February 10, 2021

Sunday Worship Service 14th February 2021

Passage: MARK 9 :2-8

A prayer of approach
The Lord, the mighty one, summons his faithful people to approach.
Come, let us tune into his radiance,
allowing his light of glory to shine upon and within us,
as we offer our worship and praise.
A prayer of adoration
God of divine power,
what a spine-tingling, hair-raising event the disciples experienced!
One minute they were looking upon Jesus, the man.
Next, they were tuned into your glory shining in and through him
as he transformed before their eyes:
your confirmation of his deity.
God of life-changing moments, we glorify you.
Your same radiant light,
available to us through relationship with Jesus your Son,
transforms our hearts.
God of life-changing moments, we glorify you.
Your divine Holy Spirit tunes our faith in unexpected ways
through the transforming radiance of your love.
God of life-changing moments, we glorify you.
READING; MARK 9 :2 - 8.

Sermon by Janice Atfield
By the time I had been working at Birkdale Post Office for a few weeks, I had begun to get to know some of the regular customers. One man would come in every week – middle aged, Scottish, - a pleasant chap. One afternoon he needed to fill out a form which I gave to him. When he passed it back, it was illegible – the scruffiest handwriting I had ever seen and I told him so, giving him another form to fill out neatly – “you’re not a doctor are you with writing like that? “ I asked. He laughed and said no, he wasn’t a doctor.
When he had left, I was aware of my colleague Paul looking at me. He was standing in stunned silence. Do you know who that was? He whispered. I picked up the form – it says here that his name’s Alan Hanson. Yes, said Paul reverentially – he used to play for Liverpool and you just asked him if he was a doctor! I shrugged. How was I supposed to know? I know nothing about football..... except the offside rule, of course.
How are we to know who Jesus is? We are now in the last Sunday of Epiphany: we are approaching Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
Epiphany is about realisation and revelation and it begins and ends with light. We begin with starlight falling on a baby’s face and end with a man transfigured by the dazzling light of God’s presence, but in between, we have stories, so that by the time we accompany the three disciples up the mountain, we too have witnessed healings, teachings and deliverances ; we have seen enough to say with Peter, it is good for us to be here.
The Magi followed their star charts to learn who Jesus is, the disciples recognised him through the witness of the Law and the Prophets represented by Moses and Elijah.
And there are other hints to the disciples which may not be as obvious to us in our different time and culture, but they would have been to the first readers of Mark’s gospel:-
Jesus took the disciples up a high mountain. Traditionally, this was where close encounters with God took place. The ten commandments were received by Moses on a mountain top and where Elijah heard that still, small voice – and here they were again – with Jesus, at the top of a mountain... so this immediately signals revelation.
Secondly, they were covered by a cloud from which came the voice of God. The presence of God was traditionally described this way; the Shekinah cloud went before the Israelites in the desert guiding and protecting them.
Thirdly, the dazzling light... the light of the world which shines undefeated in the darkness , true enlightenment, the glory of God.
But what about us ? Can we expect a first – hand experience of epiphany and transfiguration or must we rely upon the testimony of others? Do we look wistfully back on those times and wish that we too could have such an encounter?
We must remember that they too were full of bewilderment for nothing was clear, nothing was familiar and that most of their understanding came from years of reflection upon this mysterious event and that they spent the rest of their lives trying to interpret what they had witnessed.
Transfiguration means change of meaning. I am guessing that my faith experience is similar to many. I’ve been half – hearted at times, I’ve had times when I have decided that perhaps Christianity is not for me after all, and that the answers to my questions lie somewhere else when the stories in the Gospels have become unbelievable as I have been led to understand them. Like so many, I have had life experiences that have been so awful that any kind of faith seemed untenable, that any sense of the presence of God was an illusion.
And yet..... and yet, I’m still here, still a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Something has held, something has taken root so deeply that it lives and breathes in me, sometimes for me countering any argument that I have been mistaken and I think that it is this... in all the ups and downs, in all the uncertainties and black holes, I have witnessed such transfiguration as can only come about if Jesus is indeed the light of the world.
The account of the transfiguration shows us that when life seems like a long, breathless, bone – aching, blister – rubbing slog up the mountain to nowhere in particular, through Jesus of Nazareth, it becomes the journey into God’s presence. When the fog descends so that we see neither the path nor our feet upon it, in that eerie, cushioning silence, we can hear God speaking to us: and when our breathing slows and the mist clears we find ourselves in the mysterious perpetual light which has turned all that is ordinary into glory – all that is work – stained and creased and frayed at the edges is transfigured and takes on a meaning beyond this earthly life.
And this is a regular occurance, not some rarified, once in a lifetime ( if you are lucky ) experience, but is the very nature of faith.... the faith that gets up with us in the morning, trails round the shops with us and tucks us in at night ... the faith that illuminates our lives with the light of Jesus Christ.
Lent is a time to reflect upon this, an opportunity to slow down ; to look, listen and worship.
It is good that we are here.

A prayer of confession
Lord, whereas it’s part of our faith walk to seek
and be open to life-changing moments,
forgive us when we just plod through life
and get despondent with the mundane.
On the other hand,
we can at times get fixated on the spiritual mountain-tops
and so miss out on what’s happening below in the everyday.
When things are going well for us,
we can get wrapped up in the moment and be forgetful of others.
There are many voices tuned into today’s world
telling us how to live and what’s best.
But you, Lord, are our authority in life.
Forgive us when we fail to test things against your word.
We’re sorry, Lord.
Shine on us, we pray.
Assurance of forgiveness
Jesus’ divine nature was confirmed on the mountain
– he is God’s beloved Son.
He went on to suffer;
he died and rose again for us, conquering sin and death.
Now he sits at God’s right hand, glorified in heaven
– and thanks to him, we are completely forgiven.
Prayers are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2020. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

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