Transfiguration 2021

A transcript for worship for this Sunday, where I play with form and structure of our usual order of worship.

Branches silhouetted agains the late afternoon sky. In uploading it, I also noticed a rainbow lens flare.
Branches silhouetted against the late afternoon sky

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. it is the source of all true art and science, she to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause in wonder and stand wrapt in awe, is as good as dead”–Einstein filtered through Arthur C. Clark.

Greetings, welcome to worship with Shiloh United Methods Church in Granite Quarry, North Carolina. My Name is Reverend Kathy Randall Bryant, and I am honored to be filling in for my husband, John, today, February 14, 2021. I hope you receive the love of God from cherished friends and family both near and far this Valentine’s Day. 

It is good to be in worship with you today, wherever you find yourself. I grew up singing the children’s song where we sang how the church is not the building, the church is the people, and I am glad to be part of you, with you the church, even as we are apart. 

Hymn: Holy Holy Holy UMH 64

1 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!

God in three persons, blessed trinity!

From Psalm 50:

From the rising of the sun to where it sets,

    God, the Lord God, speaks,

        calling out to the earth.

From Zion, perfect in beauty,

    God shines brightly.

Our God is coming;

    [God] won’t keep quiet.

A devouring fire is before [God];

    a storm rages all around [God].

2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,

casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;

cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,

which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

God calls out to the skies above

    and to the earth in order to judge [their] people:

“Bring my faithful to me,

    those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The skies proclaim [God’s] righteousness

    because God[, God] is the judge. —Psalm 50:1-6 (CEB)

3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,

though the eye of sinfulness thy glory may not see,

only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,

perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Almighty God, as you travel with us from the rising of the sun to it’s setting, shine your glory on us, that we may be faithful witnesses of your love. Amen. 

4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty!

All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea.

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!

God in three persons, blessed trinity!

Mark 9:2-9  (NRSV)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 

Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

This is the word of God for all people, Thanks be to God.

Christ shines with creation’s light. but why? at this point in his ministry, and with only these three disciples? I wonder what would it have meant if Jesus shone with this glorious light on the cross? 

The symmetry is there, Jesus, on a mountain, with two men, one on either side…

And then there’s the symmetry of the voice from heaven, where the voice exclaims: this is my son, the beloved! The same words that were spoken over Jesus when John baptized him in the Jordan river. 

So we have ourselves here at a fulcrum of time, with the baptism at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, here, we have the transfiguration, this transformation of Christ as he shines with creation’s light, and then we will be moving towards the crucifixion. And so, where are we going from here, and why do we pause here, to see this glory, and hear peter be so terrified but still taking action to create meaning out of glory.

Hymn: Hail to the Lord’s Anointed UMH 203

1. Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,

great David’s greater Son!

Hail in the time appointed,

his reign on earth begun!

He comes to break oppression,

to set the captive free;

to take away transgression,

and rule in equity.

Peter wants to make a tabernacle, a place of worship like the old tabernacle where the presence of God sat, because he can see something wondrous happening but he cannot interpret it. Glory, though, looks like glory, and that is what he knows of how to manage glory: by setting a marker, a memorial, and a covering so that it does not shine too brightly. Or not manage, exactly, perhaps simply properly respond to it, to honor the glory that is shining from Christ. 

And peter is awestruck. He is caught in the glory of the moment and in this glory of Christ shining creation’s light, we join him in wonder and awe and even, yes, in terror. 

Because this light reveals us for what and who we are. This light shines into our deepest parts, to the hiddenness in shadow and shade, the things we hide from others, the wrongs we participate in without asking questions, the things we are willfully ignorant about. 

And, 

Let’s not throw peter under the bus here. He also knows that this glorious light is holy. And he knows that holiness sits in the seat of honor. And so he’s caught in knowing that holiness sits in the tabernacle. The proper place for glory is in the tabernacle. I know that the translation I read said dwellings, and that’s not what I had remembered, I grew up reading a translation that said tents, which isn’t big enough. Peter means a tabernacle. A space where the worship of the creator happens, where the holy of holies is held precious and contained. 

And I just…. Jesus does’t do rules like this. Jesus is always, every time, inviting a wider understanding of goodness in his gospel messages. 

2. He comes with succor speedy

to those who suffer wrong;

to help the poor and needy,

and bid the weak be strong;

to give them songs for sighing,

their darkness turn to light,

whose souls, condemned and dying,

are precious in his sight.

On the moment of his death, The temple curtain is torn in two from top to bottom, revealing the holy of holies to the people gathered in the temple, on the sabbath of passover. I wonder if this is a preview of that moment. 

And after Christ rises from the dead, this moment of the disciples encounter with his glory is shared. And so the story comes to a full circle, that the glory of creation’s light shone from Christ, and the voice of God spoke again, “this is my son, the beloved, listen to him!”

And creation’s light shines. The glory of God’s wonder and beauty. 

Uncertainty happens when changes happen. And our desire is to set markers. And to lay a foundation in our place so that we can make sense of it. 

Because it is so hard to sit in the space of the unknown. But our call and challenge is to revel in this unknown space. That’s the grace of this moment, that we do not have to understand it. 

We don’t have to get it perfect. 

3. He shall come down like showers

upon the fruitful earth;

love, joy, and hope, like flowers,

spring in his path to birth.

Before him on the mountains,

shall peace, the herald, go,

and righteousness, in fountains,

from hill to valley flow.

I recently read a prayer by Cole Arthur Riley that opened grace into this idea of being perfect in God. She writes: 

Help us to reject the mirages of perfection, remembering that when Christ says be “perfect” it does not mean without flaw or error, rather whole and complete with a God who is whole.” -Black Liturgies January 16, 2021 COLE ARTHUR RILEY

And what an invitation this is, to be invited into Christ’s wholeness. What if that was what we were seeking in this passage, an invitation to awe and reflected glory. 

What if we could say: If I want to be recognized, it is for how I reflect the glory of God in all I do. 

 I want to be a person who learns. I want to help others live in harmony. I want to be able to reflect at the end of the day and see how there was less of me and more of God. 

Because I want to live fully in my body, and feel all the parts of me that are whole, and all the parts of me that are holy and I want to know, like truly know, that the light of creation was part of my actions. 

Because I want to be part a community that is learning together and finding ways to create systems, patterns, and spaces around us that allow our members to thrive. 

Wouldn’t that be glorious?

As in, that would be something that reflects the love of God and God’s hope for creation, that wonder and awe and love are held and shared and reflected in a fractal pattern that always manages to catch a new glint of the wonder of creation in the light that shines and pierces every shadow. 

That’s my kind of glory. The kind that brings more life to everything it touches. That sees each person for who they are, how they belong to the whole and how they are also specifically needed for their own way that they participate in the midst of the being. 

Unity is not erasure. Focus on God isn’t done one way. There is no one right set of words to say or songs to sing or times to gather or clothes to wear or hair to style or emotions to share. 

Our coming together is not a uniform act. Its an invitation. An act of wonder and awe. 

And that’s what this moment on this mountain top is. 

And invitation to a day brightly dawning. 

Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman put it this way: 

When day comes, 

we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. 

The new dawn blooms as we free it. 

For there is always light. 

If only we’re brave enough to see it. 

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

—The Hill We Climb, by Amanda Gorman 

Let us be brave enough to reflect the shining glory of Christ. 

4. To him shall prayer unceasing

and daily vows ascend;

his kingdom still increasing,

a kingdom without end.

The tide of time shall never

his covenant remove;

his name shall stand forever;

that name to us is love.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Pastoral Prayer: 

Glorious God, shine your light into us. Reveal all that is within us that keeps us from you and your will and your people. Create in us a welcome space for your creative light to shine, so that we may be beacons of hope and joy to those we encounter, even briefly, as we go through our days. Show us ways to create ease for others, because our lives are closely linked with all those around us, and we are always learning about ways we are more connected than we think. 

Guide us in your righteousness, that we may do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you in all that we do and say. In your faithfulness, lead us to more faithfully living out the call you have for us in our communities, that we may create spaces for thriving love. 

All power and glory and honor are yours, beloved Christ, whom we hear and listen to, especially as we pray as Christ taught us, saying: Our Father…

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever. Amen.

Benediction:

May the grace of the lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 

and the glorious power of the holy sprit go with you. 

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Amen, Go in peace. 

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