A vision and a dream

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

To assist you in this worship, you may wish to light a candle, and gather some symbols that might help you to worship, reflect and pray. As well as a white cloth for the Transfiguration, have something that inspires your imagination, a cross or an icon, and a symbol that represents light and brightness to assist you to reflect on today’s theme.

Opening Prayer

(adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.37)

Help us today, O God,
to see you shining in glory
as we scale our own mountains,
as we seek to overcome
our own hurdles,
as we face fear and indecision
on our way to a better life
lived in love, with you.
Help us today, O God,
to find purpose
as we seek to serve you,
as we seek to serve one another,
as we look for ways we
can make change in this world,
to bring your promised
Kingdom ever closer to all whom we meet.
Help us today, O God,
as we see Jesus in our own lives,
as we struggle to understand him,
as we try to carry out his mission,
as we attempt to bring
peace, love and faith to this
world of pain,
as we follow in the footsteps
of our ancestors in faith.
Amen.

Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV) Jesus is transfigured

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Reflecting on the Word

The story of the transfiguration is a story about a vision and a dream. It is a story where the power of the divine broke into the ordinary world to give hope and inspiration.

The disciples were in need of such inspiration. Just before this story, Jesus had revealed to the disciples that he is to suffer, be rejected, killed and resurrected. Far from catching any vision or hope at that point, the disciples are horrified. Jesus reminds them of the cost of discipleship: if any want to follow Jesus, let them renounce their self-centeredness. Those who play it safe will perish; those who give their lives for him and the gospel will be saved. These would have been hard words to hear.

But six days later, something happens. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain. There he is “transfigured”, or changed in form, or metamorphosed. He appears in “dazzling white” just as Moses did when he had been “talking with God” (Exodus 34:29), a sure sign of God’s presence.

Let us pause and consider the phrase “he was transfigured before them”. The word “transfigured,” is very important. It comes from a familiar Greek word that is known to us today: “metamorphosis.” It means to completely change or transform such as a cocoon transforms into a butterfly or a tulip bulb transforms into a glorious blossom. Jesus was transformed into something closer to God, and along with the appearance of Elijah and Moses, the disciples experienced a glimpse of the divine. A cloud, traditionally symbolic of God’s presence, appears and a proclamation is spoken by the divine voice, echoing the words of Jesus baptism, “This is my son, the beloved, listen to him”. The Son of Man is revealed to be Son of God. It is an epiphany moment. But the vision ends suddenly, and normal life with all its problems is resumed.

It is a powerful experience for the disciples, a happening that transcends the ordinary space-time dimensions of Mark’s narrative sequence. Like the baptism and temptation of Jesus in chapter 1, the divine has been revealed.

The disciples were touched by a vision that lifted them out of the mundane and gave them to courage to abandon their former dreams and the hope to keep going along the road to Jerusalem and death. I like to think it also kept them going after the death of Jesus, in the dark days before the resurrection. And I like to think that vision gave at least some of them the wisdom to lead the newly fledged church, and to face martyrdom with courage when it came upon them.

What is the relevance for this is story from two thousand years ago? What can we draw out from its message of inspiration and transformation? 

All of us have those moments when something was transformed for us. Our wedding day, the birth of a child, the recovery of a loved one from illness are the sorts of things that we find uplifting and inspiring as we remember them. All of these things can be moments that are truly splendid, where we feel raised above our ordinary feelings, and that shine forth with joy when we remember them.

In the gospel story, Mark is presenting us with a story about life, a story that relates to every human journey. Remembering moments of transfiguration in our lives inspire us to keep going, to plan for the future, and are powerful forces in shaping our lives. Though we might lose the immediate power of the event, the memory can allow us to develop a sustainable vision where a true transfiguration of life can take place when necessary.

The power of God’s transformation undergirds the world and that has already made the cross, once an instrument of death, the source of hope for all Christians. We must remember that through the cross, pain and sorrow were transformed into a luminous vision of hope and confidence in the future.

We have the power in our hands to offer this luminous vision of hope and confidence in the future to those who currently see no bright future. Whether it is through feeding hungry people, providing a safe place to meet and socialize, or inspiring someone to something greater, we can make the vision of God’s kingdom a real and infectious thing.

Reflecting on the passage

The poem below is an acrostic poem using the letters of the word ‘transfiguration’. Using this poem as an example, try writing your own poem, either about the gospel story or an experience of your own which has in some sense transfigured or transformed you.

Top of the mountain

Respite from the crowds

Away from the demands

No forewarning

Suddenly changing

Face radiant

Immediate terror

Grasping minds

Understanding failing

Reality or unreality

Ancestral appearances

Talking, babbling, clarity

Intimate message

Overshadowing cloud, then

No-one there.

Ask yourself these two simple questions:

• Where and in what do I see God’s glory?

• How can I share these moments and places with others?

Prayer for ourselves and others

Ever loving God, we pray today for your church.
As Christian communities all across Australia and the world,
face new challenges, pain and an uncertain future,
we pray for the wisdom to see
new opportunities for growth and renewal,
even in these difficult times.
We pray for our church,
as it continues to work your kingdom.
we pray for strength to carry out your mission,
even though it seems more difficult
than ever to spread your word.

As Jesus’ life is revealed in our holy books
so too let his love be revealed in our community today.
We pray with all those living in fear,
those who have had to flee their homeland,
who do not feel safe in their own homes,
those who are marginalised because of
their sexuality, race, or gender, or any other reason.
Help those who are marginalised to see,
your all-encompassing love, and help us to show that same love.
We pray for our world,
as we continue to face crisis after crisis, and struggle
to protect and preserve your wonderous creation.
As we feel helpless in the face of wars raging and lives ruined,
we ask for boldness, to speak truth to power,
to find new ways to create change,
and we pray that those with the power to do so,
will find the strength in you to do what is right rather than that which easy.
We pray these things in the name of Jesus,
who calls us to do his work.
Amen.

Blessing

(adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.37)

Just as Jesus chose to descend
the mountain once again,
We follow him back into the world
to bring love, healing and peace
to our communities.
May we go and serve in the name of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, today,
tomorrow and forever more.
Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018. 

Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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