The Transfiguration of the Lord
Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos basados en el leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé.
The mystery and awe of God's holy presence: God calls Moses up on the mountain, and Moses enters the cloud of God's glory.
Psalm 99 (UMH 819).
Tone 1 in D major (See p. 737.)
2 Peter 1:16-21.
Peter says, "We had been eyewitnesses of his majesty ... we were with him on the holy mountain ... So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed."
Matthew's account of the Transfiguration.
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Today is The Feast of the Transfiguration, a major Feast Day, and one of the two “bookends” of the Season after Epiphany (the first was Baptism of the Lord). Whether it is the first Sunday or not (in this case it is), today is a day to celebrate Holy Communion.
Today also functions as a transitional Sunday from the Season after Epiphany to Lent. We move from one mountain where Jesus offered the sermon we’ve been listening to these past four weeks to another where Jesus is transfigured and a few of his disciples get a glimpse of his true glory. Next week, we find ourselves with Jesus, tempted in the desert.
As on all major feast days, all of the readings are connected to each other on this day with a focus on the gospel reading. We celebrate Transfiguration today as a reminder that the one who leads us through the coming season of penitence and preparation is preparing us to participate in such glory with him both now and at his second coming.
Today also marks the first Sunday in Women’s History Month.
On the denominational calendar, a second possible date for Scouting Sunday is scheduled for next Sunday, March 9. Two dates are provided each year with the aim of avoiding this observance during Lent. If you have not already celebrated this Sunday earlier (February 9), consider rescheduling such celebrations until Ordinary Time after Pentecost, or find some way to include a recognition of scouts that does not distract from Lenten disciplines and emphases.
April 13-19 Holy Week
April 13: Palm/Passion Sunday
April 17: Maundy Thursday
April 18: Good Friday
As with all Sundays that include denominational or other programmatic observances elements, keep in mind this advice from the Book of Worship:
“Such special Sundays should never take precedence over the particular day in the Christian year. The special Sundays are placed on the calendar in the context of the Christian year, which is designed to make clear the calling of the Church as the people of God.” (UMBOW, 422).
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Atmospherics: Being Transfigured
The Feast of the Transfiguration, which we celebrate today, is not primarily a commemoration of an event in the life of Jesus. If it were, it would be a sign of disobedience to the very story we tell on this day. The voice from heaven clearly instructs Peter, James, and John not to set up shrines to commemorate this event. Instead, their call, and ours, is to keep listening to the teaching of Jesus, now revealed in all his glory. What they had witnessed then was no special effects spectacle, but rather a powerful symbolic affirmation of all that was at stake both in Jesus himself and their (and our) continuing obedience to him.
Today isn’t about razzle-dazzle and special effects for worship, either. As tempting as it may be to go there, don’t. This year’s “worship spectacle” will be “so last week” in less than seven days in our current culture. So don’t invest in graphics or special lighting. Invest in good reading. Tell this story well. Telling the story well doesn’t mean telling it with too much expression (vocal razzle-dazzle is no more helpful and may be even more distracting than visual!). It means letting the words be the words they are, pronouncing them well, and offering the whole at a steady, understandable pace, and perhaps a time of silence following it. Let the words themselves provide the images and sounds and awe in people’s imaginations—these words and your congregation are more than capable of it!
How people may respond to the story of this “visionary experience” is likely to vary. Some may have had visions of this kind themselves and find it both plausible and affirming. Others are likely to think this some sort of bizarre fairy tale. Both can be missing the point if the point is the literality of the events described rather than the meaning this story and the broader biblical story we also hear today supplies for them. Did Peter and the others see this? Our reading from 2 Peter this morning affirms they did. But even they didn’t place their stock in what they saw, but rather what it meant: that in the face of Jesus in their midst they were seeing the face of God’s Beloved.
We are the body of Christ. His transfiguration points to ours here in this life and, after our resurrection with Christ, in the new creation. All of us who seek to be disciples of Jesus are being transfigured here in this life, through the power of the Holy Spirit, from glory to glory, that we may attain entire holiness, perfection in love in this life. That process continues, as we cooperate with it, even when the more momentary revelations cease or are forgotten.
The momentary revelations happen, too, for many of us. And they are a blessing whenever and however they reach us in our bodies. Sometimes they come through visions where we ourselves see something of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Many testify that they come by tasting that glory in his body and blood offered to us at the Lord's Table. For some, they come more frequently hearing the word sung or spoken and our minds and hearts igniting with the glory of it. For others, by touching or being touched with a mercy and strength we did not know we had or could receive. And perhaps imperceptibly but no less powerfully, they can come through smells that transport our souls in awe and wonder.
No matter how such revelations come, the transfiguration of Jesus, and ours in such moments, is not for himself or for us. It is instead for the sake of God's mission, God’s unceasing effort to redeem the whole creation, and in that process to save us and save us to the uttermost.
In Your Planning Team
This is a “segue Sunday” and “feast day” rolled into one. Plan to celebrate. Sing “big hymns” or praise songs to rejoice in the majesty of God with us. Celebrate Holy Communion grandly. Have a party or a potluck after worship, and feast in each other’s fellowship. Say and sing lots of Alleluias. Rejoice!
And… and remember the reason for this rejoicing. It’s not just because you need to get the feasting and the Alleluias “out of your system” before entering a season of fasting and, for most Christians for many centuries, no Alleluias again until the Easter Vigil or Easter morning. We rejoice this day in the hope and power of the Transfigured One as we embark on a season in which we will actively seek transformation in heart and life with those preparing for baptism at Easter and for ourselves who accompany them, as well. The one who shines in glory is clear about the cost of discipleship to him: everything we have. His glorification assures us in the intensification of self denial, fasting, penitence, acts of justice and compassion, and acts of devotion and worship we will give ourselves to in the seven weeks ahead.
Today, we rejoice. Wednesday, we begin the fast. Always, we listen to Jesus.
So even as you plan for rejoicing and feasting today, plan sermon and perhaps the final hymn to point toward the fasting about to come.
Celebrate and make the segue toward Lent today with the hope that today’s celebration may continue the Spirit’s ongoing work of sanctifying, transfiguring your congregation into that glorious body on the mountain that immediately then goes into the valley to cast out demons, heal diseases, declare justice, forgive sins, bless the poor, and teach all who will become his disciples to do the same -- living fully as Christ’s baptized body in the world.
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BOW 318 (Exodus, Transfiguration)
- BOW 319 (Transfiguration)
- BOW 462 (Transfiguration)
- UMH 259 (Transfiguration)
Prayer of Confession
BOW 478 (Psalm, Transfiguration)
Prayers of Intercession
- BOW 525
- BOW 504
- BOW 542
- The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Monacoand San Marino
Great Thanksgiving for Communion
- BOW 36-38 (General)
- A Great Thanksgiving for Transfiguration Sunday OR
BOW 58-59 (for Epiphany with the insertion at the bracket of the following):
On the mountain he was transfigured, brighter than the sun,
appearing with Moses and Elijah as witnesses
of his glory as your beloved son.
Here before his temptation, ministry,
passion, and suffering on the cross,
you gave a foretaste of the resurrection,
confirming in us the prophetic message of
Emmanuel, "God with us."
Dismissal with Blessing
BOW 559 and 560
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