YEAR C, TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS

[Note: Within the Uniting Church of Australia, Transfiguration is celebrated on the last Sunday before Lent, as a climax to the Season of Epiphany. Some other churches observe it on the first Sunday of Lent,.]

 

Luke 9:28-36                                                                                       (Sermon 1: “The Real Thing”)

                                                                                                             (Sermon 2: “Seek Your Mountain’)

2 Corinthians 3:12 to 4:2

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99

 

PREPARATION

 

The light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

There are precious times when the light of God strikes us; Our whole being for a moment is illuminated. Things that were clouded become clear, faith that had been foggy becomes lucid. We cannot manufacture these times. They are gifts from God.

 

Today we celebrate such a special gift-time in the life of the disciples.

While Jesus was praying, his face was transfigured,

and his clothes became dazzling white..........

 and when the disciples woke up, they saw his glory.

 

OR ¾

 

The light of Christ be upon you and within you.

And also with you.

 

Christ is unique; the one human being who was utterly transfigured by the light of God.

 

All of us, with faces uncovered as we look upon the radiance of the Lord Jesus, are being changed, bit by bit, into his likeness

 

Come let us extol the Lord our God

let us worship at his footstool;

For the Lord our God is utterly holy!

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

God our most holy Friend, today grant us as much of the light of Christ as we can bear, that we may be rescued from the illusions and shadows that inhibit our faith, our worship and our daily service.  Grant us a transfiguring moment or two, that we may discern something of your beauty and worship your immeasurable love. Through this same Christ Jesus who makes all things new.

Amen!

 

PETITION AND ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

 

Lord have mercy                     Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.                   Christ have mercy.

Lord have mercy                     Lord have mercy.

 

That the radiance of Christ may shine into those dark, dank cellars of the mind, where we entertain negative thoughts and mull over ideas for revenge against those who have hurt us.

Saviour Christ, come and heal us..

Radiant Christ, come and  transform us

 

That the radiance of Christ may shine in the dark depths of the soul, where we bear the burden of sad regrets and the guilt of failed faith and love.

Saviour Christ, come and heal us.

Radiant Christ, come and transform us.

 

That the radiance of Christ may drive out the darkness of sin and ignorance, release us from servitude of guilt, and renew the fullness of our being for a life of fruitfulness and joy.

Saviour Christ, come and heal us.

Radiant Christ, come and transform us.

 

ASSURANCE PRAYER

 

We thank you, loving God, for the mercy which leaves no sin untouched,  no wild part of the soul unchallenged, and no thirst for true righteousness unsatisfied. From the beginning to end you are grace, mercy and peace. Through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Thanks be to God!  Hallelujah

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

Shiny, Like Jesus

 

Dear God,

            when will people become more love-shiny,

            like Jesus?

 

I hope it won’t be too long,

            cos things are in big mess here on earth.

 

Please put the Spirit of Jesus into billions of hearts,

            so that his shininess can change us from inside out.

 

You know,  can start with me and my mates,

            if you like?

Amen!

 

PSALM 99

 

The awesome love of God rules;

            let all nations and rulers tremble!

 

God wears the light of galaxies;

            let our little earth shake!

Greater than the holiest temples,

            shaper of time and space;

let humanity tremble in awe

            and worship such Otherness!

 

Exquisite lover of justice,

            you uphold sincere goodness.

Wherever there is impartial love

            it is your doing.

Let everyone sing your praises

            and fall at your holy feet.

 

Among today’s prophets

            you still have a Moses and Elijah.

Where there are sincere priests,

            there is found a new Samuel.

Pillars of fire still guide,

            and the law of love still stands.

 

O unspeakable Name,

            even now you hear your people.

You take evil to task,

            yet you are forgiving God.

We celebrate such awesome love,

            we exult in the Lord our God!

                                                                                    ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

TRANSFIGURATION.

 

It could have been on Mt Wellington

or on St Mary’s Peak,

up there with Christ something went on

which words could never speak.

 

It could have been Liz, or Jack or Fay,

Grechen, Nardoo or Ruth,

with Peter, James and John that day

when they saw blazing truth.

 

It could have been an Aussie voice

that spoke to them like thunder:

“Listen to him, my chosen Son,”

and left them dazed with wonder.

 

It could now be at scenic Bright

or maybe Botony Bay,

that human souls still see the light

of Love that’s here to stay.

                                                            ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

COLLECT

 

God of the Light that preceded all things and exceeds all things, you have transfigured one of our human brothers with a beauty not seen before or since. As you named Jesus your chosen Son, sustain in us the faith to name him Brother, Saviour, and Lord. And having so named him, give us the courage to gladly follow him to the very end, and from there, into the light that shall never fade. In his name and for his praise.

Amen!

 

SERMON 1: THE REAL THING

 

Luke 9:  29 and 35

 

As Jesus was praying, the look on his face altered, and his clothes became radiant white...........

 and a cloud came over them, and a voice  spoke out of the cloud:

“This is my own Son, the chosen one; listen to him.”

 

If you reckon the story of the transfiguration is a bit “way out,” then you are definitely on the right track. If your mind gags when you try to understand it, then I think Luke would be delighted.

 

You should mentally gag; you should puzzle over the picture that Luke frames for you.  You should feel out of your depth, because you are out of your depth! Far out of your depth!

 

Luke, in telling the transfiguration story, is attempting to convey the confounding mystery of Christ Jesus.  A mystery which in the final analysis is : “inaccessible to human mind and tongue” [to quote the New Testament scholar, Eduard Schweizer.]

 

It is a story of enlightenment; an epiphany story. That is why some churches, like ours, use this Gospel reading at the end of the Epiphany Season; so that theme of enlightenment which started weeks ago with the coming of the Wise Men, is summed up at Transfiguration. It is another shot at encapsulating the good news: “We have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.

 

A REVELATION OF A UNIVERSAL CONSTANT

 

That shining “otherness” which they saw in Jesus of Nazareth, was not a one-off event

 

Peter, James and John experienced a brief break-through; they saw the Holy Light which had been there all the time. The glory is mostly hidden, but on the mountain they were given a blinding glimpse

 

It is the Light which had been since the beginning. A universal constant.

 

The God-light had always been. Glimmers came through in the ethical insights of Moses, the visions of Isaiah, and the “tell-it-as-it-is” faith of the Psalms.

 

It was there when Jesus while a boy, went with his parents to the Temple and ended up asking  hard questions of the rabbis. It was present when he was baptised in the Jordan and when he went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. The God-light was focused in him when Jesus went public in the Galilee province. The disciples had sensed it when Jesus called them.

 

In his parables and healings, in the compassion of Jesus for the outsiders, folk dimly but surely knew they were in the presence of a profoundly enlightened person.

 

The Godlight was there when he shared a last meal with his friends, when he anguished in the garden of Gethsemene, when he was arrested and abused. It was exquisitely there on that awesome day when the sun was eclipsed, and from a cross in the darkness Jesus gave a loud cry.

 

It was gloriously present  in the resurrection experience.

 

It had been shining since before the foundation of the universe, and it will be when this cosmos is no more.

 

IN WHICH WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING

 

I would even go further. I believe the God-Light that we glimpse in Christ, is always all around us every day, in every place, with every person.  Certainly it was in Jesus that the Godlight was sharply and uniquely focussed. But it is the same Infra-Light in which we live and move and have our being.

 

This Light is not some alien force. It’s at the heart of our very existence. For those of  us who have been given the priceless joy of sensing the Light of God in Christ, there is the secondary joy of glimpsing the same Light shining through the veil of this physical and secular world.

 

Nature, which in its changing moods remains an enigma for most of those who do not see the Face of God in Jesus, becomes for believers another vehicle of light.

 

Walk in the rain forest or sit at sunset by the restless seas; the inner light is there, encouraging the enlightened.

 

Hear the many words of Scripture; so human and yet so soul piercing and uplifting for the poor and the meek.

 

Receive the Bread and the Wine: there is glory  for those who want to be nourished by the True Light.

 

Foster the fellowship of the church; even two or three gathered in Christ’s name is enough for the enlightened.

 

Reach out to the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned, and the outcaste, and we can find some of the Transfiguration glory present.

 

Because Christ was transfigured, all things are now transfigured for those who climb with him up the mountain, or descend with him down to the dusty plain.

 

WHAT BLESSED NONSENSE!

 

Am I talking nonsense?

 

Of course I am! Yes!. Thank God!

 

Like Luke, like the other New Testament evangelists, I too make a fool of myself whenever I attempt to speak of the radiant mystery of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

It may all sound like nonsense to doubters, but it is not deceit. It is for real. This is the special truth which “if it makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

 

I wager my life on this Jesus, rather than on the wisest of our economic rationalists, or the most brilliant scientific humanists, or the wittiest politicians, or the extravagantly eulogised stars of film or sport who deign to give us their smattering of life philosophy.

 

Compare Jesus, all he said, all he did, with what else is offering. Compare Jesus, and shake in your shoes for all those tragic people who have hived off after lesser lights, or have been sucked in by the tacky illuminations of tinsel town.

 

As Jesus was praying, the look on his face altered, and his clothes became radiant white...........

and a cloud came over them, and a voice  spoke out of the cloud:

“This is my own Son, the chosen one; listen to him.”              Luke 9:  29 and 35

 

Inept we may be when trying to describe this sacred Light, but we know the Real Thing when it comes our way.

 

“And in that light of Christ we’ll walk, till travelling days are done.”

 

 

SERMON 2: SEEK YOUR MOUNTAIN

 

Luke 9: 29-31

 

Jesus was transfigured with holy radiance.

            As Jesus was on the mountain praying, the appearance of his face was altered,

            and his clothes shone dazzling white. Then, those two men, Moses and Elijah,

            appeared in a blaze of glory, and  came to stand with Jesus, and spoke with him

            about the exit he would soon make in Jerusalem.        Luke 9:29-31

 

Transfiguration!  Wow!  Awesome! No wonder Simon Peter did not know what to say!

 

But typical of ebullient Peter, he blurted something out something anyway; that stuff about building brushood huts to accommodate the holy three.  Those 3 disciples had an experience of God the Holy One; of that one perfect “Otherness” who fills heaven and earth, embracing both the living Christ and the dead Moses and Elijah.

 

 Such an experience can leave us, like Peter: either speechless or blurting out silly things.

 

WHICH THEME?

 

Last year, on the day before Transfiguration, a minister in Victoria  (the Rev. David Anderson) was speaking on the phone with his brother on tropical Magnetic Island in sunny Queensland. David’s brother is a lay preacher, and together they discussed what they would preach about the next day.  What theme they would follow.

 

They discussed the common theme most often heard from pulpits on Transfiguration Day. Namely that as wonderful and spiritual such mountain-top experiences may be, the real task lies back on the dusty plains below.

 

Then the brother said: “With the sad way things are around us in the world are these days, maybe we should remind people of the glory found on the mountain.”

 

ENJOY THE MOUNTAIN TOP

 

That is my theme today: enjoy the mountain top.

 

Seek your mountain with Christ and spend some time there. Get yourself up and above the smog of worry and toil.  Climb with Jesus above the anxiety, fear, hatred and cynicism that dominates international politics. Rise above the jockeying and bad-mouthing that infects much secular life. Leave behind the brief comforts of those things which money can buy and stand with Christ in moments of glory.

 

Up on the mountain, Peter, James and John saw pure glory.  Undiluted. The light which they had glimpsed in fragmentary ways as they travelled with Jesus, was now openly displayed.. There was something extra about Jesus; an element of the numinous, something unexplainable, some “love-otherness” which the crowds, blind folk, lepers and social outcastes experienced. Now up there on the mountain side, three ordinary men  were ‘gob-smacked,’ overwhelmed with the fullness of this light. Jesus was transfigured. They were rapt in pure awe.

 

Seek your mountain, my friends.

 

That means, go often as possible to those situations where you feel close to Jesus and his God, and become aware of that holy, majestic, radiant Love that cherishes you. Seek the joy of that “Otherness” who loves you utterly at amazing cost. Seek that Light which hurts your eyes and uncovers your shame, yet at the same time blessedly heals you. You and I need to experience wonder and awe in the presence of Christ.

 

What constitutes the “mountain” will vary from person to person.

 

For some it will be quiet Bible Reading, for some praying under the stars, for others the fellowship of worship and the awesome wonder of the Lord’s Table. For yet others it will be forms of meditation, a retreat experience in community, or standing outdoors at dawn  with open arms, or maybe fasting. And for some it may be immersing yourself in the story of the prodigal son, or losing yourself in the singing of ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ or “Shine Jesus, shine, fill the world with your grace and glory.”. And for some dear folk,  your mountain top may be here this morning in this house of prayer.

 

Though you cannot go back in time, nor be able to physically visit some of your holy mountains,  you can revisit in your mind and soul.   Recall where and when you have sensed the unique glory of God. Dwell again in them. Contemplate those special occasions when something Holy broke through the mundane stuff of existence, and left you awe-struck at the wonder of the Infinite Creator and Lover and Redeemer.

 

WALLOW IN THE WONDER OF IT ALL

 

Consider the wonder of it all!  Wallow in it!

 

The radiance of God? Often people too easily mouth that little word ‘God.’ Behind it lies the immensity of the universe and the power of a billion, billion, billion suns. Behind it lies the terrible power of black holes and other cosmic mysteries.  We say the little word “God” and from it flows millions of millennia on earth, and a patient Purpose working itself out on this planet, even down the very-recent million years human habitation..

 

When we Christians say the word God, there is an even greater wonder. For us that word  G.O.D is enlarged and hallowed and glorified by a man called Jesus. We are drawn into the Mystery of incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.

 

This God who comes so completely down to earth through Christ Jesus, who hangs broken on a torture stake and screamed that he felt utterly forsaken, is the same God whose glory, power and wisdom can never be measured. God is overwhelming wonder. God is Light beyond all light. Mental ability far beyond all genius. Beauty beyond all beauty. Love beyond all love. Glory beyond all glory. Yet God is revealed in the life death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

There on that mountain is Galilee, the three disciples clearly saw this unspeakable glory which focussed on, and emanated from, Jesus of Nazareth. Here was the sacred “Otherness”. They recognised that radiant cloud which the Jews called the ‘shekinah’; the radiant cloud of God’s Holy Presence.

 

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying :”This is my beloved Son, my chosen one. Listen to him.”

 

Consider the wonder of it all! Delight in it. Wallow in it

 

RISK YOURSELF ON THE MOUNTAIN

 

Risk yourself, I beg you.

 

Risk placing yourself, though we are all vulnerable and ignorant and soiled. Risk yourself in the presence of such Absolute Holiness. Let yourself be gathered into it. Let God carry the weight of your life and the massed load of the world’s worries.  Risk awe, risk feeling tiny, risk feeling foolish, risk feeling sinful, and risk feeling loved with a searing Love that searches your soul with intermingled pain and joy.

 

The dusty plains of daily existence will always await us. I do not underestimate the importance of that. Of course, that is where our faith must be worked out.

 

But we are likely to flounder around unfocussed, clumsy, and anxious, unless we regularly humble ourselves in the presence of the glory of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Risk yourself and visit the mountain often!

 

THANKSGIVING

 

Most wonderful God, we thank you for the gift of light.

For the merry old sun, rising from the East and calling us to a new day.

For moonlight and starlight, awakening a sense of wonder and serenity.

 

Thanks for street light, car light, traffic light and home light.

For the light in the eyes of a loved one coming to meet us.

For the light of compassion on the faces of counsellors, nurses and pastors.

 

Thank you for the supreme Light of divine love in the face of Christ Jesus.

For the radiance of his goodness, grace, truth and self sacrifice.

For the glorious light of Easter Day turning despair into celebration.

For his light in the church, exposing, challenging and guiding.

Thanks for the moments of his encouraging light in our individual lives

 

Most wonderful God, we praise you for all of gifts of light.

For the rising and healing Son who can never be eclipsed.

God of God, Light of Light!

Glory be to you, now and for ever!

                                    * Adapted from “Australian Prayers” page 106

                                    ©  B D Prewer & Open Book Publishers

 

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

God our Holy Friend, we pray that your light in Christ, unencumbered by the faults of your worshippers, may be seen and trusted by the people of the world. Wherever there is darkness,

Let the Light shine.

 

When there is trembling and superstition, timidity and a shrinking into deeper error and blindness of the spirit; wherever there is darkness,

Let the Light shine.

 

When there is intimidation and injustice, cruelty and false imprisonment,

addiction and bondage; wherever there is darkness,

Let the Light shine.

 

When there are none to stand up for the weak and the neglected, when good people don’t want to get involved and even the voice of the church is muted; wherever there is darkness,

Let the Light shine.

 

When people struggle on without hope, or suffer without being loved, or die without any faith; wherever there is darkness,

Let the Light shine.

 

When two or three gather in Christ’s name, when the needs of the world seem enormous and church resources meagre; wherever there is darkness,

Let the Light shine.

 

Holy Friend, by the light which can never be smothered, by the light  which is sufficient for fools, by the light which bursts free from deepest tombs,

guide our feet in the way everlasting. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen!

 

 

SENDING OUT

 

Go out of this place and walk in the amount of light that you have been given. Do not envy those who appear to have more than you, and never look down on those who appear to have less. From the beginning of this new week to its end, let Christ be your sufficiency.

 

Amen!  May Christ shine in our hearts through faith.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, receive the blessings which God has prepared for you before the universe began.

Amen!