Sometimes bad weather keeps us from worshipping together, but that doesn’t mean we cannot worship God. Below is the order of worship for Transfiguration Sunday for those of you unable to join with us today. Be safe out there, and know that you are in our prayers, and that you are in God’s hands.
We Gather Together
Lighting of the Christ Candle: you are encouraged to light a candle to remember God’s presence amongst us.
Call to Worship
Great is the Lord—Exalted among the nations.
Mighty is the Lord—King of heaven and earth.
Holy is the Lord—Beyond our understanding.
Let us worship our God and King!
Hymn Shine, Jesus, Shine
Call to Confession
God of transfiguration, you meet us in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary moments of life. We seek you in the valleys and on the mountaintops. Yet we admit that too often our eyes are blind to your presence, too often our ears are deaf to your call. When you reach out to us through the cries of the hungry and the homeless, too often our hearts shrink from your touch. Forgive us, we pray, and set us free to love and serve.
Give thanks to the Lord for God is Good and God’s steadfast love endures forever. Nothing we can do, nothing we have done, can separate us from the Love of God. In Jesus’ Name, we are forgiven. Amen.
*Response Gloria Patri
THE WORD IS PROCLAIMED
Prayer of Illumination
God of goodness and light, as you created the world by your Word and Spirit, breathe new life into us this day; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
First Lesson: Psalm 50:1-6
The mighty one, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge. Selah
Gospel Lesson Mark 9:2-9
2Six 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, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then 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.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9As 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.
Sermon “Why We Need the Transfiguration”
How do we know God? It is a deceptively simple question to ask. On the one hand, it sounds like there should be a single, definitive answer. But on the other hand, sometimes knowing there should be an easy answer to a question makes folks anxious because they don’t want to get it wrong.
And so I have learned that, when you are a pastor, asking a question of this sort is likely to provoke a certain kind of response. I have become well acquainted over the last few years of bible studies, youth groups and confirmation classes with a facial expression that I can only describe as terror at being asked the question mixed in with a person’s desire to prove that they know the answer.
I have also noticed that there is a tendency to fall back on Sunday School learning when we are asked to think for ourselves with respect to our faith. For example, when I ask a question during the time for children, you can pretty much bet money that one kid is going to raise their hand and, no matter what the question was, they are going to tell me that the answer is “Jesus.”
Which isn’t bad, in fact it’s fine. “Jesus” isn’t a bad answer to a lot of the questions of our faith. But the trouble is that we so often stop there. I know I do sometimes—I tell myself it is enough to know that Jesus is the reason. But let me tell you something—we are cheating ourselves when we think that intellectually knowing the truth of our faith is enough. Because when we stop there, we miss out on the opportunity to experience those facts more deeply through our wrestling with our own belief.
Let me put it another way: there is a difference between knowing the answers and KNOWING the answers, and that difference is brought front and center in our Scripture today. For on this Sunday we celebrate Transfiguration, the moment at which Jesus, the answer to all our questions, is briefly and fully revealed ahead of his death and resurrection to be the one we have been waiting for, the Messiah, the King of Kings, in all his glory, on a mountain enshrouded with cloud and thundering with the mighty voice of God. And it turns out, at least in this particular Gospel text, that knowing that Jesus is the answer to our questions, sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers.
Knowing that Jesus is the answer to the question of who is God sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers.
Look to the text. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus leads a few of his disciples up a deserted mountain, disciples who moments before have proven that they intellectually know who Jesus is—when Christ asks, who do you think I am, Peter tells him, “You are the Messiah!” And Peter seems convinced that knowing this fact is enough—knowing it makes him the best disciple Christ could ask for.
But all of that knowledge flies out the window up on the mountain, for on the mountain those disciples, God bless’em, are confronted with the truth of what it means to confess Christ as Lord—turns out it is one thing for us to say it, but it is entirely another thing to see Christ enshrouded in Cloud, his glory revealed before your very eyes as he stars in his very own Clorox commercial, his clothes blazing white as the disciples’ eyes are dazzled and blinded by light.
It is one thing to follow a charismatic rabbi up a mountain, but it is entirely another thing to realize that before you stands the Holy One, to begin to grasp that God has quite literally taken on human flesh, and that the one with whom you have walked with and talked with and learned and ate and served with is also the very one whom you worship.
It is one thing to pray for God’s salvation and to hope for a Messiah, and entirely a different thing to hear God’s voice thunder in your eardrums as he claims your teacher as His Son.
For the disciples, the knowledge that Christ is truly Lord up on the mountain did not bring them certainty, or clarity, or even confidence. Rather, they struggle to see, to hear, to comprehend, and to believe it. They are dazzled and confused by what is happening around them. For this is not the safe realm of knowledge—this is the naked terror of truth. As Jesus blazes with glory, the disciples truly are terrified, brought to their knees and quaking, uncertain what to do or say because before their very eyes God’s reality has been revealed to them, and it has turned the world on its head.
It has turned the world on its head because if Jesus truly is the Messiah, then everything that Jesus says and everything that Jesus does takes on a new importance. When the revealed Lord tells you to pick up your cross and follow him, that commandment looks a little more serious than if he is just a good speaker. I don’t know about you, but if God didn’t say my life depended on it, I probably wouldn’t spend so much of my time visiting the sick, and caring for the poor, and giving my money to a profoundly human institution like the church. It would be much easier and more comfortable to just look out for me and my family, and to do the things that the culture around me says will make me happy.
But that is what Jesus does—When Jesus is revealed, it is meant to shake us out of our complacency, meant to remind us that things can and should be other than they are. Jesus didn’t come to maintain the status quo, or defend the way things are—Jesus was disruptive. In his living and in his dying, and in his rising again, our Savior revealed that God is working out a purpose that is completely at odds with the world—and God’s will cannot be thwarted, not by the powers of the world, not by Satan, and certainly not by death.
And that should shake us. That should dazzle and confuse us. In the light of the Transfiguration, everything should look different. And even in our confusion, the Transfiguration ought to be a source of strength for us, because not only does it reveal who Jesus truly is—our Lord and Savior—it also confirms our calling as disciples.
Remember, that in the midst of the confusion God directs our eyes on Christ, saying, “Look to Christ, my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
It is these words that are meant to stay with the disciples as the moment fades and the return down the mountain. As Christ travels to Jerusalem, and is arrested, and beaten, and ultimately killed, it will be these words that keep hope alive in the darkness. These words that will take on new meaning on Easter Morning when Christ’s resurrection confirms all that he has said and done.
As we stand on the other side of Easter, preparing for the season of Lent, these words are a gift to us as well. They are a reminder to us our work on behalf of the Gospel is not in vain. For even as the world seems to be at odds with Christ’s Kingdom, even as it seems at times to work against God’s purposes, we can trust that we are doing God’s will when we follow our Savior. We can trust that, through our fidelity to our Lord, this world that God created and that God loves is even now being transfigured, revealed as God’s Kingdom to those who are living in Darkness.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that “we do not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ Sake.” In transfiguration, Paul finds the power within himself to proclaim a light that shines in the darkness. For him, Christ is a source of hope, and a promise that God’s glory is being revealed, even in the darkness that he finds himself. I pray that we also might find ourselves transfigured by Christ’s glory, that we too might go out into the world and proclaim the life-changing gospel that we have been given by God for the good of others.
The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Amen.
*Hymn Seek Ye First
WE RESPOND IN FAITH
Prayers of the People and Lord’s Prayer (taken from http://www.worldinprayer.org)
As we prepare ourselves for the holy season of Lent, let us reflect in prayer on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: that when we love the least of these, we love you, Lord.
Help us to love the least of these in prison. We pray for prisoners throughout the world. We pray that they may receive justice, that those who are innocent may be freed and those who are guilty may be restored and reconciled. We remember especially this week for Taiwan where 6 inmates held several guards hostage before committing suicide.
Help us to love the least of these who are refugees. We pray for the souls of the 300 migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean fromLibya to Italy. We pray too for all those who tried to rescue them, as they have done so many times over the past months and years, and help them deal with the grief and horror of the tragedy. We pray for the children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and elsewhere held in family detention camps in New Mexico, USA. We pray for all those who have been displaced from their homes.
Help us to love the least of those who seek peace. We give thanks for the ceasefire announced in Ukraine and pray that it may hold. We pray for Syria, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Afghanistan, and for countries affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, especially Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger.
Help us to love the least of those of all faiths and tribes. We pray for Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan who were killed this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA by their neighbor.
Help us, O Lord, to love our neighbors as You have commanded us to do. Help us to see in them the image of the living God who has come to dwell with us. And may we be transformed when we see You before us in the face of the least of these.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Remember that everything we have, and everything we are is a gift from God. How will you commit yourself to be a gift to God’s world this week? How will you be a blessing in the one and glorious life you have been given?
WE ARE SENT OUT
Hymn 411 Arise, Your Light is Come!
Passing of the Peace
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.