Transfiguration Sunday

February 11, 2024

Lectionary Texts

2 Kings 2. 1-12. Elijah is taken up into heaven as Elisha witnesses.

Psalm 50.1-6. God shines forth out of Zion and all Creation reflects God’s glory. God alone is our judge.

2 Corinthians 4. 3-6. The gospel is “veiled” to some, but it shines. God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts.

Mark 9. 2-9. The transfiguration

Preaching Thoughts

2 Kings
  Like the story of the transfiguration, the vision of Elijah taken up into heaven suggests the mystery of a person whose significance for us goes beyond rational doctrine, ideas or explanations. Never mind whether Elijah “properly died” or not; he was subject to human limitation like everybody, and is surely dead. But he represents something of God that is eternal, that doesn’t die, but is transformed from one moment, one generation, to the next. And with the passing on of his mantle, this becomes a story not just about Elijah but about what is passed from him to his disciple—a gift, a responsibility, a power— a calling.

2 Corinthians
      The light of God that shines in Creation shines in Jesus—and also in us. Like Elijah’s mantle, the light of Christ is passed on to us to carry. It is a responsibility, but not a burden— Jesus says, perhaps as an intentional double entendre, “my burden is light.” It’s not our light, not ours to generate: we bear the light that God gives us. “God has shone in our hearts.” All we have to do is open the windows and let the light shine out.
       Oddly, sadly, the lectionary omits the final sentence of the paragraph, verse 7: “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” Sure, the sentence appears a couple months from now, but isn’t it worth hearing twice? I always include it. It’s the indispensable flip side of the message of light: that the light is God’s not ours.

       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. Building a doctrine around this story is like Peter wanting to erect three structures around Jesus, Elijah and Moses. It’s silly. The light of splendid visions gets our attention, but it’s in the cloud—in our unknowing— that we hear the voice of God.
      The story is a kaleidoscope of scriptural images. It weaves together the light of Creation (alluded to in 2 Corinthians); Moses on the mountain; Elijah taken up in a chariot of fire; and hence with Moses and Elijah the “law and the prophets” (indicating both Israel’s history and 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, 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 in it. The disciples are told not to tell anyone of this until after Jesus has risen, because it’s not all about glory, it’s about death and resurrection. And until you’ve got the whole story, both the dying and the rising, you don’t have the right story. .
       On the mountain God says the same thing God says at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” The two stories are connected: resurrection is the end result of baptism. Baptism is a call to risk and sacrifice, even to suffer, even to die, for the sake of love and justice, knowing it is the doorway to resurrection. We are baptized into a reality suffused with the light of glory, a reality greater than just our earthly days.
       And God says “Listen to him.” Faith isn’t about believing st uff about Jesus, no matter how glorious. It’s about listening to him, day by day, moment by moment.
       By pointing us toward the cross (and resurrection) the Transfiguration story prepares us to enter the season of Lent with hope and not foreboding. This is the way to life that is infinite.

Call to Worship

Leader: Creator God, you bring light out of darkness.
All: Glory! Wonder! Praise!
Loving Christ, you are the light of the world, light of our lives.
Glory! Wonder! Praise!
Holy Spirit, you are light for our journey, radiating from within us.
Glory! Wonder! Praise!
We thank you, and we worship you. Alleluia!

2.              [Psalm 50.1-6]
Leader: The Life-giving One, God the Holy One, speaks.
All: God calls the earth into being from the rising of the sun to its setting.
From the beauty at the heart of all things God shines forth.
Our God comes and does not keep silence,
radiating glory that consumes everything,
a storm of beauty that leaves nothing untouched.
God calls all Creation to awareness,
for God sees what we do not.
“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by giving their hearts!”
The heavens beam with God’s presence,
for God sees everything as it truly is.

Leader: God of Grace, you say “Let there be light,”
All: and we come into being.
Christ, light of the world, you shine in us,
and we glow with the radiance of your presence.
Holy Spirit, fire of God, you burn in us,
and we bear the beams of your love into this world.
Christ, may we shine with the light of your grace.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit of Life,
and transform us from within. Alleluia!

Leader: Christ, you shone on the mountain top, radiant with the glory of God.
All: We have seen your glory in our lives, and we worship in awe!
God, in the beginning you created light, and in Jesus you shone with grace.
Alleluia! Shine in us, so that we may be light for the world.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
You are our life, and we worship you.
Christ, light of God, you shone upon the mountain.
Alleluia! Light of Christ, shine in our hearts.
Illumine our path and lead us in the way of love.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was the light of life.
All: O God, let your light shine in us.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world;
let your light so shine that others may see and glorify God.”
O God, let your light shine in us.
Sleeper, awake, and rise from the dead, and God will shine upon you.
O God, let your light shine in us.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of light, you appeared in glory in Christ on the mountain. We open the eyes of our hearts now so that we may see Christ truly, and see you in your resurrection power. Open our eyes, that we may always see with faith your light within us, your glory among us, and the dawn of your hope that rises upon us. Amen.

Gracious God, you come in glory beyond our comprehension, as Elisha saw when you took Elijah, as the disciples saw when Jesus shone with your grace. Shine in our hearts as we hear your Word, so that we may behold your glory and shine with your light in all that we do, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Holy and gracious God, you have shown us your glory in the transfiguration of your beloved Son. Grant to us the vision of faith, so that we may see Jesus, truly love him, and follow him all the days of our lives. Amen.

Leader: Light of glory,
All: awaken us.
Light of illumination,
show us the way.
Light of beauty,
captivate us.
Light of love,
burn warmly in us.
Light of Resurrection,
encourage us.
Light of the new dawn,
lead us forward.
Light of Christ,
shine in us,
that we may be radiant with your grace. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

God of love,
the light of your glory awakens us;
but it is in the cloud,
in the mystery,
that we hear your voice.
You give us your Chosen one, your Beloved,
and command us, “Listen to him.”
So in stillness we listen.

Prayer of Confession

Gentle God, your light shines in all Creation,
but we have not looked for it.
Your light shines in us,
but we have not shone fully with your grace.
Forgive our dullness,
cleanse all that obscures your light,
and shine in us more perfectly,
that we may be light for the world
by the grace of Christ,
with the radiance of your Holy Spirit.



Forget the three dwellings, the theology, the beliefs.
Just let it knock your socks off,
lay you low with wonder and beauty and,
yeah, even a little terror.
It’s all glorious mystery,
more than we can understand,
almost more than we can bear.
Just be silent and wonder. Let your mouth hang open.
Let this be your credo:
And let this be your faith: just listen.
God is not interested in fancy beliefs.
God wants your attention.
Stay open to the wonder and the mystery. Keep watching.
not all at once, perhaps, like this, but over time
a burning bush, flaming chariots, your brilliant Healer,
a simple patch of sunlight, a human being—
anything may light up your eyes,
transfigure you into pure light and wonder and mystery.
Only then, when the miracle’s left you speechless,
and you’ve come back from the dead,
can you tell.


You are God’s Beloved.
         Let it be so.
         That’s how you become pure light.

What was brilliant in Jesus
         was simply God’s pleasure
         radiating in him.

Open your heart to God’s desire for you
         like light pouring into a room,
         like silence receiving a bird song.

God’s love for you
         burns like a bonfire in you.
         How do you put that under a bushel?

It’s the gleam in God’s eye that glows in you,
         blood rushing to the Beloved’s face,
         flush with passion.

It’s not arrogant to bask
         in God’s delight in you.
How stuck up it would be
         to spurn the Beloved’s ardent passion!

Lie down and let God make love to you.
         See? Even as you blush reading this
         you begin to glow.

Become the Beloved,
         and like a youth in love
         you will be transfigured
         with the light of God.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

       We give our hearts to you, O God, Creator of all things; light of life and sun of our being. We cannot understand you; we can only love you, with wonder and praise!
       We love and trust you, Jesus, light of God, radiant with God’s love. In your teaching and healing, your prophetic witness and your work of justice, you shined for us the lamp of the Law and Prophets. You chose the Way of the Cross, and God raised you to new life like the morning sun. We stand in awe and wonder, ready to follow you, to enter into your community, to share your wonder, to practice your love.
       We breathe of you deeply, Holy Spirit: God’s love radiant in us, whose gifts in us enable us to shine with your light, trusting the power of your grace, to forgive, to bless, to seek justice, to serve you in the way of grace.
       O Beautiful Mystery, O Radiant Love, we worship you; we bless you, in awe and gratitude; we serve you, in wonder, love and praise. Alleluia!

       We give our hearts to you, eternal and all-loving God, maker of heaven and earth. You are pure love, and your love is the light of the world
       We follow you, Jesus, Christ of God, Light of the World, fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. You fully embody God’s love and presence, and radiate God’s glory among us. In your healing and teaching, in your dying and rising shone the love of God. You live among us and your love is our guide, O Christ, our Lord and our light.
       We live by the power of your Holy Spirit, your love in us, shining with beauty. Obeying your command to listen to Christ, we devote ourselves to deep prayer, and to love and service for the sake of the healing of the world. In your spirit we are one Body, and we offer ourselves in love to the world, trusting the mystery of your grace and the power of resurrection, to your eternal glory, which shines in all things. Amen.

      In the beginning God said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” We give thanks for that light, and we seek the light of God in all Creation.
      The light of the glory of God shone in the face of Jesus Christ, the image of God, the light of the world, our Chief; and we turn to him, so that we might receive that light.
      God has shone in our hearts, and we devote our lives to God, that we may shine with God’s grace, proclaim the good news of Christ the Beloved, and serve all Creation in the light of the Holy Spirit. 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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of this world and all that is to come.
In the beginning was your Word, which was the light of life,
through whom all things are given being.

You overthrow the darkness of injustice,
and call your servants to carry the light of peace.
Though we may turn from your light,
still you shine upon us and within us.

Your holy presence illuminates our souls
and we shine with the glory of your image.
Therefore with all Creation we praise you:

            [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 whom you send in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
your beloved Son and faithful servant,
transfigured upon the mountain,
radiant with your grace in loving ministry.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
full of grace and truth; and we have beheld his glory.
He took the way of the cross, of self-giving and love,
and gave his life, and your light shone in his grace.
But you raised him from the dead,
and the light of your glory shines in his resurrection.

Light of your Wisdom, Light of the World and Prince of Peace,
he has shared our suffering and brought light to our darkness.
By his light we have learned the way of peace
and in his light we trust your promises.

[… The Blessing and Covenant…]

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it:
for you have raised your Christ from death.
Therefore in the light of your grace
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 us, O God,
and on these gifts of bread and wine,
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.
By your tender mercy, may your dawn break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace.
Unite us with all who share in this meal,
and send us as light for the world, radiant with your love,
to give light to the way of all who journey in life,
and lead them into your presence.

     [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.) In gratitude we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You have shone your light upon us in Christ. Now lead us by the light of Christ to love and to bless, following Jesus in the way of the cross, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. May we be beacons of your mercy, and lamps of love in the dark places in this world. May our light so shine that others may see, and glorify you. We pray in the name and the spirit of Christ, our Light. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Baptized in Light       (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Baptized in water, we are your creatures,
each son and daughter washed and reborn,
fully forgiven, blessed and made new now,
buried and risen into the morn.

Baptized in light, God, we are your vessels,
love shining bright in all that we do,
as new creations, we are your glory,
bright with elation, radiant with you.

Baptized in Spirit, we are your servants.
This we inherit: to be your light,
Christ rising in us, healing and blessing,
poor given justice, blind given sight.

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,
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 One 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)
A dialog between cantor and congregation. Multiple verses are supplied, so that it may be used, one or two verses at a time, throughout Epiphany. The congregations’ refrain remains the same throughout. Here are the lyrics for Transfiguration Sunday:

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

18. 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.

19. 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: Water Is Wide / Gift of Love)

“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: Joyful, Joyful)

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.

Transfiguration (A communion song) (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)
       [This can be found in Table Songs,
       a collection of communion songs to familiar tunes.]

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.

Wake Us From Our Sleep (Original song)

God of mercy, wake us with your light.
Rouse our sleeping hearts and give us sight.
Raise us up from death; fill us with your breath.
Wake us from our sleep to live new lives in you.

Life comes only from the Word you give.
You alone have power to make us live.
Seeking what is True, Love, we turn to you:
springs of living water flow, and so we live.

Christ, you touch our hearts and heal our fear.
Even in our pain your grace is near.
Spirit, you who save, raise us from our grave.
Born again, dry bones who rise, we live in you.

Christ, light of the world, your radiance bright
wakens us to day out of our night:
shining in, it heals; shining out, reveals.
Help us all to live as children of the light.

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