling it Epiphany and that happened more than a month ago and on almost every week since then, there has been some mention of light in the bible readings so in a way, we have been guided by  light and today we are invited to think about God's glory and how that shone out of Jesus like a great light and how it can shine through our lives as we  try to be as loving and as kind as Jesus.   When we do, we will live as though we had a star in our hearts which helps us to navigate our way through life and can help others find the way to Jesus also. If we can let us Stick a star over each child’s heart.

Offering Prayer

Light of Light, when we grow accustomed to dwelling in the shadows and painting with drab colours, you bless us with your radiance and the vitality of your love. Illumine these gifts, Holy One, that the world may see your light shining through our offering. Illumine our very lives, O God, that we may remain restless until we shine like Christ upon the mountain, until we follow Elisha’s footsteps and behold your glory. Amen.

 

Hymn TIS 675: Lord, the light of your love is shining...

                  (Tune - Shine, Jesus, Shine)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rce9UHYZwl4

1 Lord, the light of Your love is shining, 

in the midst of the darkness, shining:

Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us;

set us free by the truth You now bring us –

shine on me, shine on me.

Shine, Jesus, shine,

fill this land with the Father's glory;

blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire.

Flow, river, flow,

flood the nations with grace and mercy;

send forth Your word. Lord, and let there be light.

 

2  Lord, I come to Your awesome presence, 

from the shadows into Your radiance;

 by Your blood I may enter Your brightness: 

search me, try me, consume all my darkness

shine on me, shine on me.

Shine, Jesus, shine,

fill this land with the Father's glory;

blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire.

Flow, river, flow,

flood the nations with grace and mercy;

send forth Your word. Lord, and let there be light.

 

3 As we gaze on Your kingly brightness

so our faces display Your likeness,

ever changing from glory to glory:

mirrored here, may our lives tell Your story

shine on me, shine on me. 

Shine, Jesus, shine,

fill this land with the Father's glory;

blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire.

Flow, river, flow,

flood the nations with grace and mercy;

send forth Your word. Lord, and let there be light. 

 Words Graham Kendrick       Music: Shine Jesus shine 9.9.10.10.6 

The Service of the Word

 

The First Reading:                                            2 Kings 2:1-12

The Gospel Reading:                                        Mark 9:2-9

Readings: NRSV Translation

2 Kings 2:1-12

1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So, they went down to Bethel. 3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’ 4 Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So, they came to Jericho. 5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’ 6 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ 10 He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’ 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

 

Mark 9:2-9

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 

Preaching of the Word - Clinging to the Light, The Transfiguration

Transfiguration! Metamorphosis.

We recognise metamorphosis, the Greek word that means to change shape or to move from having one image to another, because of the process most of us encountered in school—the marvellous metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The word with the Latin roots, transfiguration, is associated more with spiritual experience, specifically this occasion recounted in Matthew, Mark and Luke known as the synoptic gospels.

This is a luminous story, and its light has blinded interpreters into flights of fancy or has left them, and us, simply dazzled. All the other gospel stories, before the resurrection, even the miracles or signs, are quite earthbound. There are sick and troubled women, crippled and blind men, miserable, possessed people, and they are all healed or liberated. Yet, always earthy. The miracles of Jesus are always other-directed. This one, however, concerns Jesus himself and has the atmosphere of the otherworldly surrounding it.

This story takes us and the three chosen disciples to a height where the veil is rent for a few seconds probably, seconds that must have seemed like hours. It’s important to remember when this event occurs in the chronology of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has started preparing his beloved disciples for his death. He knows what awaits him: he has challenged what we would call the status quo of the religious authorities of his day; he has shown that his values are not their values; his focus has been the kingdom of heaven. But his disciples, time and again, fail to understand who he is and what it is that he is showing them, and he tells them time and time again what inevitable end awaits him. He asks them: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” and they answer with the famous names of their past—John the Baptist, Elijah, even Jeremiah. And then he asks them the most crucial question of all: “And who do you say that I am?”

Of course, it is Peter who answers: Peter, who had flashes of revelation and understanding to be replaced almost immediately by confusion, fear, or puzzlement. In this instance, he comes through with the declaration of recognition and of faith: “The Messiah of God.” After this declaration, Jesus makes it clear to Peter and to us that this realization of his person is a gift from God. Matthew tells of Jesus responding, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Parent in heaven.” The words take away the temptation to human pride.

Eight days have passed after this moment of revelation, and Jesus takes his three closest friends on a hike to a mountain—not named but guessed at through the ages. It was not a surprising excursion; Jesus made it a habit of going away in order to pray, to listen to his Father; being fully human, he cherished the companionship of his dear friends whenever he removed himself from the crowds. The mountain he chose was a high one so the trek must have taken all day, and night must be approaching. The three disciples must wonder at times how it is that they get so worn out from the constant walking and the crowds pressing upon them; but the demands of all the needy people on their master, who seems never to stop, having nowhere to lay his head, must appal them. “How does he keep going?” they are probably asking themselves. They must also have recognised that prayer was a lifeline for their teacher. They have accompanied him, but now they are probably longing to rest and sleep while Jesus is at his prayers.

Suddenly, all tiredness is forgotten. A bright light dazzles them, but the light is Jesus himself. Instead of the familiar head and shape of their teacher, they see something like the light of the sun—brilliant and blinding. Jesus is transformed before them. He is no longer the tired man who has walked miles and miles, who has been pulled and pushed by a crowd, but he is a shining being that somehow does not seem to be of this world. He is bathed in glory. The sight must have filled the three disciples with such awe that they could not move or open their mouths. But as their eyes become accustomed to the brilliance emanating from their once familiar teacher, they behold two more persons near him.

Why did they think the persons were Moses and Elijah? There were no representations in the Hebrew tradition. Certainly, there were no photographs and no paintings or sculptures of the two greats in their history. Did Jesus call them by name? We are not told. And if they represent the Law and the Prophets respectively, why imagine that one of them is Elijah instead of the great Isaiah as representative of the prophets? No answer is given. One is tempted to suspect that because six days before they had responded that the crowd thought Jesus was a new Moses or a new Elijah the names were available to their brains. Regardless. The surmise is that the two were encouraging him to face what was to come. And now Peter starts babbling.

And who can blame him? Below the mountain, the dangers and the darkness are approaching. The early, heady days of ministry are gone. Now Pharisees and Sadducees are clamouring to trip their beloved teacher at every turn, and Jesus himself keeps dropping hints of his own early death. It is all so frightening. This, this is so much better. Here there is light and beauty and safety among heavenly beings. Jesus is finally where he belongs—in the Other Realm which is bathed in Light.

Peter doesn’t want this moment to stop. How many of us have prayed for the same thing—for the joyful times to linger, for people we love not to die, for darkness and depression and sadness not to return? We can imagine Peter later in his life telling this story to his followers, who would share it all and eventually they would write it down. “I told the Lord that we should stay there. I said I would build three cabins so they could stay—one for him, one for Elijah and one for Moses. I guess I thought we three would just stay on the ground gazing at their light. In scripture we read that he didn’t know what he was saying. Would any of us have known? To have a glimpse of heaven, to see the one we have admired for so long revealing himself in all his glory—who would not want to stay in that bliss?

And there is more. A voice from heaven booms to tell them: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” Terrified now, they fall on their faces. And then, just as suddenly, they are alone, and Jesus looks as he always did. His time has not yet come, but the cross cannot be avoided. They will go down from the mountain and Jesus will set his face toward Jerusalem. Arrest, torture, and death are awaiting him.

Why did this moment of Transfiguration happen? They must wonder as they go down the mountain. Was it real? Did Peter and James and John remember it afterward when they were watching him through the agonising hours on the Via Dolorosa? We are given no hint that they did. Perhaps after the Resurrection and his appearances to them, they remembered that moment on the mountain and understood. But again, we are not told. It is very possible that the Transfiguration happened because Jesus needed it. His three friends just happened to be there to witness the glory. What was awaiting Jesus was a horror beyond words – not just on his physical body, but in the terrible abandonment he felt on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He needed those moments of encouragement and of light on the Mount of Transfiguration. In the times of fear and desperation in this life, we all do. When the darkness is approaching, let us cling to the Light. 

Hymn TIS 143: Immortal, invisible, God only wise

                 (Tune – St Denio)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd0FyrzVUCM

YouTube has King James English version.

1.  Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,

most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

almighty, victorious, your great name we praise.

 

2.  Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,

nor wanting, nor wasting, but ruling in might;

your justice like mountains high soaring above,

your clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

 

3.  You give life to all, Lord, to both great and small;

in all life now living, the true life of all;

we blossom and flourish as leaves on a tree,

then wither: but ever unchanged you will be.

 

4.  Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,

your angels adore you, all veiling their sight;

of all your rich graces this grace, Lord, impart -

take the veil from our faces, the veil from our heart.

 

5.  All praise we would render: reveal to our sight,

what hides you is only the splendour of light;

and so let your glory, Almighty, impart

through Christ in the story, your Christ to the heart. 

Tune: St. Denio. Author: Walter Chalmers Smith 1824-1908 

Intercessory Prayers - Transfiguration Sunday – Year B

Holy God, in the beauty of your created world, we glimpse your glory. It is good,0 God, to be in your presence.

We pray for your world: Where its beauty is disfigured by our careless stewardship. Where its beauty is broken and bleeding from war. Where its beauty is diminished by corruption· and greed. Transfigure your world by your presence, 0 God, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the shining light of the gospel, we glimpse your glory.

We pray for your church: For all who preach your word. For all who translate your word. For all who minister in your name. Transfigure your church by your presence, 0 God, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the joy and wonder of human love, we glimpse your glory.

We pray for those whose love enriches our lives: For little children with generous and forgiving hearts. For those who care for the frail and the sick. For our families and friends and all relationships that speak to us of you. Transfigure us by your presence, 0 God, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the compassionate heart of Jesus, we glimpse your glory. We pray for all in need of your compassion and care: all whose bodies are bruised; all whose spirits are crushed; all whose minds are confused; all whose hearts are broken.

Transfigure their lives with your presence, 0 God, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the lives of your saints, we glimpse your glory. We pray for all who have departed this life and who are now with you.

0 God, you summon home your faithful servants. As you gathered up to heaven your servant Elijah, may you draw us also into the promise of your glory, for it is good, 0 God, to be in your presence. Holy God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen

 

Hymn TIS 447: Lord your almighty word

                 (Tune – Moscow)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfdR7r7xgN8

YouTube has some different words but close.

1 Lord, your almighty word

chaos and darkness heard,

and took their flight:

hear us, we humbly pray,

and where the gospel day

sheds not its glorious ray,

let there be light.

 

2 Saviour, who came to give

those who in darkness live

healing and sight,

health to the sick in mind,

sight to the inly blind,

now to all humankind

let there be light.

 

3 Spirit of truth and love,

life-giving holy dove,

speed forth your flight;

move on the waters' face

bearing the lamp of grace,

and in earth's darkest place

let there be light.

 

4 Holy and blessed Three,

glorious Trinity,

Wisdom, Love, Might,

boundless as ocean's tide

rolling in fullest pride,

through the earth far and wide,

let there be light. 

Author: John Marriott, 1720-1825

Tune: Moscow Composer:    Felice Giardini, 1716-96       

Benediction

Go forth with the courage to climb the mountain of God.

We will walk in the light and truth of Christ.

Go forth with ears to hear the voice of God.

We will hear the call to follow Jesus.

Go forth to live as people who shine with Christ’s glory.

We will leave footprints of light as we walk.

Go forth in expectation and hope, for God goes with you, and may the blessings of that God go with you, Amen. 

        Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you.
                       (Tune – Aubrey)

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X5FHNGM2HA

May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.

May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.

May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.

May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you Home. 

        Robyn Mann (1949 -)   Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)