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Liturgy and Sermon For Transfiguration Sunday - Year B
I Kings 2:1-12 and Mark 9:2-9
"Mountain Top Experiences"


READING:  I Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9
SERMON :  "Mountain Top Experiences"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-transmsu 531871

       Elements of the Prayer of Invocation and the Prayers of the
       People are taken from John Maynard maynard@sympac.com.au
       "Prayers and Litanies For The Transfiguration of Our Lord" as
       sent to the PRCL-List on February 29, 2000.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 19:1-4)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The heavens declare the glory of God.
P  The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
L  Day after day they pour forth speech.
P  Night after night they display knowledge.
L  They have no speech, there are no words, 
   but their sound goes out to all the lands, 
   their words to the ends of the earth.


* INTROIT:  "Spirit of The Living God"                 - VU 376 (verse 1&2)


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of love and of justice, God of holiness and of mercy, God of thunder
and of the still small voice within, we pray you to shine forth upon us
today.  Bestow up us a double portion of your Spirit and help us to hear
your word and perceive the marvels you are performing.  Grant that we may
see beyond the turmoil of our world and behold your anointed one in all his
glory.  Touch us and lift us into the light and peace of your presence. 
Strengthen us for your service as we worship you - we ask it in Christ's
name.  Amen


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


* HYMN:  "Praise To The Lord"                                      - VU 835


CHILDREN'S TIME: A Different View
Object:   None
Theme:    Events Can Change Us
Source:   Self 

What's the best surprise or most special thing that's ever happened to
you?  What was it?

How did it feel?  Were you excited?  Did it make you really happy?  

Did it last?  Did you want it to last?

Could every day be like that - would it be the same if it was?

Did it change how you thought about the people involved in it - make them
seem even better??  Did it make you feel any different about the other days
afterward?

Today's story about Jesus and his disciples climbing a mountain and a very
special thing happened, a surprise to the disciples - they saw Jesus change
before them - and shine like the sun -- and then a thick dark cloud covered
the mountain and from that cloud they heard God speak - and say to them -
"this is my Son, I love him.  Listen to him." - and it made them feel much
like you felt -- they wanted it to last and last - but it couldn't - but
when they came back down the mountain they saw things a bit differently
than before - it gave them strength for the days ahead when Jesus went to
Jerusalem - and died for them - and for you and me..

   Let us pray -- Father and Mother of us all -- Maker of the stars and
   the planets -- Giver of special moments and Ordinary days -- Touch
   us with your glory -- And help us to listen to your son -- Christ
   Jesus our Lord -- Amen


* HYMN:  "I Am The Light Of The World"                              - VU 87


A READING FROM I KING 2:1-12
   (NRSV)  Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a
   whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. {2} Elijah
   said to Elisha, "Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel."
   But Elisha said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will
   not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. {3} The company of
   prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, "Do
   you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?" And
   he said, "Yes, I know; keep silent." {4} Elijah said to him, "Elisha,
   stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho." But he said, "As the
   LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they
   came to Jericho. {5} The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew
   near to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today the LORD will
   take your master away from you?" And he answered, "Yes, I know; be
   silent." {6} Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; for the LORD has sent
   me to the Jordan." But he said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself
   live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on. {7} Fifty men
   of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from
   them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. {8} Then Elijah took
   his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted
   to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry
   ground. {9} When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what
   I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let
   me inherit a double share of your spirit." {10} He responded, "You have
   asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it
   will be granted you; if not, it will not." {11} As they continued
   walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the
   two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. {12}
   Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of
   Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he
   grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


ANTHEM


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 50  (Voices United U 775 and sung Refrain)


A READING FROM 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, {3} and his clothes became dazzling white,
   such as no one on earth could bleach them. {4} And there appeared to
   them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. {5} 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." {6} He did
   not know what to say, for they were terrified. {7} Then a cloud
   overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my
   Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" {8} Suddenly when they looked around,
   they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. {9} 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.

L  This is the Gospel of our risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN: "How Good, Lord, To Be Here"                               - VU 103


SERMON:  "Mountain Top Experiences"

   Let us Pray - O Lord, in the light of your presence we turn our
   attention to your teaching, seeking what you want to say to us.  May 
   he light of your gospel so illuminate us that we may receive a
   double portion of your Spirit and the assurance that we are indeed
   your beloved servants.  For Christ's sake we ask it - Amen

I was at a meeting the other day when the treasurer handed the secretary an
envelop.  A bit later in the meeting the chairperson asked the secretary
for some information - but the secretary replied that he didn't have that
information.  At the point the treasurer rose and said "yes - you do - it
is was on the envelop I gave you."

The secretary replied, "Oh, I didn't know what that was - so I threw it
away "

Everyone laughed - including me - but I was struck at the time by just how
normal the secretary's actions had been.

Often when we encounter something which we do not know or understand we
throw it away;  or at the very least - we ignore it - we put it on hold 
- we neglect it.

So it is with stories like those we heard today from the scriptures -
   Many of us hear about visions of chariots of fire,
       of water being parted to reveal a path across a river ,
          and of a man being taken up into heaven -
 and mentally shrug our shoulders and dismiss the matter as an idle tale.

Others hear about how Jesus was transformed upon a mountaintop,
    so that he shone as bright as the sun, 
    and about how he is visited by two men - long dead,
and say to themselves 
   - that's all very nice, but what does it have to do with me -
and then they go on about their lives as if these things had never
happened,as if they never can or will happen.

Most sermons I have had heard on today's gospel reading ignore the
experience that the disciples witnessed Jesus undergo.  

Very little is said in them about the overwhelming brightness of Jesus'
appearance, very little is made of the fact that Peter, James, and John saw
Moses and Elijah talking with Christ and heard a voice from heaven.

Most of these sermons have in fact quickly passed over the wonder of the
experience and go on to stress how Christians are called to come down off
the mountain and serve in the valley below.

I find that to be a great shame.

I find it to be a great shame as well how so many of us ignore, neglect,
devalue, or scorn the prophet's ecstasy, the dreamer's vision, and the
worshipper's conviction that he or she has heard God speak.

Most of us are convinced that our faith is about doing good things,
   about showing love and care for one another,
       and it is so - this is what our faith is about.

But our faith is also about the yearning to see God and experience his power
   it is about being touched by the Spirit 
   and being moved by the voice of the Lord whispering in our ears.

Our faith is so rich - our God so good - that it makes no sense at all to
limit what is possible for us to the dry bones of what we should or should
not do each day.

Our faith is about entertaining angels, 
   every bit as much as it is about seeking to comfort the afflicted and
   to heal the sick.
It is about seeing visions of a new heaven and a new earth,
   every bit as much as it is about seeking justice and resisting evil.

It is about being refreshed by God, 
   as much as it is about refreshing others in God's name.

A little boy, around the turn of the century, lived far back out in the
country.  He had reached the age of 12 and had never, in all his life, seen
a circus.

   You can imagine his excitement when a poster went up at school that
   on the next Saturday a travelling circus was coming to a nearby
   town.  He ran home with the glad news, and then came the question -
   "Dad, Mom, can I go?"

   The family was poor, but the father sensed how important this was to
   the boy, so he said, "If you do your chores ahead of time, I'll see
   to it that you have the money to go."

   Come Saturday morning the chores were done and the boy stood ready
   in best clothes by the breakfast table.  His father reached down
   into his overalls and pulled out a dollar bill - the most money the
   boy had ever had at one time - and gave it to him.  After the usual
   cautions about being careful the boy was sent on his way.

   The boys was so excited that his feet barely touched the ground all
   the way to the town.  When he got there, he noticed people were
   lining the streets and he worked his way through the crowd until he
   could see what was going on.  There in the distance approached the
   spectacle of a circus parade.  It was the grandest thing that the
   lad had ever seen.  There were exotic animals in cages and bands and
   midgets, acrobats, and all that goes to make up a great circus.

   After everything had passed by where he was standing, a circus
   clown, with floppy shoes and baggy paints and brightly painted face,
   came by bringing up the rear.  As the clown passed by where he was
   standing, the boy reached into his pocket and got out that precious
   dollar bill.  Handing the money to the clown, the boy then turned
   around and went home.

The mistake that the boy made - is the same mistake we can make in our
spiritual lives -
   we can end up settling for less than the real thing,
   for a portion - instead of for the whole,
and all because we either do not believe in what God can do,
   or because we do not look at or understand what we have been given.

I did not know what it was, so I threw it away.

I believe the most common problem faced by members of the United Church,
   and indeed by members of most churches
   is not the fact that they spend too much time seeking spiritual visions and
   revelations - thereby neglecting the important truths and duties of
   everyday life in Christ,
   rather it is the fact that they do not believe in and thus are not open to
   the special moments, the special touches, that only God can give.

Some of the faithful say that people have no energy for living the
Christian life because they do not get fed by the church - I say - some
people are out of energy because they fail to recognize the food that is
before them - because they fail to take and eat what God seeks to give
them.

When I lived on the West Coast there was a weekly prayer meeting held at
our church.  Of the hundred or so adults that attended church every week,
only about 15 or so attended this meeting.

There they sought spiritual food for their daily journey in the Lord.
There they found it.

I remember one time when a guest preacher was present at the meeting.

We prayed for one another with the laying on of hands,
we prayed for healings,
    - for people to have the power to overcome some grief or suffering in
   their lives,
   - for others to discover what God wanted them to do about a particular
   situation.

Finally my turn came to be prayed for -
and I asked that all might pray that God would fill me with his Spirit -
that he might make my faith come even more alive.

When the hands came down on my head and shoulders
and the people gathered around me began to pray -
I felt a energy go through my body like electricity,
and I shook in my chair as the words of prayer washed over me,
and then, in a moment of sudden silence, 
one word came strongly from the guest - a word came strongly from God -
"You shall be used to do great things in my service."

To this day those words have stayed with me and shaped my thoughts -
making me wonder what the greatness is -
making me wonder 
- is it the power and glory like that of great evangelist or theologian,
- or is it the greatness that was revealed by Christ as he went about as
the servant of all, stooping down even to wash his own disciple's feet?

It was a moment that fed me and still feeds me 
- a profoundly spiritual moment.

I may told this story before, but another time - many years later -
Charlene and I asked a Lutheran Pastor to perform a private service of
confession and reconciliation for us.  We needed the assurance of God's
love in our lives, we needed to know that the past was behind us - and to
ask God to walk with us into the future.

We expected a simple service -
   a time of confession,
   the words of absolution,
   and then to receive the broken body and poured out blood of our Lord.

And all this happened - but as the pastor prepared the table for us
something very unusual happened - he spoke a word concerning the wine we
would receive - saying to us that it was a strong wine - and a thrill went
through us both - there was a moment of incredible clarity - in which we
both had exactly the same thought - the thought that what we had been
through was "strong wine indeed".

That service of worship was a turning point for us;
- much as the experience of Jesus and his disciples on the mount of
transfiguration was a turning point 
- much as Elisha crossing the Jordan with Elijah was a turning point.

My friends - I can't explain out to you what a holy moment is;
   nor can I tell you just how special and sacred events come to pass,
       nor can I even promise you that you will have such a moment if you
       only do this or that,
but I can tell, and I do now tell you, that these moments are real,
and that they come to us most often when we put ourselves in the way of
them.

As another preacher put it one time
You can't have a mountain top experience if you don't climb the mountain.

Elisha followed his teacher Elijah around the country despite Elijah
telling him not to when he had his experience; he actively sought a double
portion of the spirit that filled Elijah and was patient to receive it.

Peter, James, and John were obeying Jesus when they witnessed his
transfiguration, they had climbed the mountain with him as he went to pray.

I, and then Charlene and I, were seeking to be open to the Lord, we were
looking for his forgiveness and for his blessing - when the message God had
chosen for us came to us.

The sacred experiences that are recounted in the bible, the experiences of
the divine that are recorded there, are still needed today - - and they
still occur today.

Some catch sight of God in the beauty around them,
some glimpse him during a close encounter with death,
some meet him in a special way during a period of suffering,
others while they are praying at special gatherings or at worship.

Don't throw away those strange and mysterious experiences that have
happened in your lives.
Don't let go of those things that you do not understand or cannot explain.
Rather meditate on them, delight in them, and use them as a source of
strength for your time of service in the valleys below.

Oh how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the Living God.  Amen


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER 
Holy and loving God - whose nature and ways are far beyond our
understanding, we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus - who lets us
see your face in his, who shows us your love in his actions, your grace in
his manner of being.  In him too, O God, we see ourselves as you would have
us be and as your power is able to make us.  Make us more like him now we
pray...  Lord hear our prayer......

Lord - we often find ourselves weary, tired out by a load of care, a heap
of responsibility and concern.  We hunger and thirst, and often fail to
stop to eat and drink at the table you have prepared for us.  Lord, we are
here now - and we ask you - grant us a glimpse of your glory - fill us with
your spirit - refresh us and make us new ... Lord hear our prayer.....

Loving God, we pray that your glory may fill your church and give to your
people everywhere the energy to shine wherever there is darkness, disunity,
persecution, or despair... Lord hear our prayer....

Father, we pray for those we named in our sharing time and for all those
whose names are upon our hearts.  Grant to them health and wholeness, peace
and joy, strength and hope...  We remember before you:
 
- intercessions and petitions as shared in sharing time

..... Lord hear our prayer....

Give us all, O Lord, a greater love of your holiness, a greater delight in
your mystery, and a greater joy in seeking your presence.  We ask it
through Christ Jesus, who revealed your will to us and who taught us to
pray to you as one family, saying OUR FATHER


MINUTE FOR MISSION: 


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology(Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Lord, as Elijah used his gifts to part the waters and to proclaim
   your message - and as Jesus used his gifts to heal others and redeem
   all people, so we pray you would use our gifts this day, both those
   on these plates, and those within our hearts and minds - to continue
   your work in this world.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "She Flies On"                                  - VU 380


* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION                                                 - Bob Barbour
Go in peace - love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- And may the Spirit of the Lord strengthen you 
- the glory of God of the Father shine about you, 
- and the faithful love and mercy of Christ Jesus fill your hearts, 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks - 2000 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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