Sunday Worship 11 February 2024

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 11 February 2024

 
Today’s service is led by the Revd John Grundy

 
Welcome

Good morning.  My name is John Grundy and I am the Minister of St Andrew’s Brockley and St Michael’s New Cross.  Our two churches here are in fast changing diverse communities in the London Borough of Lewisham.  In many ways, our church families are very reflective of the diversity around us.  Along with my CRCW colleague Simon and the community that we serve, I’m delighted to welcome you today for this Transfiguration Sunday service.

Call to Worship

Come, leave to one side the worries of the day and week; come and meet the living God.  Strong defender lift up our heads! Come, leave to one side all that drags you down, all that exhausts and drains you; come and meeting the living God.  Life-imparting heavenly manna, feed us! Come, leave to one side your doubts and delusions, your despair and desperation; come and meet the living God.  Stricken rock with streaming side, refresh us!

Hymn     Lord Enthroned In Heavenly Splendour
George Hugh Bourne (1874) Public Domain.  Sung by members of the Croydon Minister Choral Foundation and Whitgift School Choristers.

Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour
first-begotten from the dead,
thou alone, our strong defender,
liftest up thy people’s head.
Alleluia, alleluia,
Jesu, true and living bread.

Here our humblest homage pay we,
here in loving reverence bow;
here for faith’s discernment pray we,
lest we fail to know thee now.
Alleluia, alleluia,
thou art here, we ask not how.

Though the lowliest form doth veil thee
as of old in Bethlehem,
here as there thine angels hail thee,
branch and flower of Jesse’s stem.
Alleluia, alleluia,
we in worship join with them.

Paschal Lamb, thine offering, finished
once for all when thou wast slain,
in its fullness undiminished
shall for evermore remain,
Alleluia, alleluia,
cleansing souls from every stain.
 
Life-imparting heavenly manna,
stricken rock with streaming side,
heaven and earth with loud hosanna
worship thee, the Lamb who died,
Alleluia, alleluia,
risen, ascended, glorified!

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Your light, O Most High,
shines in the darkness, 
guiding the way as a star at night, 
letting us see all that obstructs and occludes,
for the light in our lives we praise you.

Your light, O Christ, can blind us.
The glow of your glory exposes the rags we cling to;
the brilliance of your presence makes us want to hide in the dark.
Our sin and shame overwhelm us, and we turn away.
Forgive us, saving Jesus, 
help us to learn to live in the light of your presence,
to feel your love and not our guilt,
that we may shine with you.

Your light, Most Holy Spirit,
burns away our dross, consumes our darkness,
and shines through us when we show love.
Give us time to change,
time to see you at work in our lives,
that your brilliance will enlighten our world.  Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness

Friends, God is faithful and just,
always yearning to welcome us home,
arms held wide in forgiveness
as a mother rejoices in the return of a wayward child.
God forgives you; have the strength to forgive yourselves.  Amen!

Prayer for Illumination

Unveil our eyes and hearts, O God,
that we may see your light, hear your word and know your will
for us, for our church, and for all your people, today and always. Amen.

Reading     2 Corinthians 4:3-6

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Hymn     Transform Us    
Sylvia Dunstan (1955-1993)  © 1993, GIA Publications, Inc.  Printed and podcast in accordance with the terms of OneLicence # A-734713

Transform us as you, transfigured, stood apart on Tabor’s height.
Lead us up our sacred mountains, search us with revealing light.
Lift us from where we have fallen, full of questions, filled with fright.

Transform us as you, transfigured, once spoke with those holy ones.
We, surrounded by the witness of those saints whose work is done,
Live in this world as your Body, chosen daughters, chosen sons.
 
Transform us as you, transfigured, would not stay within a shrine.
Keep us from our great temptation – time and truth we quickly bind.
Lead us down those daily pathways where our love is not confined.

Reading     St Mark 9:2-9

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

Sermon

I think it’s really important that we remind ourselves to not just take the passage we read on Sunday and ignore what’s going on around them.  In the Gospel today we’re very much reminded that this encounter, this experience, was not a random disconnected event because we’re told that the transfiguration happened six days later. 

As we know, quite a lot can happen in one week.  That week Jesus had been doing quite a lot. He’d been ministering with his disciples in the villages around Caesarea Philippi. And as they were going, Jesus was asking his friends, Who do people say I am?  And as we know, lots of theories. John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets. 

But Peter makes a Peter changing declaration that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  You’d think that would be a really good thing to say, wouldn’t you? And that would sort everything out, but maybe not. Because Jesus makes it really clear that not only will Jesus’ life be in danger because of that, But the disciples will be too. 

Much can happen in a week.  And six days later, we get this incredible mountaintop experience. I think there’s something really powerful about a mountain. And getting to the top of it, I think, is half of the experience.  I lived for some years on the Isle of Man. And the highest mountain there is called Snaefell.
And Snaefell has a Victorian tramway which runs to just below the summit from a beautiful coastal village in Laxey.  Now, at the top of the mountain is a really good cafe, and there are views from there across the island, across the Irish Sea, to Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. 

What I loved whenever I went to visit there, though, was the very red faced but very smug expressions of the people who’d walked up some or all of the mountain.  The rest of us who’d travelled up on the tram would look a lot less tired, but we’d be happily sipping our tea waiting. We got to the top,  but some had put in more effort than others. 

This encounter that Jesus shares with some of his friends, on top of a mountain, is unexpected in a lot of ways. And I think for a start, the cast of characters involved is a little bit unexpected. You wouldn’t expect to find Moses and Elijah on top of a mountain.  But Peter gets to meet with these wonderful icons of his own history. 

In the past, I’ve considered Peter to be the most human of all the disciples. Because many of us have similar reactions to him.  There are times when we experience the amazing glory of God in nature, in people, in experience. And instead of rejoicing in the moment, we find ways to be very busy.  That’s often the bind I think we have in church life. 

It becomes too easily a busyness and a business.  Rather than us being an expression of God’s love at work in the world and  what we would really want to be.  Church becomes a bit of a drudge.  I think we need to watch for that.  You know, I’ve always taken before that focus for this reading.  But as I prepared this, I found myself, I found an understanding of this text that’s made me rethink. 

Because it seems there was a Jewish expectation that God would usher in a new age during the Festival of Booths. This was a festival that helped people to remember their wilderness journey from Egypt. And for this festival, Israelite family was supposed to build a booth  to remember.  This festival was when the people thought God would take control of creation and bring in a new age of Shalom. 

So instead of assuming Peter simply didn’t get this, maybe we need to give him credit.  Obviously, Peter thinks this mountaintop encounter is a sign that the end is coming and the festival of booths was happening.  So maybe we shouldn’t judge Peter for not getting this. Maybe we should praise him for generously offering to build a booth for Jesus, for Moses, and for Elijah, so that they wouldn’t have to. 

Maybe we should know that Peter has recognized change is coming, and it was gonna be big. I  mean, he kind of got his timings a bit wrong about stuff,  and in the craziness of all that’s just happened on the mountaintop,  It seems he’d forgotten what happened the week before,  what Jesus had told them.  I think this year, we have to listen to that same voice that they heard on the mountaintop.

We have to be listening for the voice of God. This is my son.  Listen to him.  We need to hear again that what we were told was right. Yes, things are going to change. Yes, things are going to be different.  But in the end, it’s going to be okay.  I think that’s what we need to hear this Transfiguration Sunday. 

Listen to what Jesus is saying to you.  Maybe we could hear this encounter as an invitation to not just look for God in the usual places, but to be open to listening for Jesus where we don’t expect Jesus to be,  and from the people we don’t expect either.  At the core of this passage is Jesus and his friends on the top of a mountain. 
And we might have mountaintop experiences in our lives, but we know that Jesus isn’t confined to the lofty heights. Because we meet Jesus in very different places too.  Walking with those in need. Suffering with those who are hurting. Longing with those who hope for restoration.  With us in all of our pains.

With us in all of our suffering.  And when we struggle, I doubt any of us would think it was a mountaintop experience.  But maybe this is where Jesus does transformation most dramatically. Away from the mountaintops.  Next week we are entering the season of Lent, a time to pause, to wait, to prepare and to reflect on our own journeys with God. 

So as we prepare to journey into Lent this year, starting later this week,  as we find ourselves on mountaintops and in the dark valleys we’re living through,  I pray that we can all say, Lord, it is good for us to be here  and listen to what Jesus is asking of us.  And maybe this can be a time of shalom for us all.  A lot can happen in one week.

Hymn     The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
John Brownlie (1907) Public Domain.  Sung by Chris Brunelle and used with his kind permission.

The King shall come when morning dawns
and light triumphant breaks,
when beauty gilds the eastern hills
and life to joy awakes.

Not as of old a little child,
to bear, and fight, and die,
but crowned with glory like the sun
that lights the morning sky.

O brighter than the rising morn
when He, victorious, rose
and left the lonesome place of death,
despite the rage of foes.

O brighter than that glorious morn
shall this fair morning be,
when Christ, our King, in beauty comes, 
and we His face shall see.
 
The King shall come when morning dawns, 
and light and beauty brings;
“Hail, Christ the Lord!” Thy people pray, 
come quickly, King of kings!

Affirmation of Faith

We believe in God, 
Creator and Sustainer of majestic mountain and gentle valley,
of deep sea and icy glacier, author and summit of all the life 
with which we share this planet.  

We believe in Jesus, our Sovereign and Saviour, 
who shines his love on us 
and who refuses our attempts 
to confine him to shrine and sanctuary.

We believe in the Holy Spirit 
who journeys with us in the highs and lows of life, 
defeating our expectations, surprising us with joy,
enabling us to proclaim God’s great deeds.

We believe in the Church,
one and hidden, holy and broken,
catholic and reformed, apostolic and ever new,
God’s mission to our world,
where we work out our salvation.

Intercessions

Eternal Trinity,
your light shines on our world offering hope, direction, and justice.
We pray now for places and people living in darkness.  

Eternal One
we pray for those living in dark cycles of violence,
repressive governments, terrorists, and those who profit from weapons
that your light might expose their foolishness.
We pray for those living with the dark violence 
of war, terror, and poverty,
that despite the odds, they may turn towards light and 
away from the cycles of despair that perpetuate evil.  

pause

Suffering God,
we pray for those who use law and treaty 
to hide the darkness of their deeds,
for those who wish to shut the borders 
of their hearts and our lands to those in need;
shine O Jesus, your light that we may see things properly,
care for those in need and see you in their faces.

pause

Flame of God’s love,
shine your light on those who are in any kind of pain,
especially for those we know pray….

longer pause

Let us be, O God, lights which bask in your light,
reflections of your glory, and agents of your change.
Inspire us as again we are reminded how to pray as we say Our Father…

Offertory

The Transfiguration reminds of the miraculous.  In the inaccessible light of God’s presence, Jesus’ glory was revealed, ancient prophets came, and the disciples saw a glimpse of glory.  In our lives we have similar glimpses – not on mountain tops and not of prophets but in the simple everyday things of life.  As we show love to those in need, as we listen to someone in trouble, as we offer love and attention to those who struggle we find glimpses of glory.  As we realise that we should use our resources more responsibly we see God’s glory at work in the ordinary things of our lives.  Week after week we give believing that our giving is tied up with our discipleship; now we give thanks for all that has been given – the time, talents, and treasure of God’s people, given in the hope of transfiguration of the world’s pain into light and love.

Generous God,
bless all that is given in this church:
the time, the love, the talents, the laughter,
the ability to share with friend and stranger,
the welcome to the lost and lonely,
the light of love shining here,
the treasures given and found,
that, at the end, we may be transformed.  Amen.

Hymn     Shine Jesus Shine
Graham Kendrick  © 1987 Make Way Music  sung by Justin Stretch of St Lawence’s Church, Chorley, used with their kind permission
Printed and podcast in accordance with the terms of OneLicence # A-734713

Lord, the light of your love is shining
in the midst of the darkness, shining.
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us,
set us free by the truth you now bring us;

Shine on me, shine on me.

Shine, Jesus, shinefill this land with the Father’s glory!
Blaze, Spirit, blazeset our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flowflood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth your wordLord, and let there be light.

Lord, I come to your awesome presence
from the shadows into your radiance.
By the blood I may enter your brightness:
search me, try me, consume all my darkness;

Shine on me, shine on me.

Shine, Jesus, shinefill this land with the Father’s glory!
Blaze, Spirit, blazeset our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flowflood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth your wordLord, and let there be light.

As we gaze on your kingly brightness
so our faces display your likeness;
ever changing from glory to glory
mirrored here may our lives tell your story!

Shine on me, shine on me.

Shine, Jesus, shinefill this land with the Father’s glory!
Blaze, Spirit, blazeset our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flowflood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth your wordLord, and let there be light.

Blessing

As we journey between the mountaintops and the plains of life, may the transforming power of God inspire you.  May the challenging and comforting grace of Jesus guide you, and may the companionship of the Holy Spirit walk with you.  Go knowing the love of God within you, today and every day.  Amen.

 

Where words are copyright reproduced and streamed under the terms of  ONE LICENSE A-734713
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