February 19, 2023 - Transfiguration Sunday

For the week of February 19-25 – Transfiguration Sunday

Morning prayer: O God of the covenant, the cloud of Your splendor and the fire of Your love revealed Your Son on the mountain heights. Transform our lives in His image, write Your law of love on our hearts, and make us prophets of Your glory, that we may lead others into Your presence. Amen. (Lectionary Prayers)

Hymn: #103 Immortal, Invisible, God, Only Wise

  1. Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
    most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
    almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
  2. Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
    Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
    Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
  3. To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small; in all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
    we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
    and wither and perish, but naught changeth Thee.
  4. Thou reignest in glory; Thou dwellest in light; Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
    all laud we would render: O help us to see 'tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

Psalm 99

1 The Lord rules— the nations shake!
He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures— the earth quakes!

2 The Lord is great in Zion; He is exalted over all the nations.

3 Let them thank Your great and awesome name. He is holy!

4 Strong king who loves justice, You are the one who established what is fair.
You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.

5 Magnify the Lord, our God! Bow low at His footstool! He is holy!

6 Moses and Aaron were among His priests, Samuel too among those who called on His name.
They cried out to the Lord, and He Himself answered them—

7 He spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.

8 Lord our God, You answered them. To them You were a God who forgives
but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.

9 Magnify the Lord our God! Bow low at His holy mountain because the Lord our God is holy!

Children’s message Exodus 34:29-35

Moses 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. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but 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, the 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.

Children’s Message 

Do you have special people in your life that when you talk to them, you feel warm and safe inside? The conversations make you feel good and empowered? If I ask you to make a list, who would be on that list? It would look different for each of us and our list might change over the course of our lives – the people who were most influential in our childhood may not be into our adulthood and vice versa. Yet, something about talking with them fills us with peace and empowers us to live our lives.

Moses had such a person on his list – God, except that by talking with God, Moses did outwardly shine. God’s radiance so filled Moses, Moses could not help but shine out into the world. His brother saw it, the Israelites saw it, and to be honest, it made them uncomfortable. So to make them more comfortable with his appearance, Moses wore a veil.

God puts a shine in you, too. As we spend more time growing in the Lord through study, prayer and worship, our hearts take on the love God has for all of God’s creation. This shine is to be shared so that all will know of God’s love, compassion, mercy and grace. Treasure your shine and share it.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlightThe Gate House provides safe shelter to homeless families within Montour and Columbia counties.  Their mission is to keep families in crisis together.  They provide shelter and a stable environment to homeless men and women, along with their children.  The Gate House offers housing along with services to help residents transition back into the community.  $500 of Missions offering is designated to The Gate House.

Offering prayer: God of Transformation, we come together as those who have met You on the mountaintop. We have each had our holy encounters with You; and in those moments, we have wanted to stay on the mountain and retreat from the world. We know that is our longing, not Yours. So, as we offer our gifts this morning in response to Your blessings in our life, remind us that our mission begins as we leave this place, and help us hold our memories of those mountaintop encounters with You in our hearts. We pray boldly in Jesus’ name. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn of Preparation #393 Spirit of the Living God

Spirit of the living God, fall a-fresh on me.  Spirit of the living God, fall a-fresh on me.

Melt me.  Mold me.  Fill me.  Use me.  Spirit of the living God, fall a-fresh on me.

Scripture Matthew 3:13-17

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. 2 He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

3 Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with Him. Listen to Him!” 6 Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.

7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One[a] is raised from the dead.”

Message To the Mountaintop We Go              Rev. Ron French

Charles Swindoll in his book Day By Day tells the story of a mysterious event that occurred several years ago to a group of young guys from the church he pastored in Southern California. They were on a mountain climbing excursion, along with their youth leader. While taking in the breathtaking sights, the leader realized that he had lost the trail. A heavy snowfall had completely covered the path, and he didn’t have a clue where they were or how they could get back to the main camp. Sundown was not far away, and they were not equipped to spend the night on the windblown slopes where the temperature would soon drop even lower.

While trudging through the snow, entertaining thoughts just this side of panic, they suddenly heard someone on the slopes above them yell down: “Hey – the trail is up here!” They glanced up and to their relief saw another climber in the distance. Without hesitation, they began to make their way to the large boulder where the man was sitting. The climb was exhausting, but their relief in finding the way gave their adrenaline a rush.

Finally they arrived…but to their surprise the man who had yelled down to them was nowhere to be found. Furthermore, there were no traces in the snow that anyone had been sitting on the boulder, nor were there footprints around the rock. The trail, however, stretched out before them, leading them to safety. To this day, says Swindoll, they do not know the identity of the stranger who led them to safety. Swindoll thinks they may have seen an angel because mysterious things happen on mountains.

In the Old Testament book of Exodus we read, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and wait there. I’ll give you the stone tablets with the instructions and the commandments that I have written in order to teach them.’ So Moses and his assistant Joshua got up, and Moses went up God’s mountain.” (24:12-13)

This turned out to be one of the most pivotal events in human history. For on that mountain, Moses received the Ten Commandments.

Then in our Gospel lesson for today we read about another pivotal and mysterious event that occurred on a mountain. Jesus is on the mountain with his three closest disciples – Peter, James and John.

“He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, ‘Lord it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three tents: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with Him. Listen to Him!’ Hearing this the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ He said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (17:2-8)

Then in Peter’s second letter he testifies to that startling event. “We didn’t repeat crafty myths when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, we witnessed His majesty with our own eyes. He received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice came to Him from the magnificent glory, saying, ‘This is My dearly beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (II Peter 1:16-18)

I want to give you an invitation this morning to come with me to the mountain, in a figurative sense, of course. Let’s leave the everyday world behind for a few moments and stand with those three disciples on that mountain. We need to do this because we also need to see who Jesus is.

Listen to the words of the great author and pastor Leslie Weatherhead: “Some years ago I had a strange dream. I’m not making this up for the purpose of the sermon. I was passing through a time of great difficulty and unhappiness, and in my dream I was to be offered a personal interview with Christ, and I thought, ‘Ah, I will ask Him this and I will ask Him that. Now I shall get an answer to all my questions and the key to all my problems.’

Believe it or not, in the glory of His presence it was not that I forgot to ask Him anything. It seemed utterly unnecessary and meaningless.

Somehow I had an overflowing feeling that even He would not be able to explain to me because my mental grasp was so tiny, but there came an overwhelming feeling of supreme joy that questions no longer needed to be answered. It was sufficient to know that there was an answer. I knew that all was well and somehow I knew that all was well for everybody.

Leslie Weatherhead found himself in the presence of Christ and he found himself speechless. But he never forgot the experience. Who could? We all need to see Jesus.

We all need to find ourselves in the presence of Jesus. We all need to hear His voice, to feel His touch. Or as John Newton has put it: “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, in a believer’s ear; it sooths his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear. It makes the wounded spirit whole, and calms the troubled breast; ‘tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary rest.”

Yes, come to the mountain with me and see who Jesus is. He is more than Moses or Elijah, more that the law and the prophets. See His face shine with the love of God. Come with me to the mountain. Catch a glimpse of who He is. Perhaps on that mountain, we will catch a glimpse of what we too can be.

Those disciples saw Jesus transfigured. They could not have known that a transfiguration was also taking place within them. That transfiguration would not be apparent until Pentecost.

Sisters and brothers, you cannot come into the presence of Jesus without being conscious of what, by His grace, you might one day be. As Disraeli put it: “To believe in the heroic makes heroes.” In the same way, the disciples stayed in the company of greatness and thus they become great as well.

It was an undiscourageable faith that the disciples discovered that helped transform their lives. There is something about a mountain top experience that can help you be more than you have ever been before.

John A. Redhead, Jr. tells of a father and son who had a really good relationship. Among their many good times together, one stands out above all the rest. It was a hike up a particular mountain where they seemed to reach the height of a beautiful friendship.

After they returned home, there came a day when things did not seem to run as smoothly.

The father rebuked the son, and the son spoke sharply in return. An hour later, after the air was cleared, the son said, “Dad, whenever it starts to get like that again, let’s one of us say ‘The Mountain.” And it was agreed.

A few weeks later another misunderstanding occurred. The boy was sent to his room in tears. After a while, the father decided to go up and talk to his son. He was still angry until he saw a piece of paper hanging on his son’s bedroom door. The boy had printed two words in large letters “THE MOUNTAIN”.

That symbol was powerful enough to restore the relationship between father and son. Come to the mountain. It is there that relationships can be made right. Come with me to the mountain. See who Jesus is. See what by His grace you and I can become.

Perhaps while we are that mountain we will gain a new confidence in God’s presence in our lives. Author Philip Yancy tells about climbing to the top of Mt. Wilson in Colorado with his wife, Janet. Yancy says that, just as he and Janet got to the top of Mt. Wilson, a thunderstorm rolled in. They were at an elevation of over 14,000 feet, far beyond the timberline, which made them walking lightning rods. He says the metal climbing rods in his hands and the ice ax on his back were tingling from all the electricity in the air. They were both scared and they had good reason to be.

They reviewed their lesson on what to do if caught above the timberline in a lightning storm. They couldn’t lie down. Rocks conduct electricity. It was important that they separate so if one of them got struck by lightning, the other could report what happened. They were to keep their feet together, crouch down and walk down the mountain. Yancy says that as they started down the mountain he received a marvelous insight into his life – and the insight was this – he, Philip Yancy, was not on control.

And sisters and brothers, I believe that is an insight that many of us need. Control is an illusion. We fool ourselves when things are going our way that we are the masters of our destiny. And nothing could be further from the truth.

Yancy concludes by saying that neither he nor we are any more in control of our lives here and now, then he and Janet were on top of that mountain.

 Just as the disciples who went up the mountain with Jesus found out they were not in control, we are not in control. And just as the disciples who went up the mountain with Jesus learned to trust the one who is in control, we must also trust the one who is in control. And that my brothers and sisters is the good news for today. The One who is in control can be trusted.

In the year 1351, the Earl of Wickham decided to found a college called New College in Oxford, England. The times were grim. The bubonic plague had taken a terrible toll on the population. People were angry and they were frightened. Nevertheless, Wickham trusted God with all his heart and he was determined to make this new college succeed. Wickham paid for the building of the college and the college flourished.

Centuries later, it was time to replace the oak beams in the main hall of New College, Oxford.

The administration approached the Earl of Wickham’s descendants to ask for a donation to cover the cost of the new beams. To their surprise the descendants were ready for them. “We’ve been waiting for you,” they said. “The oak beams are ready for you.” It turned out that the Earl of Wickham had foreseen the need of replacing the beams, and had planted a grove of oak trees specifically for that purpose during his lifetime!

That’s faith. That’s the kind of faith we need to be living in our lives today. But where do we find such faith? Where do we obtain the confidence in the future so that we might invest in that which is lasting?

I want to tell you this morning that we are in the right place. Wherever we gather as Christians becomes our mountaintop. Whether it be in the Lighthouse or in the sanctuary, or in a Sunday school classroom. Whether it be during worship, Sunday school, Bible study or a meeting. Wherever we are together with others who believe passionately in God, we are on the mountaintop.

And while we are on this mountaintop, let us see who Jesus really is. Let’s see ourselves as we might be by God’s grace. Let us gain confidence – confidence in God’s presence and providence that we might be strong for the living of this hour. So won’t you take a few moments and come to the mountain with me?

Hymn of Preparation: #454 Open My Eyes, That I May See

  1. Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
    place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
    Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see.
    Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
  2. Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
    and while the wavenotes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
    Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see.
    Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!
  3. Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere;
    open my heart and let me prepare love with Thy children thus to share.
    Silently now I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see.
    Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.