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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - My Transfigured Valentine Edition

One afternoon a couple of years ago in preparing for Transfiguration Sunday, I came across these two sentences:
The Word and You, vol 2, Editor Nan Duerling
Read the story of the transfiguration...Envision yourself with Peter, James and John as you read. Experience the emotions that might have welled up within you.

Texts for preaching, Year A, Brueggemann, et al
It is no good inviting the congregation to envision themselves there on the mountain with the disciples; it taxes the imagination beyond credulity.

I think I laughed right out loud sitting there at my desk, as those two books argued away with one another. Actually, though, as I think about it, the contradiction of these two quotations captures perfectly the contradictions of the texts for Transfiguration Sunday.

The way it is possible to hold at one time divinity/humanity, fear/faith, past/present/future (just to name a few of the apparent contradictions of the transfiguration story) is one of the delicious mysteries of the life of faith.

The question is how to PREACH a delicious mystery?

Some ideas: You might put your folk firmly in the place and the time of the story - inviting them to climb the mountain with the disciples and encounter the giants of the faith. Perhaps you will invite your congregation to remember mountain top experiences they have personally experienced. Or, you might focus on what happens when they came back down the mountain - on how the experience changed all of them, even if they didnt know it yet.

Have you seen the poem by Kathy Coffey called After the Transfiguration? It ends this way:

We wondered if, returning,
James and John had squabbled:
whose turn to fetch the water,
after the waterfall of grace?

After he imagined the shining tents,
did Peter's walls seem narrow,
smell of rancid fish?
Did feet that poised on Tabor
cross the cluttered porch?
After the bleached light,
could eyes adjust to ebbing
grey and shifting shade?

Cradling the secret in their sleep
did they awaken cautiously,
wondering if the mountaintop
would gild again-bringing
that voice, that face?

What are your thoughts, plans and hopes as we head toward Sunday? Have you remembered that Valentines Day falls on a Sunday this year? So, what do you do with THAT, if anything?

Let us know in the comments. Image found here. Oh, and texts are here.


  1. It's a family service for me. I'm going with the Exodus reading and Moses face shining because he has been in the presence of the Lord. As it is Valentines Day I'm going to show the bit from the stardust movie where the fallen star's face shines because she has been with someone she loves. We are going to talk about how others know we have been with the Lord. And....just to pack in as much as possible and to start us off for Lent next week we will be looking at how we can shine by doing some of the actions in the 'Love Life Live Lent' booklets. It fits well with the family collect-"Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN!

  2. Thank you thank you thank you for all these little thoughts. I am going with the title "Dazzled by the Divine" and not sure where all of it is going. I love the contradictions and the poem.

    It's been awhile since I preached a real sermon with more than 7 minutes. It feels delicious to be thinking about it!

  3. I am doing something similar gloriousthings. It strikes me that in both stories Moses' and JEsus' shining is linked to them entering into God's presence. So how do we let ourselves shine? ANd, more importantly, how do we keep shining? Or rather, how do we Shine On?

  4. Juniper, thank you for the great question: " to preach a delicious mystery?" Ah, the preacherly struggle to find words for things that resist words... Reminds me of a talk given by a Franciscan friar years ago, in which he commented on how we keep trying to eff the ineffable.

    At The Painted Prayerbook this week, Luke's transfiguration text has had me thinking about how my work as an artist provides a tactile way to enter into those mysteries. At my drafting table, amidst the papers and paints, I find a space where I struggle much like Peter, John, and James struggled: to stay awake to the wonder unfolding in their midst, and to keep practicing what it means to make that journey between the vision received on the mountaintop and living it out in the flatlands.

    Speaking of art, I'd be curious to know who the artist is who created the wonderful painting that you've posted...

    Blessings to everyone!

  5. I'm still going primarily with Isaiah (who got snowed out last week), but adding in this week's texts a bit -- the Holy Holy Holy of God (also in Jesus at the transfiguration) with a final note about how an encounter with the Holy changes us -- ala Moses.

    Although we had an abbreviated worship last week, I didn't do the Isaiah sermon, and it wants to be preached.

  6. yes I too love the "delicious mystery" phrase. George Herbert's advice to preachers included the maxim, "Preach texts of devotion, not of controversy" and I think we're all a bit out of practise in preaching them OR listening to them. Maybe there's a residual virtue in poetry that cues in the right kind of listening??? And an awareness of apophasis??? and the ineffable? (I think maybe I met that Franciscan somewhere along the way too!!!)

  7. I have been experiencing and reflecting on this part of the Corinthians text: "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror are being transformed into the same image form the one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit." The glory of the Lord reflected in our unveiled faces as we are transformed because of Christ! I have been pondering on what it means to be transformed in our lives today based on this part of the text and looking at the Luke text as well.

    I also ask for prayers this week as I have my first funeral on Saturday. Thanks!

  8. going with the transfiguration story. thinking about the connection between the shining and glory and being in the presence of God.

    wondering how the Voice's command to listen plays into it all.

  9. I've enjoyed thinking about the transfiguration story & all the parallels with other Bible stories - but in the midst of my delight with the story I've sort of lost track of why this story is important to us - I feel a bit like Peter - so busy planning tents that I've missed the point.
    Can't get the Graham Kendrick song 'Meekness and majesty' out of my head - 'the man who is God'.
    I think I want to say something about how this glimpse of the reality of who Jesus is shakes us right out of our petty concerns about my faith, my church, my understanding.. to something altogether more holy... glad it's only Tuesday - I need more time to think.

  10. I cannot even express my happiness at this beautiful phrase: "children's musical."

    That's right, I get out of preaching t-fig because the children's choir director is having a baby the week before the originally scheduled musical date, so we had to move it up to this Sunday. Hallelujah, praise the lord! The children's choirs will present a musical version of "The Tale of Three Trees" which I'm sure will be lovely, and I will be robeless and enjoying their message rather than one of my own. :-)

    And Valentine's Day we are handling via a youth group bake sale! :-) Yum!

    I still have to come up with prayers and hymns and stuff....we'll probably sing Today We All Are Called To Be Disciples. I love that hymn, and it's very come-down-the-mountain-y.

  11. Ha, Teri! You crack me up. Lucky dog.

    I love T-fig but don't know how to preach it fresh. I feel like I've already spent all my best stuff in previous years. This time around I'm focusing on 2 Corinthians and focusing on similar ideas to Andrea (in conversation with the Luke text).

  12. We have our Annual Congregational Meeting immediately following worship. Is it sad that Valentine's Day isn't even on my radar screen? My (very early) ramblings are on my blog. I'm leaning toward the Corinthians text--hoping to remind folks that, because we have been transfigured by the love of Jesus, we can act boldly in proclaiming the Good News to those around us. Not sure how to get there right now, though.

  13. Idea for a children's time: stolen and reworked from my music director. Use sparklers ... you can reflect on how we are a bit gray and lifeless until the the spark of the holy spirit lights us up and we glow with the glory of God's love ... or something like that.

  14. teri - you are cracking me up too. i think in my associate days i preached this sunday pretty much every year, and i would have welcomed a break, too.

    Jan - thanks for asking about the art. I went back to the site from whence I had rather quickly picked it up and realized that it is not credited there, either. I looked around, but cant seem to find it credited anywhere. Does anyone else know? I would love to properly attribute, if I could.

    ruth - I know what you mean. I chose the whole text this year - even the bit in parentheses, and am finding myself really challenged by Jesus words to the perverse (which I take to mean a sort of willfill misunderstanding) and faithless. I wonder how I also lack faith and understanding, even when the Divine Glory is right there in front of me?

    Childrens time, anyone? I'm scared of sparklers, but admire you brave folk who will bring live flame to the childrens sermon! I think my group is a little too squirrelly for that.

  15. It's my monthly Sunday of no preaching - the joy of having a vocational deacon is great! Some good ideas here. I do like the sparkler one, although I think my congregation would hang me out to dry if I tried anything like that. And we don't "do" Valentines Day liturgically. I am remembering to send my kids cards this year before the event is over and that is a major step forward!
    Y'all have fun Saturday!

  16. I'm with Glorious And Gord, doing the Exodus "Shine On" text.
    Big Prayers, Andrea. That is a tough to do your first.
    Just told a lie to the lady callingwith a brief(4 Q) survey.
    Told her I was in the middle of a "big meeting thing" and could not talk to her.
    We are all happy at Little Church inthe Wildwood today. A long time member has just had a transplant op. and is doing great. She'd been on dialysis for 5 yrs. So, happy times here.

  17. If anbody wants a story-sermon for T-fig. here is one I wrote in my Advanced Preaching class in Seminary in 2001.

  18. How is it that when I get a turn to preach it's on T-Fig?
    Oh, well.
    I'm trying not to look back to any of the things I've ever said on Transfiguration Sunday before, which is a temptation given that I've preached it at three other places and never where I am now. But I want this to be fresh, for me, if for no one else.
    My title: "More Than Meets the Eye." My approach: sometimes we're much more comfortable with a human Jesus than a God-with-us (especially we Congregationalist types), so how do we understand what happened on that day? Was it an actual transformation? A revelation? Last Sunday's gospel set Jesus up as other-than-human with his use of the angelic "Do not be afraid!" Are the disciples ready to go there? Are we?
    So, something like that. Do we really come to church wanting to be shocked and shaken? Or do we come to be comfortable and happy?
    Can't wait to be with y'all on Saturday!

  19. The Rev. Wil GafneyFebruary 9, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    We are celebrating the Feast of Absalom Jones. If I were preaching, I'd talk about Fr. Absalom's selfless act of love in remaining a slave when he had the money to buy his freedom and buying his wife's freedom instead so their children could be born free. That's love.

  20. Well, in a weekend in which there is probably too much going on (transfiguration! new members! valentines day and what do we do about it? ignore it? that seems silly, but making too big a deal also seems like a bad idea! oh, yea, we signed up for evolution weekend! and, of course, there's lots of announcements all of a sudden!) I have been leaning in the direction of a first person account from Peter's perspective, which I think will let me walk that line between explaining what actually happened, and sinking into the mystery. But, thanks, Gord, for your story which is a good jumping off place.

  21. wil - would love to hear more about absalom jones....

  22. We're getting storm #2. They are calling it snoverkill. Amen to that. So i haven't given the texts much thought yet. I know I'm using the 2 Corinthians and I'm thinking about what people will come wanting to hear and needing to hear after 2 weeks of snow, no church last week and all their regular life stuff? Transformation maybe just the answer we all need. Now to make it a sermon.

  23. In school chapel on Thursday, I'm doing a T'fig sermon in which I'll give several students bags with quick to put on clothes: a stole and chasuble, a big jacket and beanie, etc. On my mark, I'll ask them to put on the clothes quickly. They'll be "transfigured"--looking different--but will still be the same. Go from there... Got the idea from an old Augsburg book.

    Now I have to come up with a different one for Sunday!

  24. Tom,
    Thinking I have a children's sermon thanks to you!
    Now to find some stuff to put in a bag.

  25. The Rev. Wil GafneyFebruary 10, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    Juniper et al. Fr. Absalom is the first black Episcopal priest ordained in the Americas. He is the founder of my congregation. More here:

  26. Me again - after reading all your thoughts I've re-written. Thanks!
    I think for this congregation right now the transfiguration needs to challenge us to let go of our fears of the future, stop building tabernacles and trust the God who meets us in Jesus.
    If you do have a look, I'd value thoughts about whether it's still too 'booky' or whether I'm being a bit harsh...
    Draft 2 is here

  27. thanks wil!

    have a long-ish car ride the morning, so will spend some more time in thought, hopefully :) Thanks for all these ideas. they are starting to gel into something....

  28. I'm trying desperately to connect Valentine's Day with the Transfiguration by talking about C.S. Lewis' Four Loves.

    We are going to split the sermon into parts scattered throughout the worship with a hymn that connects with each of the four loves he talks about.

    In the midst of it, I talk about how each of the loves is potentially dangerous on it's own. And I'm connecting the transfiguration with Eros love... I think. I'm going to talk about the danger of worshipping things/people - like Peter and the disciples wish to do with Jesus. All they are consumed with in that moment is their passion for Christ and yet Christ wants them to leave the mountaintop and love others. He wants to move them to agape.

  29. Love your thoughts, Katie! CS Lewis is a favorite!

  30. I find it fascinating that we always get a transfiguration text on the last Sunday after Epiphany, even though the Feast of the Transfiguration isn't until Aug. 6. And I love the connection btwn Moses and Jesus.

    In years past I've preached about getting this glimpse of Jesus in all his glory to hold us through the darkness of Lent and the journey to the cross. Not sure where I'm going this year; I could use that theme again since I'm in a new church. We'll see.

  31. I'm just now getting here on Thursday because of a NASTY stomach bug that kept me down and out this week. Ugh.

    I'm going with the gospel Tfig text and have on my planning notecards from a month ago "GOD CHANGES US." It was a general theme that sort of wound up my Epiphany themes and wasn't based as much on the specific text as it was on the Tfig theme and story.

    Now that I'm looking at the real Luke text and the story after that is "optional" I'm thinking a little further about my theme. Also, I'm noticing the mountain and demon stories appear right between 2 death predictions.

    So, here are my initial thoughts - - God changes us. Jesus was changed physically on the mountain in front of their very eyes which demonstrated God's power in a very visible way. The disciples were wrapped in a cloud and told to listen to him (maybe particularly to those death predictions). God changed Jesus, and God changes, empowers even, us to carry out Jesus' ministry on earth. He wasn't around physically forever, but he left a way for his ministry to carry on - through us, the ones who bear his name, by the power of God.

    Maybe? Might I even write tomorrow?

  32. Good story in Xian Century about a 5th grade science experiment w/ prisim.
    Very useful if using the Gospel or Hebrew text.
    Bascially you must have light to have colors and as Christians we must have Christ in order to shine.
    Think I almost got a sermon. I do recommend the story though


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