Lectionary (Transfiguration Sunday): Exodus 24:12-88, Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-19
Theme: Do not be afraid. Rejoice in the power and hope of the transfigured one.
This Sunday serves as the transition from Epiphany to Lent. We move from the mountain where Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount, unpacking the Kingdom of God, to another mountain, where we get a glimpse of his glory. At the beginning of the experience, the disciples are wowed in a “This is totally awesome!” way. Yet amid Peter’s babbling, God’s voice breaks in, and true awesomeness of God knocks the disciples flat on their faces. God’s voice surprised them so much that they became terrified.
Hearing God’s voice can be scary, especially when we’re going along, enjoying the light show, feeling privileged and comfortable. Then enters the voice of God, challenging what we thought we knew about God and God’s Kingdom, and it can knock us on our backsides.
But Jesus doesn’t leave his three friends lying, quaking on the ground. He touches them and says, “Get up; don’t be afraid.” Many of our churches find themselves pushed back on their heels, operating out of fear: fear of change, fear of not surviving, fear of what God may be calling them to do or who God may be calling them to include.
The words, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid,” are offered to people over and over throughout the scriptures, because the way of the Kingdom doesn’t promise the comfort, ease, and “coolness” that the world tries to offer. Yet following Jesus, getting back up when we’ve fallen, heading back down the mountain, getting outside the comfort of our church buildings, will lead us to experience the true awesomeness of God. And God can and will do unimaginable things in and through us that we would never be capable of on our own.
Questions to Consider:
What causes you or your congregation to be afraid? Where have you been hesitant to listen to God’s voice? Are there areas of ministry where you have camped out on top of the mountain, instead of going back down to the valley to engage the world?
“Majesty, Worship His Majesty”
“Every Time I Feel the Spirit”
“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1:26-1:28)
During Anakin’s interview with the council of the Jedis, Yoda asks Anakin about his fear. Yoda tells Anakin, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Anakin’s fear of surrender eventually leads him down the path to becoming Darth Vader.
First Knight (about minute 36)
During the challenge of the gauntlet, the first three men attempt and fail. Lancelot successfully completes the challenge, and when the king asks about how he was able to navigate the gauntlet Lancelot replies, “It’s not hard to know where the danger is if you watch it coming. Perhaps fear made them go back when they should have gone forward.”
Call to Worship
The Lord is Sovereign; let the people tremble in awe.
God is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake.
The Lord is great in Zion, and is high above all peoples.
Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God, and worship Yahweh upon the holy mountain.
From Hope to Joy, p. 123 (Abingdon)
God of glory and mercy,
before his death in shame your Son went to the mountain top,
and you revealed his life in glory.
Where prophets witnessed to him, you proclaimed him your Son,
but he returned to die among us.
Help us to face evil with courage,
knowing that all things, even death,
are subject to your transforming power.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
by James White
Holy and transforming God, far too often we have wanted keep you up on a mountain, uninvolved in the decisions we make or the way we respond to one another. Through Christ, you lead us down, back into the world. You push us back into life that we might see you in the opportunities to extend love and grace to those who suffer, thinking they are beyond the reach of your love. May the gifts we give now move from being an act of worship to an act of compassion, finding places where they can be the balm that heals. We pray this in the holy name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen. (Matthew 17:1-9)
by Ken Sloane