- Revised Common Lectionary Readings
- Worship Planning Notes
- Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship
The Transfiguration of Jesus. Fresco, St. George Church, Kurbinovo, Macedonia, 12th century. Public Domain.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário em português, Lecionário comum revisado
Exodus 34:29-35 Moses returns from Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant. His face shines in a way that frightens the people. He begins to wear a veil when he instructs the people. He takes it off when offering worship in the tabernacle.
Psalm Response: Psalm 99 (UMH 819). "The Lord reigns; let the people tremble!" A call to praise in response to the reading from Exodus. If singing the Psalm, use the sung response with the Psalm sung to Tone 1 in D major.
2 Corinthians 3:12—4:2. Paul uses the "veiling" motif from the first reading, but here referring to a then-current Jewish liturgical practice at the reading of the Law. He speaks by contrast of the church's ongoing access to the glory of God in the face of Jesus and to describe the integrity with which he approaches his own mission.
Luke 9:28-36 (37-43). While Jesus was praying on a mountain, his face and clothing changed to dazzling white, Moses and Elijah appeared, and a voice from a cloud said, "This is my Son, my chosen. Listen to him!"
Worship Planning Notes
Today is the Sunday of Transfiguration. It is the “second bookend” of the Season after Epiphany, and it functions also as segue or “bearings” into Lent. As with all bearings, Transfiguration Sunday has the role of redirecting energy from one focus to another. In this case, it both closes the evangelism or “regrounding” focus of the Season after Epiphany and opens up the hands-on discipling focus of Lent. Be sure you plan and lead worship today to accomplish all of these tasks confidently and smoothly.
The Transfiguration of the Lord is a major Feast Day in the life of the church, and so should include the celebration of Holy Communion. A Great Thanksgiving for Transfiguration Sunday is available on our website.
Lent begins February 10 with Ash Wednesday. The color for that day and the Season of Lent is purple. The primary purpose of Lent as a season is to prepare candidates for baptism and the baptized for professing membership and faithful discipleship to Jesus. Here are resources to help your team plan a Lenten series of worship and formational processes, continuing through Easter Season, to fulfill that purpose.
Resources for Planning Upcoming Seasons
Planning Lent and Easter as Seasons for Discipling 2016 (Webinar with links to handouts)
Resources for Lent
Resources for Holy Week
Resources for Easter Season
Today also marks the first Sunday in Black History Month (basic resources). See also our 21st Century Liturgy Resources, our online collection of more than 300 calls to worship, prayers, confessions of faith, and other resources for all three years of the lectionary and special occasions in multiple cultural traditions. And consider, how you may use the resources of the new Africana Hymnal and related resources throughout this month.
Upcoming Sundays and Special Days
All Month Black History Month
February 7 Transfiguration of the Lord
February 10 Ash Wednesday, and Lent Begins
February 14 Scouting Ministries Sunday (or observe after Lent)
February 15 Presidents Day (USA)
All Month Women’s History Month
March 4 World Day of Prayer / (Discipleship Ministries resources)
March 6 One Great Hour of Sharing (with Offering)
March 13 Daylight Saving Time Begins (Time Change Song)
March 20 Passion/Palm Sunday
March 20-26 Holy Week
March 24 Maundy Thursday
March 25 Good Friday
March 26 Holy Saturday (morning) Great Vigil (after sunset); Brief Version
March 27 Easter Sunday
The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord is a major feast day in the life of the church. It marks the end of the Ordinary Time after Epiphany. The first “bookend” of this season was the Baptism of the Lord. His transfiguration is the second. The season, overall, represents the whole of the journey of discipleship to Jesus from rebirth to entire sanctification.
Throughout this season, we’ve focused on “getting ready to get ready,” whether through a focus on evangelism and inviting people to the journey of discipleship (OT/Gospel) or through a focus on getting the core issues of life in the church in the power of the Spirit right before we begin that journey (I Corinthians).
Now we have just one more day in worship to get ready before we launch into the intensive formational work of Lent in three days’ time.
So here’s the question for you and your team: What final bit of work related to the texts of this Sunday do you need to do before you start into Lent on Wednesday?
From the transfiguration text in Luke, in particular Luke 9:35, what do you most need to listen to Jesus about before Lent begins?
The three texts for today provide three different angles of approach.
In Exodus, a powerful and direct encounter with the glory of God leads to the transfiguration of Moses and his transformation as a leader of worship and community discipline thereafter. Is your community transformed first through expressive or “awe-filled” worship and then through action? You may wish to focus on Exodus. We may at once find our faces shining with God's glory, and yet sense a need for a veil — either for our own sake or for the sake of others. This use of imagery would work well when focusing on the experience of God's glory and using primarily Exodus and the Psalm as texts.
In 2 Corinthians, the focus is much more pragmatic. Paul here critiques then-contemporary Jewish liturgical practice in some quarters (using a veil during the reading of the Law). Paul is arguing that Christians neither veil their faces nor their minds when they encounter Scripture because in it they see Jesus, and in Jesus they see the glory of God reflected, a glory that transforms us as we continue to encounter him in our lived experience and through Scripture.
But this point about veiling is only subsidiary to Paul's main point in this section of this letter and in the reading today, in 4:1-4. Paul’s point isn’t just about worship. It’s about how Christians live their lives. Christians are able to live as "unveiled" representatives of Christ in the world, with nothing to hide. They have renounced shameful practices, do not play politics or con games, refuse to do anything to falsify the word of God (all referenced in our first baptismal vow) and instead boldly speak the truth with authenticity (the fourth vow). What examples of "unveiled ministry" in your congregation or community might you be able to share as this text is being read or proclaimed?
So if your community has strong systems or is seeking to strengthen its systems for personal transformation and personal discipline during these weeks, and not simply through worship, the Epistle may be your best focus.
Luke offers yet a third approach, one that may seem to overstep Lent and move straight to Holy Week. This is because, especially in Luke, the story of the Transfiguration is intended to call attention to the teaching of Jesus that precedes it, and not to itself.
Luke makes the most explicit connection between the transfiguration event and Jesus’ previous teaching. He pins this story directly to a time "eight days after these sayings" (Luke 9:28). When the voice from the cloud says "Listen to him," (Luke 9:35), it is referring primarily to those same sayings.
"These sayings" are what Jesus taught in response to Peter's confession and rebuke — that the Son of Man will suffer, be executed and raised on the third day, and that followers of Jesus must deny themselves or expect to lose their souls (Luke 9:21-27). That the representatives of the Law and the Prophets spoke to Jesus in connection with these hard sayings ratified that what Jesus has just taught them is the Law and the Prophets, the very word of God from the Chosen one of God.
Listen to him, said the voice from the cloud. Listen to Jesus. Let what he told you about what’s at stake and what’s coming sink in. Listen.
The transfiguration thus also calls disciples back to the realities of their vocation. They were called by Jesus to follow Jesus to life through death in all its power, and not around it. That they have seen something glorious doesn’t give them superpowers. They still have to listen to Jesus. They still have to depend on Jesus. They still have to struggle with evil and death, here and now.
As do we.
So they head down the mountain the next day. And in the valley below, they saw evil and death doing their worst among the people, just as they had encountered time and time again before they ascended the mountain with their Teacher.
They saw a crowd of people gathered. People in need. People who were sick. People who were desperate for deliverance.
And they encountered, immediately, the limits of their own power to deal with any of it. A father cries out to Jesus for help for his son about whose conditions his disciples could do nothing. The disciples just plain couldn’t do it. Presumably the “strongest” of them—Peter, James and John who were with him on the mountain, had tried.
But Jesus could, and did.
We join the crowd this day in being astounded at the power of God revealed in Jesus.
And we join the disciples in hearing the call: “Listen to him.”
Each of these readings individually, and all of them together, describe “mind-blowing” encounters with the glory of God. We conclude the Season after Epiphany and enter Lent not with a sense of heaviness and dread about “what we may give up” or the challenges we may be asked to face as we are prepared or prepare others to take their next steps in covenant faithfulness to Christ in baptism, professing membership, or reaffirmation come Easter. Instead, we enter this “solemn season” graced to expect the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may very well “blow our minds” and ignite our hearts as we seek to follow the one who leads through death to eternal life.
In Your Planning Team
Today the Season after Epiphany closes, and we stand on the precipice of Lent.
The closing of any series or season calls for both a recap of where you’ve been, a celebration of where you’ve arrived, and a foretaste of where you’re heading. A focus on the transfiguration of Jesus through the lens of any of today’s readings, or just the gospel itself, can help you do all of that.
With such a strong need for transition today from a season of invitation and anticipation to a season of discipline and formation, you and your team may find yourselves tempted to move from recap to foretaste, and skip what lies between—celebrating the hope Christ opens for our own transfiguration, our own perfection in love, our own entire sanctification in this life.
Instead, truly make that celebration the centerpiece of all you do today. To help do that, you might consider a tagline or an “anchor image” (Marcia McFee’s term) to help guide your planning around the core text you choose. As you read these texts, what one word (preferably a verb) most comes to mind? Choose music and build graphics and other atmospherics that reflect that word throughout the service. And craft the story arc of the associations with this one word to help you take the journey from the end of one season, to the celebration of the transfigured Lord in your midst and the promise of entire sanctification for you in this life, to the work of listening deeply to Jesus that lies ahead in Lent.
Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW) with links and other suggestions
Call to Worship: BOW 205 "Shine on Me" (Exodus, 2 Corinthians, Luke, Black History)
Greeting: BOW 318 (Exodus, Psalm, Luke)
Hymn: The Africana Hymnal 4004, “Awesome God”
Prayer: UMH 259 Transfiguration (Luke)
Prayer: UMH 477 For Illumination (2 Corinthians)
Prayer: BOW 319 (Luke)
Response to Prayer: UMH 168, stanza 4, "At the Name of Jesus" (Luke)
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Great Thanksgiving: Great Thanksgiving for Transfiguration Sunday
Blessing: BOW 566, Sarum Blessing (Exodus; “God be in your head…”)
Dismissal with Blessing (Benediction): BOW 190, "Benediction" (Black History)
Dismissal with Blessing (2 Corinthians)
A deacon or one or more laypersons declares the following to the congregation:
(If more than one layperson dismisses the people, each may speak a different part of the dismissal from the front or among the people.)
Since you are engaged in ministry
by your baptism into Christ,
do not lose heart.
You have renounced the shameful things that one hides;
refuse to practice cunning or to play games with God's word.
Live the truth
so that anyone who knows you
will experience the nearness of God in you.
Do not proclaim yourselves,
but proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord
and yourselves as God's servants for Jesus' sake.
I send you into the world
to serve God and your neighbor in all that you do.
(adapted from 2 Cor. 4:1-2, 5)
Then the pastor offers a Trinitarian blessing.