Transfiguration Sunday 02/23/20—Highland—Meute
Exodus 24: 12-18; II Peter 1: 16-21; Matthew 17: 1-9
Pearl: Losing ourselves in worship and also being grounded in the present.
Function: To celebrate the great prospect of encountering our awesome Lord Jesus Christ in the worship of the people of God and to commend appreciating the daily life with God.
This past week I asked our Elders to tell me the one or two hymns which always elevate them into the presence of God.
- I received the names of several hymns, most of which we are singing today: They also offered the following: “How Great Thou Art,” “Will You Come and Follow Me,” “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” “On Eagles Wings,” and “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.”
- Music is the consistently most common element in worship which delivers us into the Mighty Presence! So, this is why there even more music sprinkled throughout the service today. Thank your marvelous choir, Nancy, Max, and Ian for your musical leadership!
are likely many different aspects of worship which help us to get out of
ourselves a bit and into an encounter with God. The sermon has always moved me
through my first half of life listening to preaching. Maybe this is why I do
some preaching myself, these last 32 years!
- Another powerful moment in worship for me was at a Presbytery worship service where we were invited to remember our baptism by going forward to someone who was holding a glass bowl full of water and in the bottom of the bowl were glass bead-type rocks which we plucked out and held onto as a reminder of our own baptisms. That colored piece of glass sits on my nightstand beside my bed.
Big moments do come, but usually they are few and far between, and they serve to give us goose bumps and raise us out of ourselves in wonder.
- We look forward to the Olympic Games this summer in Japan. It is always so cool to join with the world in watching the Opening Ceremonies. We have high hopes for an amazing show again this year. Have you noticed that every time we come to an Olympic opening ceremony the television commentators often mention the Beijing Opening Ceremony from 2008? That was perhaps the singular best Opening Ceremony most have witnessed. It took our breath away!
- The Opening Worship service for the General Assembly is always spectacular. You can count on being elevated and feeling waves of the Spirit of God throughout the service for all kinds of reasons.
- Being there for the birth of a child is a life-elevating moment as well as if you are present at the death of a loved one. These are holy moments which elevate you into the presence of God.
worship of our Lord Jesus Christ always has the potential to elevate us into an
encounter with God.
- But I am talking about something that God does. Much of worship amounts to us trying to get to God. We sing, we pray, we read, we reflect. But since worship is before the living God, we are expecting and open to God being there as well. We are open to the Divine moving in some way among us.
is what happened when Moses went up on that mountain and spent forty days and forty
nights in the presence of God. It happened again when Jesus took Peter, James,
and John up the mountain and they saw something happen to Jesus where he was accompanied
by Moses and Elijah, which they never forgot.
- Moses did not generate his mountain encounter.
James, and John did not create what happened to Jesus.
- God broke through and lifted them up and out of themselves.
- Certainly, they quaked, trembled, stuttered, and stammered.
They “lost themselves in the wonder, love, and praise” of God, as Charles Wesley so poetically wrote it in his hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”
Worship is a place where we have moments of elevation, moments of inspiration, moments of encounter with Almighty, All-Loving God.
do we ensure such moments? We do our best in worship to focus and seek the Lord
but the kind of moments that I am talking about can only be accessed by faith.
They are not moments that we can construct or engineer. These are the
moments which God presides over. God provides these moments?
- We simply, by faith, tune in, and listen, and expect. Just like we know that if we tune our radios to certain places on the dial, we will hear the kind of music we are looking for, in worship we “tune in” and we experience the “music of the Kingdom.” We tune ourselves by faith so that we can hear the voice of our Lord.
of my favorite preachers wrote “Most of us sit in the same place on Sunday
morning when we worship. We like sitting in the same pew, and we enjoy the
reassuringly familiar surroundings of being at the same church, in the same
place, at the same time of the week. For many of us, worship in church is the
one most reassuringly predictable, stable, and settled hours of the week. But
this Sunday’s proclamation of the transfiguration is a reminder that we also
love to worship because of the potentially disruptive, dislocating, mysterious
aspect of Christian worship” (“Pulpit Resource,” Willimon, p. 40).
- We come to worship with a variety of desires and hopes in the gathering. How about you? What do you most need and seek after in the worship of God?
One goal for many in worship is to become “lost” in the presence of God and in the awareness of God. That is, that we will become “lost…in wonder, love, and praise.”
While we come to God for direction, for purpose, for insight, for guidance, for motivation, and for the level-headed leading of the Lord, we also have the hope and expectation for that fleeting experience of spiritual ecstasy where we become “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
- Part of worship is entering in so that we can let ourselves go and let ourselves get lost in the encounter with God. It is thankfully not something that any of us can generate; it is something that God oversees.
- I suggest being keenly open to God’s breaking through in the most un-directed parts of worship. Look for God in some of the most familiar and seemingly mundane parts of worship. When we celebrate the sacrament of communion this coming Ash Wednesday and next Sunday, expect God’s breaking through in the ritual. In the simple eating of the bread and drinking the cup we are elevated. As the ashes are spread across our foreheads expect to be drawn into a connection with God.
After God gave Peter, James, and John this amazing vision of Jesus as Lord on High what did God say? A voice from heaven told them who Jesus was and then God said, “Listen to him!”
am holding in my hands a Bible. This bible is special. For one thing it is
special because it was given to Nancy when she was a child. I enjoy looking at
her youthful hand-writing in the front cover.
- But this bible is special like so many which are like it. It is a “Red Letter” edition.
you read this bible and you come to the red letters what is different? Look at
all of these red letters (show “Sermon on the Mount”). Our understanding
evolves through life. When I was a youth, I thought the “red letters”
represented Jesus’ blood shed on the cross to deliver us from sin.
- The red-letter editions of the Bible simply depict the words of Jesus in red letters. The red letters are the words of Jesus, so that you can make no mistake.
band DC Talk has a song called “Red Letters.” I’ve asked our choir to sing the refrain
which is so beautiful and meaningful in regard to the “Red Letters”:
- “There is love in the red letters;
- There is truth in the red letters;
- There is hope for the hopeless; peace and forgiveness;
- There is life in the red letters….”
- Lent is a time to do what the Father said to do: “listen to Jesus.” This Lent we will seek “spiritual fortification.” Much of that will come from paying attention to our Lord Jesus: to learn from him, as the Father recommended disciples do.
- So, we will continue to come to worship with a purpose and a plan but at the same time we are always also open to getting “lost in the wonder, love, and praise” of Jesus Christ.
- Our sole purpose in life as stated in our Book of Confessions is to “glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” “We come to church not simply for edification, explanation, direction and exhortation. We come to get lost in wonder, love, and praise” (PR, p. 40).
I will end by making one more comment on getting lost in wonder, love, and praise. It more often happens in the day to day, more mundane moments. The big, ecstatic, and awesome experiences don’t come often. But you can just as assuredly find God in the day to day, more mundane moments…if you just expect and look and seek.
- In my recent day of silent retreat, I sat looking out a window. Outside the window were the woods and my view was a cluster of twisting, dormant growth. Being winter it was brown and dead-looking. But in the middle of it were some small green leaves very visible and evident. To me they were a message to look for the living. Look for the fresh, and living growth in the midst of seeming dormancy.
- In the day to day, mundane ordinary moments, realize that the ground upon which you are standing is…holy!