Morning Worship for 14th February 2021
2 weeks ago
As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.
The God of heaven has made his home on earth,
Christ dwells among us and is one with us.
Highest in all creation, he lives among the least,
He journeys with the rejected and welcomes the weary.
Come now all who thirst and drink the water of life.
Come now all who hunger and be filled with good things.
Come now all who seek and be warmed by the fire of love.
Collect of the day
Whose Son was revealed in majesty
Before he suffered death upon the cross:
Give us grace to perceive his glory,
That we may be strengthened to suffer with him
And be changed into his likeness from glory to glory;
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever.
Our Declaration of faith
All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and will not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and my song,
And has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
On that day you will say,
Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
Make known his deeds among the nations,
Proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing God’s praises, who has triumphed gloriously,
Let this be known in all the world.
Shout and sing for joy, you that dwell in Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
All the earth, shout and sing for joy,
For great in your midst is the Holy One.
Isaiah 12: 2-6
Hymn: Christ whose glory fills the skies.
Readings: 2 Kings 2: 1-12, 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6.
Hymn: Let all the world.
Gospel Reading: Mark 9: 2-9.
Today we have heard one of the greatest stories in the gospel, the point at which the glory of the divine reality of Christ’s presence amongst us is revealed. I love this story and i use it constantly in baptismal addresses because it opens up for us the reality of gods purpose in sending us his son. It speaks powerfully of the use of symbolism and reminds us that at times even we mere mortals can receive a glimpse of that which is of god.
Looking deeply into the text and its context opens up yet another avenue of grace, that being the creative use of language in order to portray meaning and the positioning of stories for their maximum effect.
For Christians the full understanding of who Jesus was and how we are saved through him is only available to us as a community which lives in a post resurrection condition. And it is the significance of the resurrection to which this story leads us.
The story reveals peter and the disciples as being terrified before this divine revelation unfolding before them so immense was the occasion that they were over whelmed by it, confused and uncertain as to how to respond, hence peters rather foolish response, shall we build 3 dwellings lord, one for you one for Moses and one for Elijah? For why would heavenly beings require an earthly abode?
Many of the stories which we have of Jesus often although depicted as happening in real earthly terms are often stories which speak more about Christian doctrine than they do about historical actuality. And the transfiguration could well be understood in these terms
There is strong support for the view that the transfiguration is in fact another post resurrection appearance of Jesus, a story which has been placed into the context of our lords life in order to reveal the messianic reality of Christ in our midst.
The beauty of this careful use of symbolic language and its purposeful positioning in the text is exemplified by that which precedes it the great confession of faith by peter, here we see Jesus responding positively to his disciples in affirming his messianic calling though the time was not right for that to be revealed to humanity in general, it for them and us could only make sense when viewed through the reality of Christ’s call to suffer to die and to rise again.
In Matthew this part of the messianic secret is made clearer by the injunction to the disciples not to speak of the vision to anyone, until after the son of man has been raised from the dead yet in Luke the request is somewhat different, it is the disciples who consciously refrain from speaking of it, for who speaks to others of personal experiences through which we have been unsure and afraid of what we have witnessed? And yet perhaps there is a message here for us today that being; that faith is mysterious and often unsettling and that is the very reason we should not shy away from sharing our experiences with others.
I remember being aware of having a theophany of god on a number of occasions, many of us can feel close to god in and through the beauty of creation and yet this is not the same as receiving a revelation of god in a personal way as experienced by the closest disciples of our lord.
My awareness of being touched by god has come to me in a variety of ways, but more often than not it has been through the medium of prayer. We are rapidly approaching the season of lent, a time when our prayers should become more focussed on god, and what he is about to do for us through his son. Earlier in my ministry i always started lent by going on a silent retreat. I used to go to a Passionist monastery for three days, during which i shut myself away from the outside world. I stayed in a little cell with a little bed, a small bathroom and an altar.
I lived on bread and cheese and glasses of water and devoted myself to reading and to prayer.
The altar was a significant part of my prayerful activity because on the altar stood a monstrance, some beautiful examples of which i had the pleasure of viewing recently in the treasury of the Loreto in Prague.
A monstrance for those of you who may not have heard of the term is an ornate atar piece with a glass transparent centre which opens up and into which you place the host, the consecrated bread from the Eucharist,
This was the focus of my prayers and through the adoration of the blessed sacrament i often found myself experiencing a closeness with god which was truly deep and at times rather alarming.
God of course is not in all things, we as Christians do not uphold such pantheistic expressions of belief, but we know that through all things we may catch just a glimpse of the hidden reality of god in our midst.
Those early disciples were richly blessed in catching a glimpse of the divine presence and yet we through the glory of scripture can also share in that revelation today.
For the truth of the transfiguration is that this Jesus Christ is truly the son of god and being transfigured before us Christ opens up our hearts and minds as we seek to respond to the glory which is around us.
The transfiguration story also speaks not only of the future but also of the past the story is beautifully crafted in order to bring together symbols of power and authority which draw together the old Israel and this new beginning in Christ. Hence one of the reasons for using this text in a baptismal context for it draws together that which was before and fills it full of the divine light of the living lord.
The old is represented by the figures which appear in the vision, namely Moses and Elijah. Moses speaks primarily of the law and Elijah of the prophets these are the things which bound Israel together and it is through them that the reality of gods creative intention is revealed.
So in this divine theophany why were these particular figures drawn together why these as opposed to others. Well according to tradition both of these figures were themselves transfigured, they were elevated direct from this life into the heavenly life beyond it.
These men revealed through their own transfigurations something of the divine reality of god. For their assumption into the heavenly realms directly from this earthly life were tangible visions of the promise of resurrection.
The symbolism in the gospel story continues to remind and instruct us of the significance of the stories of the old testament as we seek to grow in our understanding of Jesus.
It is good for us to recall the stories surrounding the Israelite people in the wilderness who were protected by the presence of god around them, exodus 24 a reworking of the mosaic covenant speaks clearly of the cloud in which god reveals himself to Moses, and here in this story of Jesus the Shekina of god comes down to earth again. And from the glory of the lord comes forth direction. This is my son the beloved listen to him, here again we are reminded of the presence of the glory of god throughout the stories of the Israelite people and here again we are reminded of that call to the symbolic action of baptism, for the call here is the same as that at the baptism of our lord another great moment when we glimpse just a little of the divine glory in and for ourselves.
The story of the transfiguration tells us clearly what the real meaning of Christ’s life truly was, simply part of the divine event toward which all creation had been moving and in which god was acting for the salvation of the world.
So let us as we prepare for the coming of another season of lent be bathed in the divine glory of god as we come before our lord in prayer. For as Christ’s chosen people it is surely through prayer, that we are ourselves most likely as mere mortals, to witness the glory of god, the Shekinah of the lord through which we shall share in the power and the glory of that revealed in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ our lord.
Hymn: Be still for the presence of the Lord.
Prayers for others
This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.
We come boldly to the throne of grace,
Let us pray to the Father through Christ who is our light and life.
Heavenly Father, hear us as we pray this day in thanksgiving for the glory revealed through the Transfiguration of our Lord, may we be richly blessed as we share in the glory of his majesty, and in so doing may we also be challenged to respond to him with reverence, humility and love. We pray for your church that we filled with your divine grace may be open to the bidding of your Holy Spirit, and be freed through joy to move forward into new ways of being a viable witness to the Lord in our rapidly changing world.
On this day we also remember those who have given willing service in the past and we pray especially in thanksgiving for St Valentine of Rome who gave his life in martyrdom, and for the missionary zeal of Cyril and Methodius. We pray for those who have given devoted service to the proclamation of the Gospel, often in dangerous and inhospitable places. We pray that the gospel may still be heard freely in the world and so be enabled to bring hope and comfort to your children.
Father we pray that you may continue to look in mercy on the needy in our world today. We pray for all struggling with the current pandemic, for all in hospital receiving critical care, we pray for their families and loved ones separated from them at this time. We continue to pray for all the carers, for Doctors, Nurses, Ancillary workers, Ambulance drivers, and for all within the NHS, be with them through their current struggles strengthen them in body and mind so that they may all stay safe and well.
Father, your Christ is the one in whom faithful servants find their peace, look in mercy on the departed, that they may see your salvation. We pray with a heavy heart as so many of our loved ones have been taken from us, for those who will rest within your loving embrace we give you thanks. For those who mourn their loved ones we pray that your love may rest upon them and bring them comfort amidst their sorrow.
And so we pray
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: Mine eyes have seen the glory.
A Song of the Redeemer
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord the praises of the most high.
Who is this that comes from Edom,
Coming from Bozrah, his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, in glorious apparel,
Marching in the greatness of his strength?
It is I, who announce that right has won the day,
It is I, says the Lord, for I am mighty to save.
Why are your robes all red, O Lord,
And your garments like theirs who tread the winepress?
I have trodden the winepress alone,
And from the peoples no one was with me.
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
The praises of the Most High;
All that God has done for us in his mercy, by his many acts of love.
For God said, surely, they are my people,
My children who will not deal falsely,
And he became their Saviour in all their distress.
So God saved us by his love and pity;
He lifted us up and carried us through all the days of old.
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord the praises of the Most High.
The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil,
And keep us in eternal life.
May Christ, the Son of God, gladden our hearts
With the good news of his kingdom.
Let us bless the Lord, thanks be to God.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.