Gospel Reading: Matthew 17. 1-9
1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
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Opening prayer: All sing quietly: Jesus take me as I am
Suggestions for Hymn and Songs:
Light of the world
The Splendour of the King
My Jesus, My Saviour
You’re the word of God the Father
Lord for the Years,
Our first hymn reminds me of that beautiful description of Jesus, in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:-
Who being in very nature GOD, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
But made himself NOTHING, (he emptied himself) taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness....
And that description goes on and ends with the words
...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Hymn;Light of the World.
Gospel mime: (all mimed by drama team or young people imagining that they are disciples of Jesus, walking with him up the scared mountain. Mime is enacted to the background of The Corrs CD track 15 of ‘Forgiven, Not Forgotten’)
NARRATOR: V 1) Imagine that Jesus is walking right here among us, in full view. He is asking us to follow him, to walk in his footsteps. Picture him looking around, searching out those who would be his disciples. Which of us will go with him to the high place? …the holy place? Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Scripture would say, ‘He that hath clean hands and a pure heart…who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, or sworn by what is false’ Ps 24.3-4
How clean are our hearts? How true? How mentally prepared are we for such a journey?
V2) And so we join him, and we begin the journey together…cautiously ~ falteringly ~wondering where will Jesus will take us?
Stumbling and falling we climb on; higher and higher, into the cool mountain air; we turn and gaze at the view behind us, lying so far in the distance. We drink in the beauty all around us.
We journey on trusting in Jesus every step of the way. We wonder what’s in store ? What does he want to show us, what will he tell us? What lies in wait for us up here in this lonely place? Whatever it is, Jesus is very near, and so we stay close to him….
Are any of us feeling afraid or confused? No, we strengthen one another…Are we feeling worn out and exhausted by the climb? Instead we encourage one another. The air become thinner, our breathing more laboured…
Do we feel like giving up or at least sitting down and resting?
No we spur each other on, and we don’t stop to grumble or moan. Quite simply we decide to follow Jesus every step of the way, and he leads us on to the summit…
V 4) Quite soon we come to a place of sudden stillness,
And we are told to wait and go no further, so we watch JESUS closely to see what will happen next.
He goes some distance from us and slowly turns to face us. (Moses and Elijah appear on either side of him on stage facing the disciples)
Just then the sun emerges through the mist, and the face of Jesus suddenly begins to glow and shine like the sunrays, his eyes become a glowing fire, his hair becomes as white as the snow; his robes become brighter and brighter, until our eyes are almost blinded!.
Two figures approach him, and begin to talk with him. They resemble holy men of old. One has a scroll in his hand, the other points a finger of judgement. They resemble the old prophet Elijah, and the Giver of the Law, Moses.
Is this who they are?
Who knows what they say, we strain to hear but we cannot make out every word…?
Are they words of pain or joy?
Of suffering or rejoicing?
Of strange forebodings or a future glory?
Of freedom and proclamation?
Are they words of preparation and prophecy only for the ears of our Lord?
Whatever they are saying, this is indeed for us, a very special moment!
DRUMBEAT (See table below for the each of the mime movements of Jesus, Moses and Elijah performed as the drumbeat within the music; after which Moses and Elijah depart)
(Disciples mime building a tent)
Verse 5) Our hearts are racing, beating so fast. We knew we had come to a higher plane, a higher level, and we are lost in worship and praise.
We resolve to build three permanent memorials; ones that will be built to last, here on the holy mountain we will mark the very spot of this transfiguration, and hold it in our minds forever. We will stay here!
Just then a cloud overshadows us, and all grows dark, as we hear a voice from heaven boom out,
“This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!
Reflections on the mime:
Talk 1 A Glimpse of Glory
MOSES and ELIJAH:-
Were both highly thought of by the Jews. MOSES because he brought God’s LAWS to the people, and Elijah because he was the greatest of all the PROPHETS.
Both had had entered God’s presence on a mountain and actually heard God’s voice.
Both had challenged evil and fought for goodness and freedom (REFORMERS)
Both were never seen to die, but were carried off, whisked away by God. The Jews believed they were too great to die.
Both spoke of a great king/ a Messiah who was to come and save the people. MOSES was the first to speak of him, the Jews believed ELIJAH would be the LAST one to appear and speak of him, JUST before he came. And some Jewish teachers believed that when the Messiah came, MOSES would be with him.
AND HERE THEY WERE, RIGHT BESIDE JESUS!
But we must remember that Moses and Elijah were only SERVANTS; we learn from God’s that Jesus is one far greater than the greatest. This happening taught his disciples that Jesus was indeed, and still is the MESSIAH, the very Son of God.
This was all but a glimpse of his glory, a REVELATION!
Not only this, he is also shown as our Saviour and Friend.
Because he came back to life after he died, it is said, he is still ALIVE today.
We can have a relationship with him.
He knows all about us and still loves us.
He has a hand in or lives.
He is with us even through our difficult times, with us in tragedy, closer than close.
Jesus didn’t desert his disciples on that mountain. No he went with them, leading them.
e.g. CS Lewis’s book ‘Horse and the Boy ‘I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.
I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you!
In other words:- ‘I’m with you all the way!’
That is what is offered to each one of us STILL today.
No-one is barred. If we wait until we’re perfect, we’ll have to wait forever! All it takes is a step of faith.
I’ve heard it said before that at the heart of every person is a DEEP SPIRITUAL VOID, which can only be filled by God alone. Everything else is a ‘Chasing after the wind!’.
( Simon Cowell’s :-media mogul was quoted once after a highly successful series
“No I’m not satisfied, I’m right now looking for the next thing that will give me a buzz!”)
We will never know REAL peace until that void is filled, and we recognise and acknowledge who Jesus really is, and follow him back down the mountain of revelation to the plains below.
TALK 2 Our own agendas
I don’t know if you noticed what the three disciples began doing, in the drama before, when this vision of Jesus in glory was at full strength?
They were building tents!
Let me just remind you of the bible reading.
“Wow”, said Peter, “I do not believe what we’re just seen! It’s great being here. It should be recorded, written down! I know, ‘we’ll build three dwelling places for each of you, to mark the spot, er if that’s OK with you Lord?”
Even at this point the disciples had their own agenda. Their own plan as to what to do next, to please Jesus.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (Children’s activities+ The Storyteller)
I have at this point a challenge to the young people here.
It’s called MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. I need quite a few volunteers to do some activities for me, while a storyteller tells a story. Who would like to come and help me? Send the children off, not too far away, to perform their tasks while the congregation is told a story. (story Brother John below from R H Lloyd Assembly Stories))
(Mission Impossible tune)
*PLEASURE...count how many bubbles you can blow
*SPORT....footballer to keep ball up and count how many(outside)
* STUDYING...provide work sheets and quizzes
* HOBBIES...draw a picture
* WORK...provide building blocks, how high a tower can you build
Choose also a child just to be a LISTENER!
STORYTELLER comes and tells his story.
A new abbot was appointed to a monastery and immediately set about tightening up on the discipline. He noticed that some monks had become a little lazy and were not taking their turn to preach at the Sunday service. A new rota was drawn up and every monk noticed their name on the list.
Brother John, whose main duties in the monastery were in the kitchen cleaning up and preparing meals, was filled with horror when he saw his name against one of the Sundays. He went at once to the abbot to explain that there had been a error and that he had been excused preaching by the previous abbot mainly because he was no good at it. The abbot said there was no error and all monks would take their turn.
“If I excuse you Brother John” he said “others will want to be excused as well, and I cannot have that!”
Time passed and the dreaded Sunday arrived .All the other monks were cringing at the thought of Brother John preaching and they couldn’t take their eyes off him during the service. Eventually the moment arrived and Brother John took the lonely walk between the pews and up to the pulpit. When he turned to speak he saw a sea of upturned faces and he became weak in the knees. It seemed an age until he found the courage to speak.
In a voice he didn’t recognise as his own he asked—“Do you know what I am going to say?”
“No.” came the reply from the congregation of monks.
“Neither do I croaked Brother John.” He then rushed out of the chapel to another room.
He was swiftly followed by the abbot who declared” That was just not good enough, Brother John, you will have to try again next week.”
After what seemed a very long week Sunday arrived and Brother John again found himself nervously climbing the steps to the pulpit. He looked down at his brother monks, some seemed to have twinkles in their eyes. Taking a very deep breath and licking his very dry lips he asked the same question as last week.” Do you know what I am going to say?”
“Yes.” They all said.
“Well then,” said Brother John, “there is no need for me to tell you.”
Again he rushed out of the chapel quickly followed by the abbot who was furious.
“ Brother John,” said the abbot, “ this is simply not acceptable, I will not tolerate such behaviour. Next week you will preach again and I will not give up until your sermon is acceptable.”
On the third Sunday the monks could hardly hide their smiles as Brother John made his long walk to the pulpit. He was feeling very low after a worrying week. Again he looked down on the same sea of faces and experienced that same blankness that comes when words fail you. The only thing he could think of was the same question he had asked the previous weeks. So he asked it.
“Do you know what I am going to say?” he managed to whisper. With smiles on their faces half the monks said “No!” and the other half said “Yes!”
“Well then,” said Brother John brightening up for the first time in weeks.
“Those who know tell those who don’t know!” He then walked out of the chapel with a little more confidence it seemed.
Ten minutes passed before the abbot appeared. Much to Brother John’s surprise the abbot smiled and put his arm around his shoulder and said” What a wonderful message! That was the best sermon I have heard in years.
“Let those who know tell those who do not know”
Call children back...what did they achieve...how well did they do!
They all represent PLEASURE, SPORT, STUDYING, HOBBIES, WORK, all very worthwhile activities to keep us happy and occupied:
BUT if they take us over, and are in control in our lives, they become gods, and the God we worship is left out.
If we have no thought for anyone else in the world but ourselves, then we’re missing out on something.
If we are so occupied with our own agendas, we don’t ever hear what God has to say to us.
WHO HEARD THE STORY THE STORYTELLER TOLD? Did they?
BROTHER JOHN had his own agenda too. Fear, self-consciousness, disobedience. These too are things which get in the way of obedience to God.
The disciples own agendas in the story, almost robbed them of hearing what Jesus needed to say to them; it almost got in the way of following him down the mountain where Jesus had his plan for himself, for them and for the world:-
Taking good news to those who most needed to hear it.
Helping blind and ignorant people have their eyes opened;
Releasing people, who had got themselves hopelessly trapped
Telling all people about God’s love and His goodness.
In our gospel reading God himself speaks on the mountain, from the cloud. He says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased; listen to him!’
Not a rebuke so much as an urgent and desperate plea...there’s something he wants to say that’s important ~
Are we listening to God today. Do we know him, do we know what he wants for us and for his world?
But we’ve houses to decorate, matches to go to, friends to meet up with, families to plan, vital jobs to do, money to save for later, grandchildren to look after, retirement homes to look for, but what then?
When is God ever going to fit in? And will it be too late, when we do want to engage with him.
In John Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat: he says
He talks about a way of living that leads to stagnation and boredom…where
*Sinful patterns of behaviour never get confronted and changed
*Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed
* Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations never take place;
And weeks become months and months turn into years, and one day we're looking back on a life of:
* Great bold prayers we never prayed;
* Exhilarating rides we never took;
* Sacrificial gifts we never gave;
* Lives we never touched.
"And we're sitting in a recliner with a shrivelled soul, and forgotten dreams. And we realize there was a world of desperate need, and a great God calling us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
We see all we could have become but didn't. We never followed our calling. We never got out of the boat."
He says; Listen, people. Please. Whatever you do, don't be this person.
God had a beautiful reason for making you. Don't waste your life waiting for the fear to go away. It never will. Seize the vision of what you could be, of what you could give, and go after it now.
You don't just owe it to yourself. You owe it to all of us….so says John Ortberg
The bible says this:-
‘And you shall seek him, and you shall find him, when you seek for him with all your heart, and he will be found by you.
This is God’s promise to us all ’