Worship on the Lord’s Day
Transfiguration Sunday (Mark 9:2-8)
10:00 am 19 February 2023
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Sam Malayang
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
L: The Lord rules over the earth in majesty and mystery.
P: We praise God’s awesome name!
L: The Lord loves justice and calls us together in equity.
P: We come to honour God’s purposes with love and loyalty.
L: The Christ of glory shines in this place.
P: With the Spirit’s power, we will lift our voices in prayer and praise!
Opening praise: Revelation Song (vss.1-2)
Prayers of approach and confession
Our God, we worship and adore you. But we seldom feel it.
God, you have given us salvation through your Son. But we rarely acknowledge it.
You have made the nations our inheritance. But we seldom claim them for you.
You call us into your household. But we constantly move in and out the doors.
You send us promises and secure our future. But our trust could be more robust.
We gather as your people all call upon your Spirit. But we rarely expect Him to appear.
But today, we confess these things. We confess and seek your face again.
Lead us to the mountaintop. Show us to love yet to fear your face. Find our worship, even in meekness, enough. Forgive our ways and take our hearts and make them yours once again.
Response: I will trust in the Lord
Assurance of God’s forgiveness
In the Book of Hebrews, it says, “Since then we have a great high priest (one like no other) who passed through not the church but through the heavens themselves, let us hold fast to our confession and approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy” just as he has promised.
Forgiveness and peace is found in Christ, so share that peace with your neighbors. Amen
We listen for the voice of God
Gradual: Open our eyes, Lord (445)
Story: Once upon a time a family of mice lived inside a large piano. They loved their piano world and the music that often came to them, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony.
At first the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was someone our there who made the music. Although this someone was invisible to them, he felt close to them. They loved to think about the unseen Player whom they could not see.
Then one ay a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano and returned in a very thoughtful mood. He had made a discovery which revealed how the music was made. Wires! Wires were the secret. He had found tightly stretched wires in graduated lengths and they vibrated. Now the mice had to revise all their old beliefs Only the most conservative mice could believe any longer in the Unseen Player.
Later, another mouse explorer returned from an expedition with yet another new discovery of the origins of the music. Hammers were the true secret! There were dozens of hammers that danced and leaped upon the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical universe. The Unseen Player came to be thought of as a myth.
Meanwhile, the Unseen Player continue to play the piano.
Now this was a little bit more complicated theory about where the music comes from, but it showed that they lived in a purely mechanical universe.
The Unseen Player came to be thought of as a bit of a myth.
But meanwhile the music kept playing on and on.
In the Scripture, in first Timothy there is this line in chapter 7 that says, “I pray that honor and glory will always be given to the only God who lives forever – who is invisible, immortal, eternal, our King forever.”
Often when we are learning about our world, we think more about the strings and the hammers, and sometimes when you see the strings and the hammers that put our world together, you think that’s all there is. But never forget that Someone plays the piano making the music of our world. There’s always a Grand Player behind the scene.
Can you remember that?
Prayer: Lord, we don’t always see you, but we know that you are there.
You are the Unseen Player of music that fills our world.
We become too focused on the strings and the hammers, and we forget about the player our world deserves.
Lord, remind us that you are there, building our life, filling our lives with music.
The Lord’s Prayer (535)
Special Music: Mountain Top (Amy Grant)
Scripture readings: Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:26-36
Response: Behold the Lamb of God
Message: “The Real McCoy”
We in the Christian Church do have some strange words: pulpit, lectern, chancel, narthex, and font. If you’ve studied theology, you know it gets even worse: sitz im leben, consubstantiation, parousia, even the parts of the communion service include specific sections called: The Fraction, Memorial Acclamation, Benedictus, and Sursum Corda. Today is one of those words. We call this “Transfiguration Sunday.” And that name comes from Matthew’s reading for the day. It says, “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
But what is this? What happened exactly? It sounds so strange. And sadly, nobody stood up on the mountain with a camcorder to capture the whole event for us. To make matters more complicated yet, Jesus (in verse 9) tells the disciples not yet to speak about ὅραμα hora-ma (which means vision or dream). So, what happened?
Whatever this shared experience is exactly, it must be important. The event has three New Testament authors desperately trying to explain the seemingly unexplainable.
Now all three accounts are a little bit different. Luke is an historian, and his concern is for an “orderly account.” Matthew seeks to speak to a Jewish audience about the Jewish Messiah. But Mark is perhaps the most interesting here. See, Mark was the first gospel written, and it’s John Mark’s written account that he got from the apostle Peter. The book we call Mark is really Peter’s gospel. And Mark’s (or Peter’s) version comes off as slightly funny. He writes, “Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could wash them.”
I’ve always found that funny. It was like God did his laundry.
In Luke 9:29 it says, “As [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” You can almost feel the frustration as the gospel writers attempt to describe the indescribable. The term in our Bible translated as “transfigured” is also interesting because the Greek word is μεταμορφόω (metamorphoō) which is where we get the English word “metamorphosis” from. So, it’s not just that he turned bright, somehow, but also that he was “changed,” somehow. And there are only two other places in the entire Bible where this exact word (metamorphoō) is used. But we’ll get back to that.
First… The Real McCoy.
The real McCoy really wasn’t… That is, the real McCoy wasn’t really a McCoy at all. His real name was actually Norman Shelby.
Shelby was raised on a farm in Indiana. He left home around 1890, and after years of training, he emerged as a boxer by the nickname “the Kid McCoy.” In the days of bare-fisted boxing, “the Kid” was something. He said he’d fight anyone, anywhere, any weight class… and he did. Whereas most fighters today have one or two big fights per year. McCoy averaged just over one fight a month and won most by knockouts. But the popularity of his reputation created an atmosphere where a host of imitation Kid McCoy’s soon popped up – hoping to cash in by pretending to be him.
That created a certain amount of confusion until “The Kid” agreed to a title fight with the legendary Joe Choynski. With that fight, “The Kid McCoy” ended the confusion of his identity for all time. In a titanic slugfest that cost him three broken ribs, Kid McCoy finished off the legendary Joe in the 20th round. After the fight, the San Francisco Examiner’s boxing writer put a massive picture on the front page of the paper and, in huge writing, declared, “Now You’ve SEEN The Real McCoy!”
This is essentially what happened to the disciples. Whatever it was exactly that they experienced – God somehow gave them a glimpse into Christ’s true glory and showed them The Real McCoy… the Real Jesus.
We don’t often look at Jesus in all of His glory, do we? Too often, we see Jesus as only our loving and tender babe in a manger. These days we like our Jesus meek and mild (not overturning the tables of the money changers, chasing people with a whip, or dripping in blood like he’s described in the book of Revelation). Now while He is all those things (fully human), we also need to see Him in all of His glory as the God of the universe who has created and will judge all things.
But that’s hard to do. Throughout the Christian tradition, we’ve had trouble with this, always seeming to shed too much light on either his humanity or his divinity and seldom being able to see him as fully both. The fact that God could be so “wild” and “untamed” and yet so “loving” or so “out there” and yet still “personal and right here” seems too hard to grasp. And this isn’t a new problem. The apostles had the same issue.
They got distracted and lost sight of this too.
“Just then, there appeared before the apostles Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
So not only is Jesus brightly shining in some way and changed in some way but now he’s also accompanied by two others.
Right away, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three tabernacles (tents) — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Now, this has always confused me. Just how Peter knows what these two guys look like is beyond me. One has been dead for 900 years, and the other for 1,500 years.
However this happens, they suddenly realize these two men were Moses and Elijah – perhaps the two greatest heroes of the Hebrew faith: The man who represented the whole Law and the man who represented all the Prophets right there in front of them. It’s like the entire Hebrew Bible is represented.
Now Peter being his usual self is so excited he just blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. Like a giddy little schoolboy, he says, “Hey guys, let’s have a sleepover.” He says, “let’s camp out!” It’s understandable. Peter is so excited to see the heroes of the past that he misses the whole point. He forgets he’s been hanging out with the Son of God for three years now – the one that’s glowing. And his attention is on someone else???
I wonder if Peter was ashamed after he said that. I wonder if he felt odd about it. He just put two mere men on the same page as the Son of the living God.
Let’s not be too quick to judge, though.
We all do what Peter did.
Christianity has always been plagued by people who get caught up in the legalism of the Law or the energy and excitement of prophecy, or the freedom we have in Christ, knowing that we will always be forgiven.
Moreover, the world is full of syncretistic thought that wants to make one tent for Jesus and another tent for Success, as if they are equally to be worshiped.
The Church is continually trying to plant itself down in the past like Peter rather than look for what God is doing in the present. Occasionally, it breaks through the old way of doing things and transforms itself into something fresh and new, only to allow what was once new and exciting to become old and stale itself; eventually doomed to become that very thing it once challenged.
But this is one time God simply will not allow for this to happen.
The voice of the Father interrupts Peter. “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them all, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.” And then God adds these very important words, “Listen to him!” and when they realize what they’d done, they fall on the ground, “terrified” of him because of who he is. So, when Peter gets excited about Moses and Elijah, God steps in to remind him that the guy he went fishing with also hung the stars in their place and shook the mountains.
In the end (for me), this story comes down to just two more of those silly theological church words. 1) Transcendence 2) Immanence
The story of the Transfiguration is about Transcendence. It reminds us that Jesus is the ruler of the universe, and we can’t ever take him too lightly. The baby in the manger is also the healer of humanity. The story of the Transfiguration, though, is also about Immanence. You see, when the disciples fell to the ground with the proper amount of awe and respect, the verse says, Jesus immediately reached down and touched them and said, “Get up and do not be afraid .”Because the God that made all creation… the God that is “untamed” and “out there,” is also “loving” and is also so close that He’s sitting right here in this room too.
He is “out there” and “in here” all at once.
Now, remember earlier, back at the beginning of this sermon, I said that the word μεταμορφόω (metamorphoō) appears in another place in the Bible. That place is 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed (metamorphoo) into his image with ever-increasing glory.”
In the end, Transfiguration Sunday is not just about the Transformation of Jesus. It’s also about the transformation of everyone in this room. Because, like the apostles, when we recognize Jesus for who he really is… (when we see the Real McCoy and bow in awe), he reaches down, touches us on the shoulder too, and reminds us that we’re not just his creation but that we too are being transformed; “into his image with ever-increasing glory.”
The Story of the Transfiguration is the Story of the Gospel, the story of a God who changes everything. It’s the story of the Real McCoy. -Amen.
Song: At the name of Jesus (340)
We respond to serve God
Reflection on giving: At this time we just want to acknowledge all of the offerings that are given, all the volunteerism, and all of the prayers.
And now to be a bit more personal – thank you, too, for all of your prayers over the last 4 weeks which have been wonderfully received.
Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves
Lord God of heaven and earth, with gladness, we praise you, for you create all things and sustain all things. For making us in your image to love and for sending your redeeming Son. By your Spirit, empower us to show your love to others even as we pray.
We pray for the Church and those who lead in it…
For the world that we may learn to care for it…
For our nation’s leaders and servants…
For researchers and healers, caregivers and researchers…
For the poor and the homeless and the hungry…
For those who mourn…
For those alone…
For those imprisoned…
For those seeking truth and justice…
For the powerless and oppressed all around the world…
For the persecuted and for the persecutor…
Eternal God, keep us in communion with Your everlasting covenant (and hard at work for the Kingdom) until your will is done on earth just as it is in heaven. Amen.
Song: One more step along the world I go (641)
Sending out with God’s blessing
May God the Father prepare your journey,
Jesus the Son guide your footsteps,
The Spirit of Life strengthen your body,
The Three in One watch over you, on every road that you may follow.
Response: The blessing
Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.
 – syncretistic thought: the fusion of diverse religious beliefs and practices