URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 27th February 2022 – The Revd. Phil Nevard

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for Sunday 27th February 2022

Transfiguration of Jesus by Alexandre Ivanov 1824, public domain

The Rev’d Phil Nevard

I’m Rev’d Phil Nevard and I minister in three villages around South Cambridgeshire.  I’m also responsible for assembling a dazzling team of preachers to produce the weekly podcast and video resource “Talking Absolute Worship” – which you should definitely type into Google and check it out!  (https://www.facebook.com/TalkingAbsoluteWorship)
Today is often known as Transfiguration Sunday.  It’s a hinge-moment between the season of Epiphany where we explore the glory of God being made known across the whole world and the start of Lent when we begin our journey with Jesus towards the cross.  There are a few moments in the Gospels like this, when something numinous happens, something that is so powerfully overwhelming that the disciples struggle to put it into words.  It feels like one of those “you had to be there” moments that words cannot fully capture.  When we immerse ourselves in worship, then we can experience moments like that, moments of transfiguration.  I pray that this may be part of your experience today.
Call To Worship
Come, let us ring out our joy to the Lord; hail the rock who saves us. Let us come into God’s presence, giving thanks; let us hail the Eternal One with a song of praise. A mighty God is the Lord, a great king above all gods.  In God’s hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains belong to God. To the Eternal One belongs the sea,  for God made it and shaped the dry land. O come; let us bow and bend low. Let us kneel before the One who made us, for the Eternal One is our God and we the people who belong to the royal pasture, the flock that is led by hand.
Hymn                The Lord is King, Lift Up Your Voice
Josiah Conder (1789 – 1885)

The Lord is King! lift up your voice,
O earth, and all ye heavens rejoice;
from world to world
the joy shall ring:
‘the Lord omnipotent is King!’
2: The Lord is King!
who then shall dare
Resist His will, distrust His care,
or murmur at His wise decrees,
or doubt His royal promises?
3: The Lord is King!
child of the dust,
the Judge of all the earth is just;
holy and true are all His ways:
let every creature speak His praise.
4: He reigns! ye saints,
exalt your strains;
your God is King,
your Father reigns:
and He is at the Father’s side,
the Man of Love, the Crucified.

5: Come, make your wants,
your burdens known;
He will present them at the throne;
and angel bands are waiting there
His messages of love to bear.

6: One Lord and Saviour all secures;
He reigns, and life and death are yours,
Through earth and Heaven one song shall ring,
‘The Lord omnipotent is King!’

Prayers of Approach
The Lord is King, lift up your voice!
Lift it above the pages of the hymnbook
Lift it beyond the end of your row
Lift it through the roof of the church
Lift it to the very throne of God with songs of exuberant praise!
The Lord is King, lift up your voice!
Lift it with tears of tenderness
Lift it with an accent of heartfelt concern
Lift it morning, night and all day long
Lift it in prayer to the God who holds us all in the palm of her hand.
The Lord is King, lift up your voice!
Lift it through the barriers of culture and status
Lift it to the end of the corridors of power
Lift it for the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak
Lift it with passion to the God who would have us do justice and show mercy.
The Lord is King, lift up your voice!
Lift it at the school gate and in the hairdressers
Lift it at the office desk and on the park bench
Lift it where people have lost hope and are searching for meaning
Lift it with joy to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Lord is King, lift up your voice!
Lift it in a loud Amen.  Amen!
Confession & Absolution
God says, “This is my son whom I have chosen, listen to him”
But we have chosen other things.
We have chosen to chase wealth, popularity, and success in human terms.
We have chosen our own path, our own way.
We have chosen an easy life, an easy faith
We have fallen short.
Lord, forgive us…
(pause for a moment of quiet reflection)
God says, “This is my son whom I have chosen, listen to him”
But we have listened to other voices.
We have listened to voices of envy and greed
We have listened only to what we wanted to hear
We have listened to half-truths and false hope
We have fallen short.
Lord forgive us…
(pause for a moment of quiet reflection)
God says, “This is my son whom I have chosen, listen to him”
Listen to him – for today he says your sins are forgiven,
Accept his gift of a new start, a clean page
Then go in peace and live to bring God glory.  Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
Spirit of God,
as you came upon those on the mountaintop
and your glory shone through the very human face of Jesus,
so come upon us now.
Let us glimpse your face
through these very human writings
and know your presence and power
in our very  human lives,
through Christ. Amen.
Reading   St Luke 9:28-36
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.  And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.  Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.  They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.   Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’  When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Those of you who, like me, take your facial skin-care routine seriously will know that there are several excellent options to choose from these days.  Kate Middleton allegedly uses a bee-venom facial as a needle-free shortcut to youthful, line-free skin; Demi Moore famously uses leech therapy which apparently “cleanses the blood, improves circulation, and boosts tissue healing”; Katie Holmes employs organic-vegetable-fed snails which leave a trail of “mucus packed with proteins, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid, which leaves the skin looking glowy and refreshed.”  I’m sure many of you, like me, have tried all of those things.
I’m currently a big fan of Victoria Beckham’s recommendation – the Geisha facial – where every month I spend £180 at an exclusive London clinic to have Nightingale droppings smeared over my face (Nightingales which, of course, have been denied worms and are fed a specially curated vegan and gluten free diet.)  All my congregations will attest that I’m worth it!
When Moses came down from Mt Sinai and when Jesus emerged from the cloud on Mt Tabor, their faces glowed with divine radiance – they had been transfigured in the presence of God.  This transfiguration is entirely in the gift of God, these moments are not something we can replicate with creams, they are not experiences we can recreate by providing the right setting, the correct liturgy, the appropriate ratio of emotion to intellect; God will not be summoned into these moments by our music choices, the way we dress, the language we choose to address her.  God is not to be summoned or controlled at all!
Stumbling about for a way to respond to the indescribable, Peter, John & James suggest building some booths so that they can all stay up there and repeatedly experience this moment.  But Jesus won’t have it.  God won’t be tied down to a moment or a place.  Today it might be mount Tabor, tomorrow it might be a bus stop in Burnley; today it might be Lake Tiberias, next week it might be Bristol Temple Meads.  Right now it’s a cloud-covered mountain top, soon it will be thunderstruck Golgotha.
Despite what Jesus said to the disciples, folk have repeatedly built booths on Mt Tabor. Helena, mother of Constantine, built a sanctuary on the top of Mount Tabor in 326 A.D.  By the end of the sixth century, three churches stood on the mountaintop, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  More shrines were built there over the next 400 years, and Saladin destroyed them all in 1187.  A fortress built in 1212 was destroyed by the end of the thirteenth century. The summit was abandoned for another six hundred years, until a Greek Orthodox community built a monastery.  Some time later, the Franciscans built a Latin basilica on the highest point of the summit, where they now maintain worship services.
We might smile at the irony, but is it too harsh to ask whether we too have tried to “capture” the experience of the Glory of God in our buildings and in our liturgies and timetabled our encounters with God for an hour-long slot at 10:30 on Sunday morning?  Perhaps it is – but there is room here for some questions about whether we are trying to “tame” God – and about God insisting on surprising us.
I’ve heard many preachers quote Annie Dillard, and it is always the same paragraph – but it’s a cracking quote!  It’s from her book “Teaching a stone to talk”.  She wrote these startling words:
“Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a package tour of the Absolute? … On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does not one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews.”
Could it be that our weekly worship is a weird confusion where on the one hand we are trying to manufacture a deep experience of the presence of God, yet at the same time, we don’t really expect the mind-blowing and indescribable God to show up? If we did, then maybe the plate of cling-filmed bourbons awaiting us at the end of the service would not be nearly enough!
But let’s not get too carried away.  These moments are rare in the Gospels, they were not everyday experiences for the disciples – far from it.  Most of their experience of the presence of God in the life of Jesus was wearisome and dusty walking from town to village to town and back, encountering broken people along the way.  My own transfiguration moments have been rare – I can count them on the fingers of one hand.  My understanding is that God shows me just enough of that transfigured radiance to keep me searching; just enough of that blazing glory to sustain my journey along the dusty roads; just enough of that mysterious, breathtaking power to keep me working in the semi-darkness of the valley below  trying to join in the movement of the Kingdom of God, putting an arm around one broken person at a time.  Thanks be to God,  Amen.
Hymn                Christ is the World’s Light
Fred Pratt Green (1903 – 2000)

Christ is the world’s light,
Christ and none other;
born in our darkness,
he became our brother.
If we have seen him
we have seen the Father:
Glory to God on high!
2 Christ is the world’s peace,
Christ and none other;
no one can serve him
and despise another.
Who else unites us,
one in God the Father?
Glory to God on high!
3 Christ is the world’s life,
Christ and none other;
sold once for silver,
murdered here, our brother;
he, who redeems us,
reigns with God the Father:
Glory to God on high!
4 Give God the glory,
God and none other;
give God the glory,
Spirit, Son, and Father;
give God the glory,
God with us, my brother:
Glory to God on high!

Affirmation of Faith

As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world –
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair –
we declare with joy and trust;
Our world belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the Kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever
Our world belongs to God!
We rejoice in the goodness of God,
renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves
to holy living, for:
Our world belongs to God!
As committed disciples,
called to faithful obedience
and set free for joyful praise,
we offer our hearts and lives to do God’s work in His world, for
Our world belongs to God!
With tempered impatience,
eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord
and we are confident that the light
that shines in the present darkness
will fill the earth
when Christ appears, for
Our world belongs to God!

The disciples saw God’s glory in the face of Jesus.  Lord we pray for a world which sees glory in all the wrong places.
We pray for a world where glory is found in conquest,
when the mushroom cloud of nuclear devastation
and the dust cloud of climate catastrophe
replaced the awesome cloud of your presence.
We pray for all those whose lives are torn apart by this false glory:
all those whose lives are destroyed by war and conflict,
those whose hopes and dreams are shattered by our pillage of the earth…
(moment of quiet)
The disciples saw God’s glory in the face of Jesus.  Lord we pray for a world which sees glory in all the wrong places:
We pray for a world which sees glory in wealth,
where lives are sacrificed on the treadmill of acquisition,
where human dignity is trampled by the greed of corporations,
where justice is side lined to keep profits high,
where people are drowning in a sea of debt,
where the fortunate few must diet and the rest must starve…
(moment of quiet)
The disciples saw God’s glory in the face of Jesus. Lord we pray for a world which sees glory in all the wrong places:
we pray for a world which sees glory only in the winner,
we pray for a world which sees glory only in the popular,
we pray for a world which only sees glory only in the strong,
the biggest, the fastest, the richest, the most attractive,
the loudest, the strongest, the sexiest, the most powerful,
and where the rest is failure, the rest is worthless…
(moment of quiet)
The disciples saw God’s glory in the face of Jesus:
The glory of self-giving, the glory of sacrificial love,
the glory of humility and service revealed in the lines and creases of care and compassion. May we be witnesses to your glory in our words and our deeds  To the glory of your name.  Amen.
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray….Our Father…
People are giving in the life of the church in many and varied  ways.  We gather up all of our giving along with the gifts of bread and wine brought to this table and offer them to God.
Loving God you give to us beyond measure
You give to us without counting the cost:
take our gifts of money,
take these gifts of bread and wine,
and with them, take the gift of our lives to be lived in your service
each and every day. Amen
Hymn       For Your Generous Providing
© Leith Fisher (1941-2009)

For your generous providing
which sustains us all our days,
for your Spirit here residing,
we proclaim our heartfelt praise.
Through the depths
of joy and sorrow,
though the road
be smooth or rough,
fearless, we can face tomorrow
for your grace will be enough.

2  Hush our world’s
seductive noises
tempting us to stand alone;
save us from the siren voices
calling us to trust our own.
For those snared by
earthly treasure,
lured by false security,
Jesus, true and only measure,
spring the trap to set folk free.

3  Round your table, through your giving, show us how to live and pray
till your kingdom’s way of living is the bread we share each day:
bread for us and for our neighbour, bread for body, mind, and soul,
bread of heaven and human labour – broken bread that makes us whole.
Holy Communion
Hear the gracious words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Peace be with you.
Hear the narrative of the institution of the Lord’s Supper as it was recorded by the apostle Paul. 
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,  that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed  took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,  he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’ 
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.   Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’   For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and following his example, we take this bread and this cup, and give thanks to God.
Lift up your hearts.  We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
With joy we give you thanks and praise, Almighty God, Source of all life and love, that we live in your world, that you are always creating and
sustaining it by your power, and that you have so made us that we can know and love you, trust and serve you.  We give you thanks that you loved the world so much that you gave your only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life.
We thank you that Jesus was born among us that he lived our common life on earth; that he suffered and died for us; that he rose again; and that he is always present through the Holy Spirit.
We thank you that we can live in the faith that your kingdom will come, and that in life, in death and beyond death, you are with us. Therefore with all the company of heaven, and with all your people, of all places and times, we proclaim your greatness and sing your praise.
Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Holy Lord God, by what we do here in remembrance of Christ we celebrate his perfect sacrifice on the Cross and his glorious resurrection and ascension; we declare that he is Lord of all; and we prepare for his coming in his kingdom.
We pray that through your Holy Spirit this bread may be for us the body of Christ and this wine the blood of Christ. Accept our sacrifice of praise; and as we eat and drink at his command unite us to Christ as one body in him, and give us strength to serve you in the world. And to you, one holy and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we give praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
(breaking of bread)
The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.
Take, eat – this is the body of Christ which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of him.
(moment of quiet)
(Pouring of wine)
The cup of blessing which we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ.
This cup is the new covenant in the blood of Christ, shed for you and for many for the remission of sins: drink of it.
(moment of quiet)
Let us praise the Lord.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Blessing and honour and glory and power be to our God for ever and ever.  Amen.
Let us pray.
Most gracious God, we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here. You have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life, and renewed us for your service.  Now we give ourselves to you; and we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love reaching out into the life of the world;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Hymn                Christ Be Our Light
© 1993, 2000, Bernadette Farrell

Longing for light,
we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth,
we turn to you.
Make us your own,
your holy people,
light for the world to see.
Christ be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your Church
gathered today.
2: Longing for shelter,
many are homeless.
Longing for warmth,
many are cold.
Make us your building,
sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
3:  Many the gifts,
many the people,
many the hearts
that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Go out into God’s word to love and to serve. And the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with each one of us, this day,  through this week to come and even for evermore.  Amen

Sources and Thanks
Call to Worship adapted from the Revised Grail Version of Psalm 95 by Andy Braunston.    Affirmation of Faith  adapted by Andy Braunston from the Christian Reformed Church’s affirmation Our World Belongs To God. Communion prayer from New Church Praise / Worship from the URC Prayer 4.  All other liturgical material by the Rev’d Phil Nevard. 
Thanks to those who read spoken part in the service.
The Lord is King, Lift Up Your Voice- Josiah Conder (1789 – 1885) sung by the congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.
Christ is the World’s Light – Fred Pratt Green (1903 – 2000) sung by the group Koine
For Your Generous Providing – © Leith Fisher (1941-2009) Sung by the Scottish Festival Singers
Christ Be Our Light – © 1993, 2000, Bernadette Farrell sung by OCP Session Choir
Opening Organ Piece: Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing Organ Piece: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

Comments are closed.