Sunday February 19, 2023 – Transfiguration
God reveal your presence: as we now adore you and with awe appear before you.
Like the holy angels gathered all before you, may we ceaselessly adore you.
Bow your ear to us here; hearken, O Lord Jesus, to our humble praises.
© 1995 by WGRG, Iona Community, Scotland, Admin. GIA Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission OneLicense.net #A-723756
Acknowledging the Territory
Once again, we acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share it wisely.
Call to Worship
To climb a mountain is not as easy task.
It takes effort, courage and perseverance.
To see God on the mountain, in the valley or in those around us is not an easy task.
It takes openness, willingness and faith.
In climbing and in seeing, we are changed.
In sharing, in worship and in prayer, we are changed.
And so we gather, to climb, to see, to share, and to pray, to be change and to change our world.
But most of all we gather to worship God.
Lighting the Christ Candle
The light of Christ shines on the mountaintops and in the valleys. The light of Christ shines in our worship and in our lives. As we light this candle, we are remined to take the light of Christ with us wherever we go.
Divine Mystery, we gather here this morning longing to catch of glimpse of the transfigured Christ just as the disciples did on that mountaintop long ago. We long for that experience that could change us forever. Yet we tremble in fear at what such an experience might mean, for in witnessing his transfiguration we know that we too, would be transformed. Open our hearts and minds to your transforming power as we gather here today to worship you. Amen.
Gift of Music We Have Come at Christ’s Own Bidding #104
Today we commemorate the transfiguration of Jesus. It is a story that appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke but not in John. But our reading from the Gospel According to Matthew today, begins with the call to forget “yourself, carry your cross, and follow [Jesus].”
Matthew 16:24-17:8 Good News Translation
Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life. For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds. I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.”
Six days later Jesus took with him Peter and the brothers James and John and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. As they looked on, a change came over Jesus: his face was shining like the sun, and his clothes were dazzling white. Then the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. So Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how good it is that we are here! If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was talking, a shining cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased—listen to him!”
When the disciples heard the voice, they were so terrified that they threw themselves face downward on the ground. Jesus came to them and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid!” So they looked up and saw no one there but Jesus.
Today we end the Season of Epiphany and prepare ourselves for the beginning of the Season of Lent. This Wednesday we will mark ourselves with ashes as we prepare ourselves for the Lenten Journey that leads to the cross. Our scripture reading this morning begins with a reminder that to follow Jesus is not easy. It often means we must be counter-cultural. We must sometimes set aside our own wishes and desires to walk the path that Christ has laid out for us.
When we think about walking the path of Christ, we often think of Peter. Peter was the one that Jesus called the rock, the one who would become the foundation upon which the Christian church would be built. But in many ways, Peter is the one who so often seemed to stumble along that path.
In the portion of scripture just before what we read this morning Jesus was beginning to prepare his disciples for what lay ahead. He began to warn them that he was going to suffer and die. But Peter could not accept this. He took Jesus aside and argued that God would never allow this to happen and Jesus rebukes Peter for saying this.
Peter is also the one who begs to stay on the mountaintop with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. And we all remember the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus just prior to the crucifixion. It sometimes seems like Peter wants to hold on to all the good things but tries to reject all the difficult and painful times. Yet despite all of his stumbles and all of his struggles, Peter never gives up and in the end, he is always the one who finds a way not only back, but through.
There are many mountaintop stories in our scriptures and they often seem to represent times of great importance. As we have seen, the Gospel According to Matthew places a great collection of Jesus teachings within the Sermon on the Mount. According to Matthew this all takes place at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry before he has even chosen his twelve Apostles. It symbolizes the beginning of Jesus ministry and lays out the ideas and ideals that he will continue to teach. And Peter, as one of the first four disciples, was there.
It seems that, no matter where Jesus went or what he did, Peter was always there. In fact, Peter is mentioned more times in the gospels and in the Book of Acts than any other disciple and, with the exception of John, is actually mention more than all the other disciples combined.
In our reading today, when Jesus went up another mountain, the Mount of Transfiguration, it was once again Peter and the others who had been with Jesus in the beginning, that were there to witness the transformation. Perhaps the reason was because they had been there from the start. Perhaps, in some way, the time they had spent with Jesus had been preparing them for this experience.
When my sister turned 50, she and a friend made a commitment to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. They spent over a year hiking, climbing and preparing themselves. When they finally made the trip they were the only 2 members of the expedition who made the full summit. All the others had to drop out, at various points, due to altitude sickness. Because they had studied, researches and prepared themselves to the very best of their ability, they were able to reach their goal despite all obstacles.
Climbing mountains, whether they are physical mountains or the figurative mountains that are part of our journey as we follow Christ, requires not only commitment, perseverance, and faith, it also requires preparation.
Jesus had tried to prepare his disciples for what lie ahead of them. He had talked openly with them about the danger of going to Jerusalem. He had warned them that he would be killed. He had also promised them the resurrection, but until they were prepared to face his death, they could not even begin to understand the promise of resurrection.
And so, as he prepared himself for the journey to Jerusalem, a journey that would lead to the cross, Jesus again went up a mountain, taking with him Peter, James and John. We are told that, as the disciples watched, Jesus began to glow with a heavenly light. Then suddenly, standing with Jesus and talking to him, they saw Moses and Elijah.
Unfortunately, once again, Peter seems to falter. He wants to build three shelters there and remain on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Like often seems to happen, Peter responds instinctively without taking time to think about what he is saying. In that moment, the wonder and awe of what is happening overwhelms him and he wants nothing more than to hold on to it as long as he can.
But why is it that it is Moses and Elijah that appear with Jesus? What was the significance of these two that made them so important?
The presence of Moses and of Elijah are very symbolic. Moses not only received the 10 Commandment but, during the time of wandering in the wilderness, it was Moses that helped to establish the laws by which the people would continue to live. These laws were, and still are, often referred to as the Laws of Moses. Therefore the presence of Moses represented the law.
Elijah, represented the prophets. Elijah is the first of the prophets to play a major role in the history of Jewish people. He appeared in the northern kingdom of Israel almost 50 years before Joel appeared in Judah and almost a hundred years before Isaiah. We are also told that it was Elijah who was taken up to heaven in a golden chariot, never having had to face death. He therefore become the representation of all of the prophets.
If Peter had taken the time to think about all of this, he might have remembered Jesus telling his disciples that he had come, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill all of the law and the prophecies. In this single experience, in this one moment in time, the embodiment of the law and the embodiment of the prophets, become one with Christ.
The thing is that, although he may react before he thinks, Peter always seem to not only catch up, but to frequently become the first to truly understand. As they began to descend from the mountain, we are told that Peter, James and John remembered something else about Elijah. It was said that Elijah must return before the coming of the Messiah, and we are told that these three disciples come to understand that John the Baptist, who came foreshadowing Jesus, was the embodiment of this prophecy.
But there was one more mountain that still lay ahead for Jesus and for his disciples. It was the place of the skull, the hill known as Golgotha. Ultimately this was the climb that Jesus had been preparing them for from the very beginning. And despite a number of slips and stumbles, it is a journey that Peter eventually not only embraces, but helps to guide others to follow.
Today, we too climb that mountain that leads to the transfiguration. Today we imagine ourselves standing in the awesome light and wonder of the Divine Presence of Christ. Today we image how overwhelming the experience would be and, if we are honest, like Peter, part of us longs to stay there forever.
But we cannot do that. Soon we will begin another journey, the journey that will lead us to that last mountain. Soon we will be called to follow Jesus through the Season of Lent to the mount of crucifixion. If we take seriously the call to walk this path with Jesus, it will not be an easy journey, but then the journey of faith never has been easy.
Fortunately we have been preparing for this journey all alone. Every time we have listened to the teachings of Jesus, every time we have put those teachings into action, every time we have shared our journey with someone else, we have been preparing to walk this Lenten Journey with Christ.
And so today, as we remember Christ’s awesome glory, we steel ourselves for the journey ahead and we commit ourselves to walk it boldly and faithfully to the very end. Amen.
Gift of Music Take Up Your Cross #561
We Offer Our Gifts
Our giving should be an expression of our gratitude and our devotion. Whatever you have to offer this day, whether it is what you place on the offering plates in the entrance to our church, what you offer through Par or online, or the offerings of your time, your talent and your prayers, let us sing offertory response and ask God’s blessing upon those gifts.
Offertory Response #538
For the gift of creation, the gift of your love
and the gift of the Spirit by which we live
we thank you and give you the fruit of our hands.
May your grace be proclaimed by the gifts that we give.
© 1976 Frieda Major Music. Robert Fleming. Used with permission Onelicense .net #A-723756
We Offer Our Prayers
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Creator of all, you created light and sent you send your light into our world. You sent Jesus into a world of darkness as its light and hope. Yet, like children chasing fireflies, we long to capture that light, bottle it up and keep if for ourselves so that we can always hold on to the experience of that light and the joy and wonder it inspires. Remind us that you have called us to be the light of the world and to let your light shine through us.
And so today as we gather in prayer, we seek new ways to let our light shine for others whose light may be growing dim, or who see not light and instead find themselves stumbling around in the dark…
Help us to shine the light of hope to those who are discouraged, frightened, dejected, disillusioned and hopeless…
Help us to shine the light of your peace to all those who struggle in the midst of conflict, war, terrorism, physical, emotional, sexual or mental abuse, or any of the other many forms of violence and hatred…
Help us to shine your light of love to those who feel unloved, those who are hated, are abused, are bullied, are disenfranchised or who live in situation were love seems to be for others but not for them…
Help us to shine your light of grace for those who have given up, those who no longer believe that it is possible for God to love them, those who feel, unloved, unappreciated, unneeded and unwanted…
Help to shine your light of faith, for those who long to believe yet struggle, those who are weighed down with long time with chronic illnesses, those who are frustrated, angry, cynical of hopeless…
Divine Source, we carry your light into this world for all to see. Help us to hold it high in the name of the one in whose name we gather. Amen
Gift of Music How Good, Lord, to Be Here #103
May the path that Christ walked to bring justice to the earth, to bring light to those in darkness, to bring freedom to those in bondage, and to bring hope to all people, be the path that we walk each day of our lives. And may we go out from here knowing that, wherever we walk, and wherever the path leads, God directs us, Christ’s example guides us and the Spirt walks with us and within us, now and always. Let us go with God.
Choral Blessing MV#222
May the peace of God be your peace.
May the love of God be the love you show.
May the joy of God be the joy you know,
and may the world that God would see be found in you.
© November 2001 Neil MacLaren. email@example.com. Used with permission Onelicense .net #A-723756