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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Last Sunday before Lent, Year C Green

Opening Verse

transfiguration by Bellini

 
Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns for this week
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead :

For alternative Lectionary readings click here


God does not dieIntroduction

Think back over the past weeks since Christmas. At his baptism, Jesus' glory was seen when he was declared God's Son. At Cana, his Glory was evident in his power to change nature- water into wine. At Nazareth, his preaching revealed his glory. In the calling of the disciples, Jesus' glory was acknowledged by those who left everything to follow him. During the last Sundays of this Epiphany season, we have seen the glory reflected in his teachings. Today, at the Transfiguration, everything comes together: Jesus reflects in his person, the glory of God, and the past is fulfilled with the approval of Moses and Elijah. The whole scene is surrounded by symbolic meaning; an aura of unnatural brightness is linked with mystical appearances in Exodus and Acts, "dazzling white" is a symbol of transcendence, the "cloud" is a symbol of God's presence and the words from it recall Jesus' baptism, and add "listen to him!"

Opening Verse of Scripture    Psalm 99

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name-- he is holy.


Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty Father, 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. Amen   Common Worship

Holy God, you know the disorder of our sinful lives: set straight our crooked hearts, and bend our wills to love your goodness and your glory, in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship

God of light, your Son was revealed in majesty, before he suffered death on the cross. Give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to follow 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.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

Lord God, whose glory shines upon us in the face of Jesus Christ, and whose nature is made known to us in the mystery of the cross: number us, we pray, among his faithful followers for whom nothing matters but the doing of your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

 

First Bible Reading Exodus 34:29 –35

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.

Second Reading 2 Corinthians Chapter 3:12 - 4:2

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Transfiguartion by Feofan G Gospel Reading Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no-one at that time what they had seen. The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Post Communion Prayer

Holy God, we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ: may we who are partakers at his table reflect his life in word and deed, that all the world may know his power to change and save. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Commentary

The episode we read about today in Luke is often called the ‘Transfiguration’. Matthew and Luke both record the event and use the Greek word ’metamorpho.’ It is a word which means to transform from an earthly to a supernatural figure. Luke doesn’t actually use the word transfiguration, perhaps because he was writing for a different audience and the word had pagan connotations. Greek gods and magicians were believed to transform themselves into other forms. Historians of Rome told stories of divine kings whose divinity was confirmed by a transfiguration event. This was true of Romulus, the founder of Rome, and also Tullius Servius, the sixth king of Rome (575-535BC). He was born of a slave woman and a divine phantom and his divinity was confirmed by a transfiguration story.

We don’t really know what happened, we are told that it was an event which occurred in prayer and the Gospel writers call it a ‘Vision.’ To some people that might mean that it never really took place they just imagined it! Prayer is not something which we can submit to scientific analysis, but we know that this episode was very real to the disciples and terrified them. Matthew records that they fell on the floor and they were filled with awe and he records a very nice detail that Jesus came to them and ‘touched them’, that human gesture to reassure them and give them peace.

So let’s look at what is going on in Luke’s Gospel specifically today. Starting from the beginning of Luke’s Gospel we are taken on a journey of discovering who Jesus is. Luke has a sequence of events which show that Jesus is special and they build up to the episode which we read about today which we call the Transfiguration. Let me pick out 10 building blocks in preparation for today -

1. An angel announcing to Mary about his miraculous birth. Jesus will have a kingdom that will never end.
2. An angel announces to shepherds that Jesus is born and he is the Messiah, a Saviour.
3. Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and announces that he has now seen God’s salvation for all people
4. Jesus is seen in the Temple at 12 year discussing with adult teachers and clearly he is not an ordinary child.
5. At the age of 30 Jesus is baptised in the Jordan by John and a voice proclaims him to be God’s son.
6. Jesus enters the wilderness for 40 days to discover what his ministry will be like
7. Jesus preaches a controversial sermon at Nazareth and announces that God’s Spirit was guiding his ministry to be one which valued the poor, the disadvantaged, the ones at the bottom of society. He is lucky to avoid death from the mob afterwards.
8. The ministry of Jesus takes off as he preaches at Capernaum and he heals and calls his disciples
9. There are some disturbing signs in his ministry which suggest all will not be easy. A ‘sinful’ woman kisses Jesus feet and pours perfume onto them and wipes them with her hair.
10. Most significantly after Peter declares Jesus to be ‘God’s Messiah,’ Jesus tells that he must die and be raised to life.

Today, at the Transfiguration, everything comes together on this mountain, a moment of climax as Jesus is seen alongside Moses and Elijah. It was said that Elijah never died (2 Kings 2:11, Mal 4:5) and although we read that God himself had buried Moses (Deut 34:6), in Jewish tradition, both "Moses and Elijah" were taken into heaven without dying and there was speculation that they might appear at times when heaven made itself seen. There was an air of expectancy that they would reveal themselves at an important time.

Jesus speaks with them and shares his plans for his ministry leading to his death in Jerusalem. It is while Jesus is speaking that God’s voice declares Jesus to be his Son and tells them to ‘listen to him.’ It doesn’t get any bigger than this, this is the ultimate seal of approval. Moses and Elijah as representatives of the Old Testament, particularly, the Law and the Prophets, then the voice of God himself. They show that Jesus' agenda, no matter how radical and different from the religion of the time, was approved of by God because Jesus was doing his will. Luke has told us that the purpose of the meeting was for Jesus to discuss the progress towards his death, literally his ‘Exodus’. Although this was a natural way to speak of death (Wisdom of Solomon 7:6) there overtones of future salvation which the prophets and later Jews often viewed as a new Exodus.
Moses and Elijah prepare to leave and Peter encourages them to stay, offering to put up three shelters. He was wrong for all sorts of reasons, not least because a tent apiece suggested that Jesus was just the equal of Moses and Elijah and this was not the case. In Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 13;3, 8, 18:15) the people had been told to listen to Moses, now these words from the cloud say that this no longer so, the people are no longer to listen to Moses but Jesus. We need to be reassured of this fact today, that our absolute authority comes from the teaching of Jesus. Jesus stands in continuity with the Old Testament as we know it, symbolized by two of the most important figures in it, Moses and Elijah, however it is Jesus who brings the Kingdom of God and salvation for humankind, and his words are the final and incomparable authority.

No matter how much Peter might have wanted it to be so, this time of glory which came in prayer could not be contained or become and end in itself. Luke describes how as soon as they came down from the mountain they were straight back into the confrontation with evil. Luke the writer demonstrates the movement from the mountain top experience to the needy world.  Charles Royden

Meditation

picture of Pieta MarblePieta c. 1498-99 Marble 174 x 195 cm (5 3/4 x 6 ft)
Basilica of St Peter, Vatican

He was only in his early twenties when Michelangelo was commissioned in 1498 to do a life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her son in her arms. It was to be unveiled in St. Peter's Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500. In less than two years Michelangelo carved from a single slab of marble, one of the most magnificent sculptures ever created.

In 1972, a 33-year-old Australian geologist attacked Michelangelo's Pieta with a hammer. One of Mary's hands was broken off and extensive damage was done to her face. A team of experts was brought in to restore the sculpture. They did not set to work right away. They spent the first weeks simply studying the statue. They wanted to be so immersed in the spirit behind the master's work that when they began the restoration process, they would do so with the mind of Michelangelo and not simply with their own.

As we seek to be transformed into disciples of Jesus we wish ours to be a fascinated gaze that cause us to be a reflection of the Master.

 

 

 

 

Hymns

  • All my hope on god is founded

  • I am a new creation

  • Seek ye first

  • At the name of Jesus

  • O worship the king

  • All hail the power of Jesus name

  • Seek ye first

  • Angel voices ever singing

  • O worship the king


Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

 

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian. If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

 

May the love of Christ embrace you. The divinity of the Creator infuse you. And the joy of the Spirit lead you always further into all bliss. Amen (Christina Rees)

God of all times and seasons: I come to you, the God of Spring – the new leaf God, the new life God – blessed by your creation. I come to you, the God of Summer – the colour God, the growing God –blessed by your sustenance. I come to you, the god of Autumn – the harvest God, the richness God, - blessed by your fruitfulness. I come to you, the God of Winter – the waiting God, the still and secret God – blessed by your mystery. And so I surrender my seasons into your eternity; I open my life to the edges of your timelessness; And when I come to that place of stillness and silence. There let me adore you. Amen (Peter Graystone)

To those who hunger, give bread. To those who have bread, Give a hunger for justice. Amen

Grant us, O Lord, a resurrection faith - a faith that is radiant in the knowledge of your victory over sin and death - a faith that is confident in your care and your love. Bless now, we pray, with joy those who call out in your name and those who labour as you have directed. Bless too those we hold before you - and work a work of healing and salvation in their lives.
 

O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.

We give you thanks and praise, O God, for you are the one who removes the veil from our minds and transfigure us in the wondrous light of your glory. At the dawn of time your word lit up the sun and stars and dispelled the chaos to form the earth. You revealed your glory to your servant, Moses, and, from the cloud, you made a covenant with your people. In the timeless presence of Moses and Elijah you transfigured your Son, Jesus Christ, allowing his terrified followers to witness his glory and hear your voice from the awesome cloud. He was killed by those whose minds were hardened, but, by your mercy, his exodus through the waters of death led to resurrection life and freedom. Now, you have called us to listen to him and live our lives as an open statement of your truth. Through your Holy Spirit, you are transforming us into his image and clothing us with honour and majesty. Therefore, with our hearts lifted high, we offer you thanks and praise at all times through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy and Eternal God, you know our need for you, our need for your love to warm our hearts, for your word to guide us, for your Spirit to sustain us, for your presence to make us whole. Help us to wait upon you now with penitent and believing hearts - help us to hear your word, to see your glory, to feel your touch, and then to follow in the way the Spirit directs us. We ask all these things in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. .

 

Christian Aid Prayer

The sun offers its gift of warmth
the sea offers its gift of water
the mountains give their coolness
and their beauty
the breeze refreshes creation.
And we too bring our gifts
so that all may have life.
Lord use then to fill the world
with peace and justice
so that every home can have its daily bread. Amen.
Christian Aid Prayer written in the Dominican republic.

 

Alternative Readings

Roman CenturionIntroduction

The Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant was a man used to issuing orders and expecting them to be obeyed without question. An order was not to be questioned, it was to be carried out because it came from a higher authority. So when the Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant he did not expect that Jesus would have to come to his home himself. It would simply be enough for Jesus to issue the order and it would be carried out.


We do not often hear in the Bible that Jesus is surprised, but on this occasion we are told that Jesus was amazed at the faith of the Centurion. When we speak about faith we often mean what ideas we have, what we believe about God. The faith of this Centurion was about recognising who Jesus was and understanding that the power of God was powerfully at work in him, enabling Jesus to do whatever he considered fit. The Gentile Centurion had understood more about Jesus than the Jews who resented him so much.
 

So what do you believe about Jesus? The Centurion was able to share in the blessings of Jesus and a marvellous healing took place. That same Jesus has power today to answer your needs.
 

 I Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and said: "O LORD , God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below-you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. "As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name- for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm-when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.  (This is the word of the Lord -- Thanks be to God)

Galatians 1:1-12

Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ 

Luke Chapter 7: 1-10

When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. 

Commentary

Sometimes the characters who encounter Jesus are merely sketched in the Gospel writers. They are stick men and women who feed Jesus the right line and then disappear into obscurity of history.

The centurion in today’s reading from the Gospel according to St Luke is very different. We learn a great deal about him and he leaps from the page as a very interesting character indeed. The centurion confounds our expectations about the kind of emotions we might expect from a seasoned soldier in an army of occupation. He has made himself liked and respected by the local population; he has shown respect and sympathy for their religion; he has helped them practically in building their place of worship. He also displays a surprising love for his slave. We are told not that the slave was useful to him but that he was dear to him.

The centurion was willing to beg for help from a rabbi with a reputation as a healer. In al his dealings with Jesus, the centurion shows the most remarkable humility. Although how Jesus heals is a mystery to him, as it is to us, the centurion showed unwavering belief in Jesus’ power to heal, and before that power the centurion acknowledged his own unworthiness. Jesus was astonished by the Roman soldier’s faith and respect. The centurion saw. With the clarity of the outsider, that Jesus was infused by power from God, and knew that alongside that power, earthly authority was meaningless. The centurion’s wisdom and humility secured for him the healing of a person he cared for.

We too need humility to recognise our own unworthiness before God, This is the first stage in our spiritual healing. Joan Crossley