Feb. 27, 2022 Transfiguration Sunday

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing, yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Transform us into the likeness of your Son, who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Exodus 34:29-35

29Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm 99

1The Lord is king; let the | people tremble.
  The Lord is enthroned upon the cherubim; let | the earth shake.
2The Lord, | great in Zion,
  is high a- | bove all peoples.
3Let them confess God’s name, which is | great and awesome;
  God is the | Holy One.
4O mighty king, lover of justice, you have es- | tablished equity;
  you have executed justice and righteous- | ness in Jacob. 
5Proclaim the greatness of the Lord and fall down be- | fore God’s footstool;
  God is the | Holy One.
6Moses and Aaron among your priests, and Samuel among those who call upon your |name, O Lord,
  they called upon you, and you | answered them,
7you spoke to them out of the pil- | lar of cloud;
  they kept your testimonies and the decree | that you gave them.
8O Lord our God, you answered | them indeed;
  you were a God who forgave them, yet punished them for their | evil deeds.
9Proclaim the greatness of the Lord and worship upon God’s | holy hill;
  for the Lord our God is the | Holy One.

2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2

12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Luke 9:28-36

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Transfiguration of Christ, detail – Early 17th c. Icon, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece

Sermon – Meggan Manlove       

There are years, like this year, when I really appreciate Transfiguration Sunday. For weeks, we have been listening in as Jesus teaches. His teachings are challenging, dangerous to him and his followers, and frankly it is sometimes hard to grasp what exactly the goal is. What does the reign of God look like? Then, just as we are about to start the 40 days of Lent and the journey towards Jerusalem, Jesus says, let me give you a glimpse of glory, a real glimpse of the foretaste of the feast to come, something that will sustain you for the road ahead. Sustenance for the road ahead sounds pretty good to me this week.

I hope most of us have had those experiences; a place or time when we have seen a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. Where and when have you had a foretaste of the feast to come? Maybe you felt near the presence of God in the midst of grief, upheld by all your sisters and brothers in Christ. Perhaps you experienced the glory of God on a literal mountaintop, looking out over a breathtaking vista, or maybe it was another natural wonder like the ocean or a canyon.

I think about the ways I felt cared for by this congregation in December 2020 when my dad was dying in Mesa and we were still quite locked down due to the pandemic. The actual verb I would use to describe that time is that you carried me. 

I also think of the group of colleagues and mentors who I met with in Northeast Iowa during my first six years in public ministry. We met each Tuesday for an in-depth text study, studying together the scripture passages on which we would preach. But we also met for pizza, beer, and conversation each Friday. I brought every problem a first-call pastor could face to that group and my stories were all met with love and understanding. We did not agree on everything, but I could bring my full self-there and I knew it to be a safe and holy space. There too I got glimpses of the promised feast.

I think of paddling canoes through the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota/Ontario at dawn and hearing the call of a loon. I can see vistas of the old beautiful Black Hills where I grew up. I remember the panoramic views from the peaks of the Absoraka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and driving and hiking through the valleys of the Sawtooth and White Cloud ranges here in Idaho–all places I have glimpsed God’s glory. 

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a mountain.  They will experience something completely new. There on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured—his clothes become a blinding white. Then Moses and Elijah appear out of nowhere and start talking with Jesus. It is so amazing, so terrifying, that Peter does not know what to say.  

Still, he likes it enough to try to hold on to it—perhaps even make some booths to keep them there. But before he can start building, a cloud descends upon them, and out of the cloud the voice of God is heard: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

This has got to be one of the top ten ecstatic events in the whole Bible.  It sounds a lot like the time God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai or the time God whispered to Elijah on Mount Horeb. Here are the two biggest figures in the Old Testament—Moses, who represents the Law, and Elijah, who represents the prophets—now speaking with Jesus. But God also has something to say. 

God has spoken before in Luke. At Jesus’ baptism, a voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” It was after that event that Jesus began his ministry of teaching and healing. Now, God speaks again, and it is after this encounter that Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem. It is in this encounter with God that Jesus is empowered and commissioned again for his God-given ministry.

When the cloud disappears, Elijah and Moses are gone. No one is left but Jesus.  The experience is over as quickly as it began. Jesus remains with them, but not the glorious Jesus, arrayed in dazzling white. No, this is the man with whom the disciples ate and slept.  

From the very beginning, Jesus is true God and true man. From the beginning, he is filled with glory—the very glory of God. But that glory of the father is a glory we cannot bear. Moses knew that. When he asked to see God’s glory, God answered, “No one shall see me and live.” So, God put on flesh; God became known in a way we could see. At the Transfiguration, Moses finally does get his wish: he looks directly into the face of God—God’s face revealed in Jesus.

We live by faith—faith that is strengthened by those transfiguration moments—but also faith that, even in the everyday moments, senses that God is present and at work in the world.  We live by faith—faith that trusts that God is present in the midst of our sorrow and in the ordinary parts of our lives.

For me, the greatest glimpses of God’s glory, the best foretastes of the feast to come, have occurred when I was at a place apart. Because I worked at Camp Christikon in very formative years, my 20s, the glimpses I received then still shape me.  Christikon, nestled in the big beautiful Absorka Mountains north of Yellowstone National Park, is primarily a hiking camp for junior and senior high school kids. 

Our director Bob Quam was intent on creating intentional Christian community, full of encounters with the natural world, work, play, prayer, worship. Central to life at Christikon were stories.  Bob Quam talked about the “old, old story” of which we were still a part–the story of homecoming from exile and life from death, the story of love embodied and outpoured in Jesus for the sake of the world, the story of the wedding feast at the end of time which we could taste now in the body and blood of Christ, as well as other elaborate meals Bob prepared regularly for his staff.

Part of why I encourage youth and adults from this congregation to attend Luther Heights Bible Camp is to have some of the experience I had at camp. If we truly believe that the gospel can transform lives and communities down here in the literal valley, it’s helpful to have had a glimpse of God’s glory, of the feast, of the kingdom, even if we have to go away to get those glimpses. Our intergenerational church campout, while not a full week, has frequently done the same thing as summer camp–given us a glimpse of God’s glory.

Camps often get critiqued as being retreats from the real world or a bubble that serves to protect participants from the outside world. My dad, who thought and wrote a lot about camping ministries, suggested that the camp community is the real world in that it is closer to the world as it should be, as God intended it to be. He wrote, “We have seen a glimpse of the kingdom. We have seen a bit of life as it should be. Working together, we create places where people can come, learn, and go out into the world to make it as it should be.”

We don’t remember our own mountain top experiences to indulge in nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a dangerous form of remembering that steals the pleasure out of the present. But there is a place for remembering and giving thanks for people and places through whom God has worked in your lives. Our Psalm helps us remember almost every week. Before we join together in the Lord’s Prayer, the long prayer I speak is all about remembering. And at the heart of that prayer, we recall Jesus telling his disciples, when they gather to eat the bread and drink the wine, to do it “in remembrance of me.”

Down the mountain, we hold on to God’s vision of glory and wholeness and peace.  Even standing smack-dab in the middle of brokenness, in the middle of a world experiencing violence, we hold on to God, we call upon God, we behave as if God’s new world of wholeness is on the way, and we are sustained by the glimpses that we have seen already: those moments when people are healed and comforted, those times when violence gives way to reconciliation and selfishness gives way to love, those moments when whole communities reach out and care for one another. 

We praise God for moments of grace—moments when it all comes together. And we praise God for the promise that all of our moments are upheld by the abiding presence of God.  

Jesus came down that mount of Transfiguration. His disciples followed him on a journey of transformation. Together they experienced the heights and the depths of our experience. Jesus knows us in the very depths of our souls and loves us still—we can live in faith and hope. Not because we have it all together, but because God is here.  

Prayers of Intercession (from Sundays and Seasons)

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

The Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon us in abundance; so we are bold to pray for the church, the world, and all that God has made.

A brief silence.

Transform us by your greatness, O God. Send us down the mountain to share joy with all people. Make us agents of change, confident that your hope will vanquish despair and your goodness will conquer evil. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

The mountains and valleys sing your praise. Dazzle us with your presence in every landscape: bluffs built by ancient glaciers, canyons carved by flowing rivers, flat horizons with uninterrupted views, and sands shaped by ocean tides. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

You love justice and establish equity. Strengthen leaders of local governments, community nonprofits, and grassroots campaigns. Bless them with gifts of integrity, creativity, and sound conscience. Build up safe and joyful communities where all people may thrive. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Heal those who are in distress (especially). Give patience to those waiting for answers. Grant hope to those who have reached the limits of treatment. Give compassionate hearts to those who accompany loved ones through illness and uncertainty. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Today we shout alleluia from the mountaintop; this week we enter the wilderness of Lent. Bless all who prepare and lead us in worship during this change of season: pastors, deacons, musicians, and all who contribute to our worship life (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

With deep sadness that we pray for peace and for the people of Ukraine. God who sees the weakness in acts of naked aggression; God who feels the fear in moments of acute helplessness: cure this warring madness, and shield all who fall in harm’s way. Leach the poison from the mind that thinks strength is shown in a bullying force. And may an equal strength in solidarity give resolve to those whose aim is to protect, and respect, not just the ones we call our own, but all with whom we can share a better, more peaceful world. (from the Corymeela Community)

hear our prayer.

Blessed are they who listened to Christ’s voice in this life and now rest with him (especially). Transform us from glory into glory, and give us your peace, that we do not lose heart. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Since we have such great hope in your promises, O God, we lift these and all of our prayers to you in confidence and faith; through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

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