This is a central hub for Lent articles and activities . https://churchsp.org/lentatstpeters2023
Prelude – Larry Saylor, guitar
Hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation” (beginning 2nd verse
Hymn, “I’d Love to Tell a Story”
Gospel – Transfiguration passage from Matthew
Sermon based on the Gospel
Prayers of the People
Distribution of Living Well in Lent
Offertory – Larry Saylor, guitar
Hymn – “In Remembrance of Me” – portion
John Meng-Frecker – “Transfiguration of our Lord”
Jesus has traveled a long way since his baptism.
That day, when John baptized him in the Jordan River, Matthew tells us that just as Jesus came up out of the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Can you imagine what Jesus must have felt that day? His skin tingling as the cool river water poured down his face and over his body, his eyes squinting as brilliant light poured out of heaven, and from that light, he saw a dove descending and alighting on him.
And in his ears, a voice ringing.
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
It was after his baptism and his forty days in the wilderness that Jesus began to proclaim throughout Galilee, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
He called his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And the disciples went with him as he taught and healed, restored a girl to life, and as he did all of this, people could see what the kingdom of God could and would be like on this earth.
The disciples watched and learned.
And then Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Soon after this, Jesus started explaining to the disciples that he would go to Jerusalem, undergo great suffering, that he would be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him!
“God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Jesus then teaches the disciples that if any want to become his followers, they must take up their crosses and follow.
And then, only six days after Peter has said that Jesus is the Messiah, we come to today’s gospel.
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, and leads them up a high mountain, by themselves.
Now it’s their turn to see light pouring out of heaven, Jesus shining like the sun, his clothes dazzling white. Now it’s their turn to hear a voice ringing, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
And an added phrase. “Listen to him.”
No wonder Peter, James and John fell to the ground in fear.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying “get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus himself alone. Moses and Elijah, the dazzling light, the bright cloud, the ringing voice—all gone.
But Jesus was still there, with them!
Their skin must have tingled as Jesus touched them. And the voice they heard was his, familiar, reassuring, challenging and strengthening.
“Get up and do not be afraid.”
And then they went back down the mountain.
We hear this story every year in church on the last Sunday after the Epiphany.
The transfiguration inspires the disciples in the moment, what some would call a mountain top experience, because what they see points beyond his death to what will happen to Jesus in the future—his resurrection.
When Peter, James and John see Jesus shining like the sun, and his clothes dazzling white, they are seeing a vision of the future, Jesus in his resurrection body, the one who will lead them “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life” as the words of Eucharistic Prayer B say.
And so the disciples would remember the transfiguration forever because this event proved to them without a doubt that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God, and that his reign stretches into eternity.
So no wonder that in the Second Letter of Peter, the writer says that “we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty” and we ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, saying “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
So, the writer goes on, “You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your own hearts.”
This story of the transfiguration can serve as a lamp shining in a dark place for each one of us when we find ourselves facing into bad news, like the disciples faced the bad news that Jesus would suffer and die.
This story helps us to remember that beyond death is resurrection, and that Jesus goes with us through our lives, through our years of health, productivity and mostly stability. But at some point, we all end up staring death in the face, just as Jesus did. But Jesus knew, and told the disciples, and they got to see, that beyond his death was resurrection. This fact is true for us as well. The light of the resurrection burns through and beyond the darkness of death for all of us who follow Jesus.
Today is the day of our congregational meeting, when we review the year just past.
This church has been blessed for the almost two hundred years that it has been in existence. I have no doubt that God considers this church as beloved, and that God is well pleased with this church. For here we are, moving forward, even as we face the challenges of illnesses, aging, deaths, and other changes and transitions that have been difficult.
Like Peter, we may find ourselves saying, or wanting to say, “God forbid it, Lord!” when it comes to our individual challenges, and the challenges that we face as a small church in what seems to be a decline.
But the story of the transfiguration reminds us to hear instead the words of Jesus and to heed them.
“Get up, and do not be afraid!”
Jesus has always been with this church! Jesus is with us now! And Jesus will be with us!
When we are discouraged by our small numbers, discouraged by the accidents and illnesses that disable us for varying periods, when we want to do some work of God in the world that we feel might be impossible because we’re too small, or too old, or too isolated, let’s turn to this story and not be afraid to proceed wherever it is that God will lead us. Because just as Jesus led the disciples down that mountain back into ministry, Jesus leads us too.
Our job is to follow, knowing that as the followers of Jesus, suffering may be inevitable, but guess what, our resurrections are inevitable as well.
So as this season after the Epiphany comes to a close, and we look back on 2022, and at all St Peter’s did last year, and as we look back at all that happened in our own lives,
Remember. “We are God’s beloved. God is pleased with us.”
For we are the light of the resurrection and the reign of God here and now in this time and in this place. As God’s beloved sons and daughters, our job is to continue to be resurrection light out in the world, so that the world can see that the reign of God has indeed already drawn near!
Jesus has touched us, and blessed us and God has blessed this church, over and over and over.
So get up, and do not be afraid. Let’s head down the mountain and take up our crosses and follow Jesus wherever he will lead us, knowing that resurrection awaits.
Source – “Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture from Faith Formation and Education”, Trinity Church NY
This week’s Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the luminous transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of his close disciples, Peter, James, and John, on Mount Tabor. No one can see God and remain unchanged.
As on the Baptism of Jesus, here, at the last Sunday of Epiphany, God reveals who Jesus really is: the Divine Son, the Beloved, truly God. Bright light is a symbol of divine presence and the presence of the great figures of Moses and Elijah also attest to Jesus’ divine nature. Thus they are changed. He opened their eyes so that instead of being blind they could see.
The disciples’ glimpse of this reality may have helped them (at least in retrospect — and with the eyes of their hearts) to deal with the abrupt and dramatic changes that would soon follow: Jesus’ turn to Jerusalem, his passion, death, and resurrection.
For us, as we face into the Lenten season, we hold an image of this mountaintop experience, knowing full well that we, like they, must come down from the mountain and move out into the world proclaiming Good News to the poor, learning how to welcome God’s Beloved amid change, challenge, disappointment, and sacrifice
Congregational Meeting this Sunday. Looking back at 2022, in this case Pentecost.
Feb. 19, 11:00am – Holy Eucharist, Congregational Meeting
Feb. 19, 11am. What were the key things that happened in 2022 ? What’s in store for St. Peter’s in 2023 ?
These are other questions will be part of the 2023 congregational meeting held during the 11am service.
Read about the stories of what we have accomplished as a parish during this past year and to receive updates on our life together as a parish.
We will be electing two members of the Vestry and there will be a presentation on the year passed.
I.Theme – The Promise : God’s Glory and its revelation in the Transfiguration
“Transfiguration (detail) “ – Rafael (1516-1520)
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
God’s glory is explored in two mountain top scenes in the Old Testament and Gospel stories. The example of the transfiguration is itself transformed into hope for a future king. The promise.
The psalms talk about kingship and particularly the ideal future king. There is praise of God as King who has helped people in need, given them just laws punished and forgiven them where appropriate.
1st Peter, the New Testament reading, looks back to the Transfiguration and forward to Christ coming again in all his glory. The emphasis is on the future – Here the transfiguration becomes a sign of hope for the future that God’s purpose will prevail and be fulfilled… through God’s goodness in Christ.
The Gospel is an appropriate conclusion to Epiphany. We began this season with Jesus’ Baptism and conclude with the Transfiguration. In both cases, God (“voice”) proclaims “This is my Son, the Beloved…”. In both points the heavens and the earth intersect. As he has just predicted his own suffering and death (Mt 17:21-23), now God previews his post-resurrection glory. Also, Matthew 16:28 had just reported Jesus’ role as judge to come, who would judge all according to their performance, a theme also in the context of the baptism in Matthew.
This story is reccounted in not only Matthew but also in Mark and Luke. Only Matthew includes “in whom I am well-pleased,” which exactly repeats the words at Jesus’ baptism (3:17). This connection wouldn’t have been made by the disciples, since they weren’t present at the baptism, but it is a connection the readers to make. Why is God pleased with Jesus? At his baptism, it may come from Jesus desire “to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15). At the transfiguration, the “righteousness” is more clearly defined by Jesus’ first passion prediction. Doing what God requires (righteousness) is more important than Jesus’ own life.
In the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John witness Jesus’ clothes and garment shining like the sun. An argument can be made that this is also Peter’s transformation. David Lose writes “On the mountain Peter’s transformation begins…” “Peter’s transfiguration begins — when we fails, falls, and is lifted up again and realizes that above and beyond everything else, he is called to listen to Jesus.” That’s much like us,
Peter has a problem in getting it right. He misunderstood Jesus first passion prediction in Matthew 16:21. Peter rebukes Jesus for saying such words. Peter’s problem, as Jesus indicates it, “You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (16:23b). In the Garden of Gethsemene Jesus tells them to stay awake and pray, but they fall asleep three times.
We are like Peter in many ways. We don’t get it right- we are afraid. For us the key to the transfiguration for us may also be when God says “listen to him (Jesus). ” We may not listen either. “Get up and do not be afraid.”
As Lose writes, “We, too, of course, try our best, sometimes succeeding and sometimes coming up short. We, too, have moments of insight and moments of denial. We, too, fall down in fear and are raised up again to go forth in confidence. We, too, that is, are called to listen, called to discern God’s way in the world, called to partner with God and in this way be transformed.”
Old Testament – Exodus 24:12-18
Earlier in Exodus 22:22-23:33, Moses has ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Law verbally from God – both the Ten Commandments (“words”, v. 3) and the case law (“ordinances”)
In v. 3, Moses has told them to the people; they have agreed to their side of the Covenant. (God’s side is to be their god and to protect them.) Moses has then written down all God has told him. The pact, the union between God and the people, has been ratified in blood, “the blood of the covenant” (v. 8). Blood has been dashed against the altar (symbolizing God) and sprinkled on the people. (Vv. 9-11 are from another oral tradition, so we skip to v. 12).
Now God offers to put all the laws in permanent form, on “tablets of stone”. So important is Moses’ ascent of the mountain that it is mentioned four times in vv. 12-18. Moses leaves “the elders” (v. 14) in charge and commissions “Aaron and Hur” to administer justice in his absence. God’s “glory” (vv. 16, 17) is an envelope of light, a bright “cloud”, veiling his being: the people can see the cloud, but not God. Unlike the light from the Burning Bush (Chapter 3), this appearance of God is frightening “like a devouring fire” (v. 17). Moses prepares to meet God for some time (“six days”, v. 16).
After a period of preparation, Moses is called deeper into God’s presence where he remains for 40 days and forty nights. This could be a reminder that humankind must be prepared to reflect patiently in the mystery of God before we are able to recognise or ‘see’ God and that working out God’s purpose takes time and deep reflection. “Forty days and forty nights” (v. 18) is reminiscent of the Flood, of the time the Israelites scouted out Canaan’s defences before entering the Promised Land, and of Elijah’s later experience on the same mountain. It is a considerable length of time.
This passage brings to us a description of God’s glory in human language, the cloud for the place of mystery and preparation and the fire for the divine presence and glory. The language is dramatic and yet meant to affirm that God’s divine presence, often beyond human explanation, is part of our experience. It is given, not for us to take as a prompt to seek clouds and fire on mountains but, to encourage us that God is incarnate in our world and in the process of working out His purpose for us and with us.
This psalm was probably written for the coronation of a king of Judah. It speaks of our inability, or even refusal, to allow God’s divine right of rule in our lives and in our relationships, with one another and between nations. Political rebellion against the Lord’s representative (“his anointed”, v. 2) is tantamount to revolt against God himself. Vv. 4-6 are God’s reaction from heaven. He has chosen “my king” and established him in his dwelling place on earth, “Zion”, Jerusalem. The new king (“I”, v. 7) recites his formula of adoption as God’s son; he then (vv. 10-12) warns other kings to submit – or face the consequences!
In v. 2, “anointed” is messiah in the Hebrew. A title of an Israelite king, after the demise of the monarchy it became the name of the ideal future king who would restore Israel to glory. In Acts, Peter, John and others apply this title to Jesus, and Paul speaks of the risen Christ as God’s son.
This is a hymn of praise to God as king. The endings of Vv. 3, 5 and 9 are perhaps a refrain, said or sung by worshippers as they “extol” (v. 9) God. God, on his throne above the “cherubim” (v. 1, the half-human, half-animal creatures thought to hover above the altar) in the Temple, is to be praised by “all the peoples” (v. 2). V. 4 lists some qualities God has shown “Jacob”, the people of Israel. (His “footstool”, v. 5, is the Ark).
For Israel, God has also:
1 helped people in need (vv. 6, 8);
2 given them just laws (v. 7); and
3 punished and forgiven them where appropriate (v. 8).
“Moses … Aaron” (v. 6) and “Samuel” were known for communicating with God, and were his representatives. “His holy mountain” (v. 9) is Mount Zion, the hill on which Jerusalem stands.
New Testament – 2 Peter 1:16-21
Here we have the church’s proclamation of Christ as the true king sent by God to be the savior of the world, the fulfilment and completion of all things.
The author has written that God, ultimate “goodness” (v. 3), “who called us”, has given us everything we need for eternal life. What Jesus promised to us is our means of escaping the “corruption” (v. 4) of this world and of attaining union with God. So, he says, our faith and knowledge of Christ should result in ethical living, “mutual affection” (v. 7) and love. If we have these qualities and if they grow in us, they will save us from being ineffectual and “unfruitful” (v. 8) in doing Christ’s work. If we don’t have them, we are “nearsighted and blind” (v. 9) and have forgotten the release from sin we obtained in baptism. So be steadfast in the faith; being thus will gain us entry into Christ’s kingdom (v. 11). This letter is written as Peter’s last testament as he approaches death, instructions he leaves to remind his readers of how to remember to be faithful. (vv. 12-15).
The passage looks back to the transfiguration and forward to Christ coming again in all his glory. While the disciples were “”eyewitnesses”, the author of 2 Peter refers to it [the transfiguration] as something that is heard… “He received honor and glory when that voice was conveyed to him… We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven”.
And so for the Christian the journey of faith into the fulfilment of God’s purpose for the humanity and the world comes about through seeing God in the world and in Christ Jesus the Living Word. Here the transfiguration becomes a sign of hope for the future that God’s purpose will prevail and be fulfilled… through God’s goodness in Christ. It showed the power of God and was a preview of Christ’s second “coming”
Gospel- Matthew 17:1-9
The Season of Epiphany begins (Jesus’ Baptism) and ends (Jesus’ Transfiguration) with a heavenly voice making Jesus known to the world. (epiphany = “to make known”).
In the preceding chapter Peter has confessed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God (16:16) and Jesus has offered some sober teaching about the cost of following him.
Then he goes up on a Mountain. Jesus selects Peter, James, and John to accompany him. Although unnamed and unstated (though probably Mt. Tabor) , a “high mountain” is a “thin place,” a place that is close to the spiritual realm, a place for sacred encounters.
Before their eyes, Jesus’ clothes and garment shine like the sun.
He experiences the presence of Moses and Elijah, two peerless prophets who had shaped the Hebrews’ view of what Messiah would be like when he came. Elijah and Moses represent the Prophets and the Law. Their talking with Jesus would signify the high spiritual status of Jesus. Because Elijah was lifted up into the heavens before his physical death, he is still looked to by Jews today as a fore-runner of the Messiah.
As he has just predicted his own suffering and death (Mt 17:21-23), now God previews his glory with the resurrection.
Peter begins babbling about setting up permanent dwellings for the heavenly visitors, to prolong the glorious experience. As at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:17, the disciples now hear a voice from heaven saying “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” Then it is time to come down the mountain and heal and teach and suffer.
The voice from the cloud would be understood to be the direct voice of God speaking. Just as in Luke 5:8, where Peter falls down and urges Jesus to “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man,” so too here the disciples are deeply aware of their mortal unworthiness to be so much as even hearing God’s own voice. Thus they fall to the ground – as an act of humility; and are afraid – because they are unworthy to be in the presence of One so much more exalted than they.
The word, “transfigured,” is very important. It comes from a familiar Greek word that is known to us: “metamorphosis.” It means to completely change or transform such as a cocoon transforms into a butterfly or a tulip bulb transforms into a glorious tulip blossom. Jesus’ body was transformed from an earthly body into a heavenly body, from a human body into a resurrection body. It is the teaching of the Bible that our bodies, too, shall be transformed in heaven and that our heavenly bodies will be glorious (I Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul).
III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:
Old Testament – Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm – Psalm 2
Psalm – Psalm 99
Epistle – 1 2 Peter 1:16-21
Gospel – Matthew 5:38-48
February involves the transition betweeen Epiphany and Lent (Feb. 22) and on that of Lent
Epiphany is about 2 revelations – Christ to the world through the wise men as well as revelation of Christ to us through baptism. On the first Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. His baptism is seen as the primary baptism, the one on which all baptisms follow, the recognition that his followers belong to God as “Christ’s own forever.”
During the three to eight weeks after the Epiphany, we learn in the gospel lectionary readings about Jesus’ miracles of healing and his teachings. This is a continuation of the theme of the revelation of Christ to his followers. “Come Follow Me”. Jesus has not only arrived but through him the kingdom of God as one who fulfills and extends God’s teachings through the Sermon of the Mount. The last Sunday in Epiphany, the transfiguration can be seen as the bridge between Epiphany and Lent.
At the beginning of the Epiphany season, at the Baptism of Jesus, the liturgical color was white. In the Gospel reading in Matthew at his baptism said, “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” In the Transfiguration which we will celebrate on Feb. 26, the 8th Sunday after Epiphany, the Gospel of Matthew records, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” The liturgical color once again is white.
Transfiguration serves as the culmination, the climax, of Jesus manifesting his glory and his identity as the Son of God. From this point on, Jesus sets out to Jerusalem, to suffer, die and be resurrected. We will see this story during Lent beginning March 1. This same glory he will return to, once he has completed the saving mission for which he came. Coming full circle, we will one day be in life with Christ as “Christ’s own forever.”