Planning - Transfiguration Sunday/Last Sunday after Epiphany
See the texts, artwork, and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
2 Kings 2:1-12.
A story of discipleship and transition of leadership. Elisha dutifully stays with and follows his master, Elijah, knowing that Elijah is about to die. He seeks one final blessing from his master -- a double portion of his spirit. A chariot of fire receives Elijah into the sky.
Psalm 50:1-6 (UMH 783).
God calls the covenant people to assemble for a word of judgment and redemption.
2 Corinthians 4:3-6.
Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that his message was never about eloquent delivery, but always about "Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake." Just as the "god of this world" blinds those who do not receive the gospel, the true God of all opens the eyes of those who do.
Six days after explaining that he would be executed in Jerusalem, Jesus leads three of his disciples up a mountain where "he was transfigured before them." These disciples saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah and did not know how to respond. A voice from the cloud instructed them to listen to Jesus.
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Today is the last Sunday after Epiphany, celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday. Today, all the readings correspond to one another, centered around the gospel account of Jesus being transfigured in the sight of three of his disciples.
This Sunday is the transition, par excellence, between the Season after Epiphany and the beginning of Lent. Whichever of the two series you chose for the "meat" of this season (OT/Gospel on Calling and Discipleship or Epistle on Christian Lifeways), your task as worship planners today is to weave insights from that series, the story for today, and the purposes of the season of Lent about to begin so that today is the "bridge" it is intended to be.
Ash Wednesday is this coming Wednesday, February 22. For a more contemporary celebration of Ash Wednesday, click here. For other resources for Ash Wednesday, see our Ash Wednesday and Lent collection. And see Planning Lent and Easter for Congregation, Group, and Home, Year B.
February is Black History Month.
March 18, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is designated as One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday. The special offering collected this day underwrites the administrative and programming expenses of UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. UMCOR provides direct assistance, coordinates volunteers, and partners with organizations on the ground worldwide to bring both immediate and long-term relief after natural and human disasters. This special offering makes it possible for 100 percent of donations to specific projects to be spent solely on providing relief, with 0 percent administrative costs taken out of them.
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The season ends as it began, with a revelation of Jesus Christ and a voice from the sky.
On Baptism of the Lord Sunday, the revelation was to John, and perhaps to onlookers. The sky split open, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and a voice declared: "This is my beloved son. In him I am well pleased."
Today, on Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday, the revelation was to three disciples who accompanied Jesus to the top of a mountain. There, Jesus becomes dazzlingly bright, Moses and Elijah appear for a time, and a voice from a cloud declares, "This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him."
Through the intervening five weeks, we saw what it was about Jesus and his body the church that pleases God.
Starting this coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we enter the season of Lent, where our chief task is to walk alongside others and learn to listen deeply to Jesus.
For the past five weeks, we have primarily seen Jesus in action and have sought to learn from his deeds what we are to be as his disciples.
For the next six weeks, we will be hearing Jesus teach and seeking to take his words into our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Today marks the bright line between where we have been and where we are going from here.
Today, we are invited to make the transition from observing to deep listening.
And so today's readings offer dazzling sights all around. Elijah is taken up in a chariot of fire as his faithful disciple, Elisha watches. The psalm is filled with powerful images of earth shaking, storms raging, and fires consuming all. Paul reminds the people in Corinth what he had declared to them all along: "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And we see Jesus transfigured, with clothes becoming more brilliantly bright than anyone on earth could have made them. Glory after glory we see. All we have seen in these past weeks of Jesus and his ministry and all we have seen of the body of Christ and its lifeways, all of this is such glory.
But the pinnacle of this glory, today, and for the season to come, is no longer to see, but to listen.
Listen to the one who, six days earlier, had reminded these very disciples that his mission would inevitably lead him to execution in Jerusalem, and in three days, resurrection.
Listen to the one who tells them, just after this powerful encounter on the mountain, to tell no one what they saw until after the resurrection.
And so we enter Lent, preparing ourselves to do just that. We will listen to Jesus. We will listen for the voice of the Spirit in one another as we walk these weeks until the celebration of the Resurrection. We may say very little. But we will listen.
This is the shape of worship this day. Begin it with glory. Sing powerfully. Celebrate lavishly. Then move toward a listening silence in prayer, and an attentive celebration at the Lord's Table that honors the Transfigured One whose death, rising, and return transfigure all things.
You have seen his glory. Now go forth to listen for his teaching.
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Choral or sung call to worship: UMBOW
- UMBOW, 205, "Shine on Me" (2 Kings, Mark)
- UMBOW, 216, "Arise, Shine" (2 Kings, Mark)
- UMBOW, 306 (2 Corinthians)
- UMBOW, 318 (2 Kings, Mark)
Canticle: United Methodist Hymnal, 652, "Canticle of Remembrance" (2 Kings)
- UMBOW, 308 (Mark)
- UMBOW, 310 (Mark)
- United Methodist Hymnal, 259, "Transfiguration" (1 Corinthians, Mark)
Concerns and Prayers:
- Call to Prayer: United Methodist Hymnal, 168 (stanza 1), "At the Name of Jesus" (Mark)
- United Methodist Hymnal, 489, "For God's Gifts" (2 Corinthians)
- UMBOW, 319 (Mark)
- UMBOW, 500, "For Blessing, Mercy, and Courage" (2 Kings, Mark)
- UMBOW, 525, "For Wisdom" (2 Corinthians)
- UMBOW, 529, "A Prayer of Saint Patrick" (Mark)
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta.
Confession and Pardon:
- UMBOW, 478 (Mark)
- UMBOW, 476 (2 Corinthians), Words of Assurance
The Great Thanksgiving:
- Word and Table I (UMH) OR
- "A Great Thanksgiving for Transfiguration Sunday"
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion: UMBOW, 556 (Transfiguration).
Dismissal with Blessing:
- A deacon or assisting minister/lay person could dismiss the people using UMBOW 559. The pastor could then speak the blessing, using UMBOW 561 or The United Methodist Hymnal, 669.
- UMBOW, 560 (Transfiguration)
- Sung response:United Methodist Hymnal, 168 (stanza 4), "At the Name of Jesus" (Mark)