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February 26, 2017: The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, The Transfiguration

Collect of the Day

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings of the Day

First Reading

Exodus 24: 12-18
A Reading from the book of Exodus.

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.” Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm 2 Quare fremuerunt gentes?, BCP 586

    1 Why are the nations in an uproar? * Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?
    2 Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt, and the princes plot together, * against the Lord and against his Anointed?
    3 “Let us break their yoke,” they say; * “let us cast off their bonds from us.”
    4 He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; * the Lord has them in derision.
    5 Then he speaks to them in his wrath, * and his rage fills them with terror.
    6 “I myself have set my king * upon my holy hill of Zion.”
    7 Let me announce the decree of the Lord: * he said to me, “You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.
    8 Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance * and the ends of the earth for your possession.
    9 You shall crush them with an iron rod * and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”
    10 And now, you kings, be wise; * be warned, you rulers of the earth.
    11 Submit to the Lord with fear, * and with trembling bow before him;
    12 Lest he be angry and you perish; * for his wrath is quickly kindled.
    13 Happy are they all * who take refuge in him!

Second Reading

2 Peter 1: 16-21
A Reading from the Second letter of Peter.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. 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 hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Holy Gospel

Matthew 17: 1-9

Six days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Father Kruger’s Sermon for today

Lord God, through the written word, and the spoken word, may we know your Living Word; Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

I love mountains and apparently I’m in pretty good company because Jesus and Moses seemed to spend a fair amount of time climbing hills in the holy land. I have chosen to keep my sabbath on a Friday and this past Friday I took myself and my dog into the Watchung Reservation. I did not have a transfiguration experience, and other than the warm glow of the sun, I did not encounter any blinding lights. My little hike in the woods almost didn’t happen. Heather will tell you that I have a poor track record when it comes to working on my sabbath. With all the business of the past week I had many things demanding my attention; sermons to be written, emails to be sent, liturgies to be planned and people to visit. The temptation was to laugh off the hike and catch up on the work.

It’s a good thing that I serve a God who insists that I take rest seriously, and am married to a woman who gives me the evil eye when I make excuses for working on my sabbath. I may not have had an epiphany in the Watchung Reserve. But I did intentionally enter into the serenity that wild places offer, and found myself renewed because of it.

Renewal, health, joy and fullness of life… these are precisely the effects of obeying the Commandments which Moses went up the mountain to receive. So often we think about the commandments in a negative light. For the most part they are stated negatively and give the impression of being a little dreary. You mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that. It’s easy to forget that these commandments were given to a people who, until very recently, had been slaves. The commandments are a wonderfully, radically, different way for the Israelites to live in true freedom.

I have come to think that the fourth commandment on sabbath is the most difficult and most urgent of the commandments in our society. Most of us feel guilty when others see us not working. Our culture trains us to feel productive when we are the first in and the last out regardless of how much we actually get done.

Professor Walther Bruggeman, the well known scholar of the Hebrew Bible says it well: “In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not
defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods. Such an act of resistance requires enormous intentionality and communal einforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures…”

He goes on to write: “The alternative on offer is the awareness and practice of the claim that we are situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God. To be so situated is a staggering option, because we are accustomed to being on the initiating end of all things. We neither expect nor even want a gift to be given, so accustomed are we to accomplishing and achieving and possessing.”

Bruggeman goes on to say that one of the most powerful evangelical tools that the Christian has at their disposal, is to keep the sabbath. The commitment to rest and to set aside a whole day dedicated to God is so counter cultural and such good news to an exhausted and enslaved world.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we sit around the campfire singing kumbaya all night and sleep all day. Naturally there is a balance here between work and rest… action and contemplation… withdrawal and immersion.

A cursory glance through the Gospels will reveal that Jesus was a master of this rhythm of action and contemplation. Again and again we hear about Jesus going off to find a deserted place to pray and be alone with God. Then, in the next sentence the crowds have found him and is back to healing and teaching.

This pattern is revealed in the Gospel account of the Transfiguration. We read the contemplation part about the encounter on the top of the mountain. We stopped short of reading about what happened when they came down the mountain. Even as they begin the descent Jesus is teaching the disciples, and as they come off the mountain they encounter the Demon possessed boy… contemplation leading into action.

The Cistercian writer William of Saint-Thierry declared: “Love of the truth drives us from the world to God, and the truth of love sends us back from God to the world.

In other words as Meister Eckhart, the great Christian mystic of the 14th Century, commented: “If you were in the seventh heaven of ecstasy and a poor man knocked on the door to ask for a bowl of soup, then the bowl of soup should come first.”

He added that you would probably perform the labor of love more effectively through having first drawn close to God, the fount of all truthful and effective action.

May God grant us the discipline to honour the sabbath, the courage to share our conviction for rest with an anxious world, and, having kept the sabbath may we find new energy to love every person who crosses our path. Amen.

Notes on the Readings

On this final Sunday before Lent, we always have as our Gospel reading the account of Jesus’ transfiguration. This event is chosen primarily because it marks the turning point in the story of Jesus. It was on this occasion that Jesus clearly foretold his approaching death and resurrection. Thus we are pointed in our Lenten pilgrimage toward the cross and Easter.

The Old Testament reading records Moses’ meeting with God on Mt. Sinai in an event like the transfiguration. His forty days and nights with God on the mountain are a prefiguring of our time with God in Lent.

The second reading records the memory of the transfiguration event as a sign that the writer’s message is truth, being an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry. We are also witnesses as God transforms us into the likeness of Christ.

Today the Church uses the Easter word “Alleluia” for the last time until the resurrection is proclaimed at the Great Vigil of Easter. “Alleluia” is omitted from the liturgy throughout Lent in order that its restoration at Easter will underscore our experience of renewal on that day.

Celebrant and Homilist:
The Rev. Andrew David Kruger

Deacon: Clive Oscar Sang

Seminarian: Allison Burns-LaGreca

Verger: Anthony Francis Vitale

Organist: Anthony J. Rafaniello

  • Prelude: Adagio, from “Partita on Hyfrydol”– Charles Callahan
  • Choir Anthem: “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” – Text: Henry Francis Lyte. Music: Mark Andrews
  • Postlude: “Nun danket alle Gott” – Sigfrid Karg-Ebert


Audio Files

The Worship Service

10 AM: Rite Two

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

Prelude see above
Processional Hymn H # 460
Acclamation BCP 355
Collect for Purity BCP 355
Gloria S # 278
Collect of the Day BCP 218
The Lesson Exodus 24: 12-18
Psalm Psalm 2
The Epistle 2 Peter 1: 16-21
Sequence Hymn H # 137
The Gospel Matthew 17: 1-9
Sermon Father Andy
Nicene Creed BCP 358
Prayers of the People
Confession BCP 360
Absolution BCP 360
The Peace BCP 360
Announcements

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

Choir Anthem see above
Offertory Hymn H # 135
Eucharistic Prayer A BCP 361
Sanctus S # 128
The Lord’s Prayer BCP 364
Agnus Dei S # 165
The Invitation BCP 364
Communion Hymns Behold the Lamb, H 321
Post Communion Prayer
Blessing
Recessional Hymn H # 618
Dismissal
Postlude see above