Transfiguration Sunday

February 19, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Exodus 24.12-18. Moses goes up on the mountain and encounters God, who shines with light.

Psalm 99 praises God and God’s glory, in language reminiscent of Moses’ experience on the mountain.

2 Peter 1.16-21 refers to God’s blessing of Christ on the mountain. “Pay attention to the prophetic message like a lamp shining in a dark place.”

Matthew 17.1-9, in parallel to the story of Moses, describes the vision of Jesus transfigured in light on the mountain. We witness Jesus’ glory, his approval from God, his shining forth the good news, his authority equal to the law (represented by Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), and the command that we listen to him.

Preaching Thoughts

The Sunday of the Transfiguration brings to a climactic close the season of Epiphany, with its theme of Jesus as light of the world. Resist the temptation to explain the Transfiguration. It’s a symbolic story, weaving together Moses on the mountain; the “law and the prophets,” indicating not only Israel’s history but also scripture; Jesus’ baptism, death and resurrection; and in particular the cross.

The cross is not immediately evident in today’s reading other than in the tiny little introduction: “Six days later…” Six days after what? After Jesus told his disciples to take up the cross, and predicted his own execution. In contradiction to Peter’s objection (“God forbid it! This must never happen to you!”) the Transfiguration is God’s affirmation of Jesus’ words: “Listen to him.”

This story is essentially a Resurrection appearance. Having shown us the cross, the Gospel story shows us what’s next. Jesus has already died—before it happens he has already surrendered his life to God, and accepted the cross— and now on the mountain he is risen, shining with the light of resurrection, appearing with Moses and Elijah who also have already died. We are given courage to accept the cross, to accept the suffering involved in loving and doing justice, because there is glory at the end of it.

When God says the same thing God says at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” it’s clear that they’re connected: resurrection is the end result of baptism. Baptism is a call to risk and sacrifice, even to suffer, for the sake of love and justice, knowing that we are baptized into a greater reality—one suffused with the light of glory— greater than just our earthly days.

By pointing us toward the cross (and resurrection) the Transfiguration story prepares us to enter the season of Lent with hope and not foreboding.

Call to Worship

Leader: God of love, in the light of the sunrise,
All: we behold your glory.
In the light of that stars at night,
we behold your mystery.
In the light in each other’s eyes,
we behold your presence.

In the light of Christ,
we behold your love.
Light of God, shine upon us.
Light of Christ, shine within us.
Holy Spirit, radiate your goodness through us. Amen.

Leader: In the beginning God said, “Let there be light.”
All: We behold your glory.
Jesus is the light of the world.
We behold your glory.
Christ lives, shining with the light of resurrection.
We behold your glory. Alleluia!

Leader: Light of Creation, light from God,
All: we are in awe. We worship in wonder and praise.
Light of love, shining in Christ,
we are your Beloved. We thank you in humility and joy.
Light of the Spirit, fire of love,
we are aflame with you. We burn with your courage and love.
You have said, “This is my Own, my Beloved. Listen to him.”
We are listening, God. Speak, and create us anew. Amen.

Leader: God of light, spark of Creation, fire of love, you dazzle us!
All: Your glory is beyond our understanding. We worship you in awe.
Christ, pillar of fire, light of the world, your love illumines our path
as you lead us toward freedom.
Your grace is beyond our comprehension. We follow you in trust.
Holy Spirit, sun of our hearts, you enlighten us.
In the mystery of your presence we ourselves become flame.
Alleluia! Star of God, make beautiful the darkness.
Sun of God, dawn in our hearts.
Light of God, lead us
by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Christ, light of the world, you are our law and God’s living Word.
All: You are the dawn from on high, the light for our path.
Guide us in all that we do, and enlighten our hearts.
In the light of your day lead us, to do the works of light.
Be present with us, and shine in our hearts.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Light of Christ, grant your peace to the world,
All: and bless all creation with the light of your love.
Deliver us from the power of the shadows,
and bring us into the dominion of your light.
Christ, you are the light of the world. Alleluia
Fill us with your Spirit, that by your grace
we may be light for the world. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God, your Chosen One Jesus shone on the mountain with the light of glory. You said to the disciples, “Listen to him.” May Christ speak to us now in scripture, word and silence; by your grace may we listen and hear and be enlightened. Amen.

God of love, your Word is made flesh, your law fulfilled and the prophets revealed in Christ. Your light shines among us. Speak, for we are listening. Amen.

Light of God, you shine upon us, and we worship you.
The rising dawn of your mercy envelops us, and awakens our hearts.
The gentle glow of your forgiveness
brings life to our spirit like flowers in spring.
The radiance of your Word lights our path and leads our way.
And Christ, the pillar of fire that goes before us,
leads us always toward love and justice.
By your grace, we listen, and we follow. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of light,
let the dawn of your mercy rise upon
all that is unseen in the nighttime of our hearts,
that we may see ourselves in the light of your love.
What is shadowed by guilt or shame,
enlighten with your grace.
What is hidden in gloom bring into your light.
By the light of Christ, the Sun of Mercy,
may your grace shine in our hearts.

God, in the rising sun of your mercy
we look at what is dull and lightless in us,
and we open ourselves to the light of your grace.
We look at what is hidden in us,
what we have denied, shadowed in shame,
and we open ourselves to the light of your grace.
We look at what is broken, and what has died,
and we open ourselves to the light of your grace.
Forgive us, heal us,
and let the light of your grace dawn upon us and within us.
          [Silent prayers of confession]
Pastor: By the light of Christ, I proclaim that your sins are forgiven entirely.
All: And your sins are forgiven entirely.
In the rising light of Christ, we are set free to live with grace.
Our sins are forgiven.
May we live always in the light of your grace.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving God,
our little minds want to understand and explain.
Our grasping hands want to cling.
But your light invites us
simply to behold.
In silence, we listen for your voice,
we gaze at your mystery,
and we open ourselves to your grace.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Christ, Light of God, by your radiance we know that the law of God is love.
By your shining among us we trust that the word of the prophets is love.
Christ, Beloved of God, you are the light of our lives, and we listen.
May your love guide our way in the day and in the night. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God of wonder, we are grateful.
For in the darkness you said “Let there be light.”
In that light you create all things;
and every created thing shines with your glory.
You establish your law of love.
You send us prophets who lead us to mercy and justice.
In the fullness of time you sent Jesus, Light of the World.
Therefore, radiant with joy, we sing your praise.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ, your Beloved,
the light of the world.
In his love he fulfilled the law and prophets.
His teaching and healing gleamed with your grace.
Even in his this death he radiated your mercy,
and in his resurrection he shined with your glory.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
living as resurrected people,
radiant with hope and courage,
shining with the light of your love,
by the grace of your Spirit,
the Sun of Loveliness, burning in us.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) By your grace you have saved us from the power of death, and raised us as angels of light. Send us into the world as peacemakers and healers, and to work for justice, the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, may the light of your love shine in us.
May the radiance of hope surround us.
May the glow of mercy light our way.
May the brilliance of your grace give beauty to all our world.
Light of Christ, be the sun of our days
and the moon of our nights,
to our deep joy and your everlasting glory. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have fed us with the light of your love, the radiance of your delight in us, the rising sun of resurrection, the fire of your passion for all beings. Send us out to be light for the world in the power of your Spirit aflame in us. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Open our hearts always to receive you in reverence and awe, in humble trust and gratitude for your grace. Send us into the world as stewards of your mysteries, following the pillar of fire, the light of the world, our savior Jesus Christ, in company with Moses and the prophets, that we may work with them to set your people free, by the grace of your Spirit. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You feed us with your splendor; you fill us with your light. Send us into the world to shine with your glory, to walk in the light of justice and mercy, to radiate with your love, as light for all those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. may your dawn rise upon us all and lead us in the way of peace. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Christ on the Mountain (Tune: Be Thou My Vision.)

Christ on the mountain, our law and our light, we
come to your table with all you invite.
Hearts all aglow with your Spirit’s bright rays,
gladly we offer our gifts and our praise.

Dawning of heaven, our heart’s rising sun,
feasting upon you, we all become one,
bright with the love that your Spirit imparts,
radiant with mercy in each of our hearts.

Christ, as your Body, we pray by your grace, that
we give your deep love a voice and a face,
by love transfigured, with light in our hands,
bringing your gospel to earth’s farthest lands.

Christ on the Mountain Height    (Tune: ST. ELIZABETH, “Fairest Lord Jesus”)

Christ on the mountain height, radiant with God’s delight,
shining with love and mercy bright,
from fear and death released, we come in thanks to feast
upon your resurrection’s light.

Jesus, Beloved One, bright as Easter’s rising sun,
called to listen and follow you,
fearless of pain or loss, help us to bear your cross
with love’s pure light in all we do.

Savior and dearest friend, Law and Prophet’s fullest end,
strengthened by love, by the Spirit drawn,
feed us with courage, Lord. Help us to live your Word
led by your radiant face, help us to live your grace
and trust in Easter’s promised dawn.

Christ, Transfigured (Tune: Ode to Joy)

Christ, transfigured on the mountain, Law and Prophet, Living Word,
by your glory we are humbled, by your presence we are stirred.
Christ, you are God’s faithful servant, God’s beloved Son so dear.
Guide us by this radiant vision: help us listen; help us hear.

Christ, you choose to suffer and to die, rejected, on the cross,
sharing in our sin and death, our struggles, and our pain and loss.
In your faithful, loving presence, even in our darkest nights,
we behold you, God’s Beloved, shining with love’s healing light.

Help us serve you, each transfigured by light shining from above.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit, radiant with the light of love.
In self-giving, help us share our neighbor’s suffering through the night,
and be lamps for those who struggle, with compassion’s gentle light.

Jesus, Transfigured (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Jesus, transfigured, bright with heaven’s mystery,
highest of prophets and all the law,
our power to comprehend comes to its humble end
in reverent wonder, love and awe.

Sun of the morning, radiant with holy light,
wake us from sleep, that we may see:
see holy glory in each day’s story,
in every day, eternity.

Light of the world, O Christ, shine in us with all your love.
Crucified and risen One,
fill us with holy fire, our hearts with grace inspire,
to share the warmth of heaven’s Sun.

Light for the World (Original song) –

Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Christ, you appeared on the mountain top, shining with radiant glory,
God’s own Beloved, the light of the world, and we will tell your story.

Give your attention to God’s good news, like a candle that shines in a dark place;
Let that light fill you and guide you, my friends, and shine with love.

Listen (Tune: Gift of Love, “The Water Is Wide”)

“This is my dear Beloved Son,
the Light of Life, my Chosen One.
And so I ask by grace, by choice,
you listen for his gentle voice.

“For when you listen and attend
in silence deep, you meet your Friend,
whose voice no words can catch or hold,
and yet whose love is clearly told.

“And listen well with love’s deep art,
to what is in your neighbor’s heart,
for there I dwell, and there I speak;
and there I hide, for you to seek.

“My glory shines in every face
of my beloved human race.
So listen well with wond’ring care:
behold my glory shining there.”

Resurrection Light (Transfiguration) (Tune: Ode to Joy)

Wake us, Jesus from our dreams, to see you in a holy light:
Law and prophet, loving promise God has sent to guide us right.
As Elijah, call us Godward, speak the living truth to us.
As our Moses, lead us in our liberating exodus.

Wake us, Jesus, from our fear of pain and death, and from our sin.
Grant that we may live illumined by the world you usher in.
All things shine with light reflected from the dawn that fills our sight.
All of life is thus transfigured by your resurrection’s light.

Wake us, Jesus from complacent dreaming on the mountain’s height.
Teach us humble service: your departure is our guiding light.
Preach the gospel, feed the hungry, heal the broken, give them sight.
Give your life, then find it, shining bright with Resurrection light.

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