SUNDAY 27th FEBRUARY 2022

OPENING SENTENCE OF SCRIPTURE

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud.

HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION

God is love and we are God’s children. There is no room for fear in love. We love because God loved us first.

Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

SILENCE

God our Father,
we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

GLORIA
sung by Dougie Byers

COLLECT

Almighty and eternal God,
direct our lives according to your gracious will
that, in the name of your beloved Son,
we may be strengthened
to abound in good works:
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD

FIRST READING
Exodus 34.29–35
read by Annette Beagrie

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.

Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

SILENCE

SECOND READING
2 Corinthians 3.12 – 4.2
read by Gill Swales

Since we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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 from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth, we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

GRADUAL HYMN

GOSPEL READING
LUKE 9:28-43
read by Rev Ann Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 9 beginning at verse 28

Glory to Christ our Saviour

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.’ Peter did not know 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 the disciples kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God. Everyone was amazed at all that he was doing.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord.

SERMON

I woke up on Thursday morning to something akin to dread and despair, when I heard the alarming news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. The thing I had prayed against had happened, and an already bad situation has suddenly become much worse. Russia’s violent intervention into a free sovereign nation has shaken our world, which is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, with soaring energy prices, falling markets and an ever -spiralling cycle of inflation. This violent intervention poses the big question being: “If Russia gets away with this where will be next?

All of a sudden, I and everyone else are reminded of the brokenness and fragility of our world and of Jesus’ words to his followers: “In this world you will have trouble.” Uncertainty, insecurity and fear enter our hearts but we must not forget Jesus’ words “Do not fear for I have overcome the world.”

Take heart, all that is visible is not all that is. We are living in a broken world but we are not abandoned as orphans. God is with us. If there is any relief to be found in this tragic situation, it is in the truth that we have a sovereign Lord, who can bring out of seeming defeat, triumph, even in the midst of apparent tragedy. In this troubled world Jesus, our sovereign Lord is at work, often invisibly but on rare occasions his presence is seen and his glory beheld.

One such rare experience happened on the mountain – it is referred to as the Mount of Transfiguration. On this mountain Jesus is transfigured and the disciples are left in no doubt about Jesus’ divinity and fall in awe as they behold his glory. For the disciples, it is what you would call a mountain top experience. This experience came as a complete surprise; indeed, they almost missed the encounter of Jesus with Moses and Elijah for they dozed off.

We all know what it’s like to doze through something important. The disciples were weighed down with sleep but just about managed to stay awake, and later had the same problem in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had to keep waking them up. If we read between the lines of the gospels, it is clear that life with Jesus was arduous physically. They walked long distances, probably slept in the open on many nights, didn’t always know where food was coming from, were pestered by crowds when they wanted to relax and faced opposition from the religious authorities. On top of that, Jesus had this habit of praying through the night, perhaps because that was the only time that he could get some peace and quiet with God and often he wanted his close friends near him as he did so. Under those circumstances, they were all probably worn out much of the time and dozing off wouldn’t be uncommon.

We picked the story up after some busy and disturbing weeks for the disciples. Jesus had sent them out on a preaching and healing mission, beginning their training to spread the gospel after his death and resurrection.

That was a challenge for people from rural Galilee with little education who were more used to physical work than speaking in public. Can you imagine reaching out to heal someone for the first time in Jesus’s name: what if nothing happened? In today’s jargon, Jesus had pushed them way beyond their comfort zone. When they returned from their mission Jesus took them away for some retreat time together, no doubt to talk through what they had experienced. But crowds invaded their privacy and Jesus welcomed them, although I doubt the disciples did. After a long day when they had apparently not stopped to eat, the disciples told Jesus to send the crowds away to find food, but instead he challenged them to feed the crowd. They learned the hard lesson that being tired, hungry and crotchety was no excuse for not helping others in their need. And what followed is what we know as the feeding of the 5,000, at the end of which there was more food left over than they started with: a doggy bag each.

I mention this background because when we hear the story of the Transfiguration, we often miss its context of the disciples being stretched in their commitment to Jesus and their experience of sharing his ministry.  Eight days earlier Jesus had challenged them to pull their experiences with him together and makes sense of them by deciding who they, his disciples, thought he was. And Peter’s answer was that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, of God. Peter had tumbled to that insight through the months and years spent with Jesus, gradually realising that this man they knew so well was God’s Messiah. That is an extraordinary discovery to make involving an enormous leap of insight. It is probably easier for us, centuries later, to recognise Jesus as the Son of God when we read the gospel stories than it was for people living through those stories with him.

But Peter got there and Jesus’s immediate response was to tell them to keep this to themselves; significantly Luke records that he told them this sternly which signals just how important it was for Jesus that his Messiahship should not be broadcast publicly. Then followed still more confusing news that, far from being welcomed as Messiah, he would suffer and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  What did they make of that? Then finally as context for the Transfiguration, he told them that if they were to be his followers, they had to be prepared to deny themselves and take up the cross daily and follow him. They had eight days to take all that in. Luke writes ‘now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James.’ Luke wants us to hear about the transfiguration in the context of ‘these sayings’ about Jesus being rejected and the disciples taking up their cross daily.

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, he did not apparently go up it in order to have this experience. As he often did, he took his close disciples with him while he prayed and, as we heard, they struggled to stay awake. John’s gospel tells us that for Jesus prayer involved sharing the eternal glory of his heavenly Father and who knows if that involved seeing visions? So, we have to assume that for Jesus this experience might not have been unusual, but what was different this time was that the three disciples saw it too. They watched the appearance of his face change, his clothes become dazzlingly white, and two men speaking with him of his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Note that Jesus’s face changed: prayer changes the person praying as we are drawn closer to God. Then they saw the dazzling glory of God revealed in their friend Jesus of Nazareth. Probably it compounded the mystery of what Jesus had been teaching them while also literally shedding some light on it as the three men saw what they had only previously heard about from Jesus.
This vision of Jesus touched the disciples profoundly. We see this in their reaction. When we have an amazing experience, our natural reaction is to want to hang on to profound experiences and Peter suggested building booths or shelters so they could cling to the glory of Jesus’s transfiguration.

But mystery and glory elude being nailed down in time and space; they are revealed and to be experienced in the moment, they cannot be recorded and preserved. If we try to do so, we lose the meaning and are left grasping at the empty shell of the experience. Today’s equivalent to building a booth might be the attempt to encapsulate wonder in a photograph or to rush off a tweet.
Moses and Elijah were not simply enjoying the glory of the moment. No doubt Moses and Elijah were there to offer pastoral support and encouragement to Jesus on this final leg of his earthly ministry. But they were there too for the three disciples, to help them deal with what lay ahead. Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’ departure, his exodus, which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Normally we make our departure, we don’t accomplish it. But for Jesus his departure, his exodus – with all the salvific connotations associated with Moses and the exodus deliverance from Egypt – was something to accomplish, to undertake. While Peter spoke about booths, a cloud covered them and a voice from heaven repeated the words heard at Jesus’s baptism, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen, my Beloved’ adding, since this voice was for the disciples, ‘Listen to him’. The faithful response to being eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty is not to try to preserve it but to listen to the one thus revealed in glory. Listening is active; it requires the continuing and ongoing attention that is the hallmark of discipleship.

We are not all entrusted with an experience of God’s presence with us or an unexpected revelation of God’s glory in the midst of daily life but, if it is given to us, our response is likely to be a mixture of awe and worship as we live in the wonder of the moment. The transfiguration reminds us to listen to what God is saying through the wonder of the moment. For all too soon we leave the mountain top and come into the valley. Certainly, just the next day the disciples had to do this when they made the transition into the chaos and pathetic need of human life at the bottom of the mountain. They had to hold all this together, to listen to Jesus, not simply cling to moments of glory.

The transfiguration added a new perspective to the three disciples’ understanding of who Jesus is: their friend from Galilee, the Messiah, the one who was to suffer and die, whom to follow meant taking up their cross. Overlaid on this perspective was the glimpse of his divine glory and the command to listen to him. That vision and hope sustained them through their years of mission as apostles, years when these manual labourers form a backwater of Galilee travelled extraordinary distances in foreign lands proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

This morning we will receive in bread and wine the body that was so gloriously transfigured. As we leave here today to live amidst the turbulence of our world today, can we hold the glory and the brokenness together, remembering that God is with us. Clinging to the truth that Jesus is sovereign and that he can do things that we cannot possibly imagine, including bringing beauty and transformation out of the brokenness and fragility of our world; bringing hope where there is despair; offering strength in weakness and triumph where there is defeat. Often it is only as we look back, we see God’s hand at work and we behold his glory. In this fragile and broken world, put your hope and confidence in God, for nothing is impossible with God, including the situation in the Ukraine. Amen

THE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

PRAYERS

Master, Chosen One, your radiant glory
fills your church with hope and expectation
Transform our actions as we listen to
and wait upon your presence.
Make us a people prepared
to declare your love with boldness and trust.

Lord of glory

We behold the mystery of your love

Master, Chosen One, on the mountain
the world was revealed to be subject to your rule.
We entrust to you the nations of the world,
particularly at this time Ukraine and Russia,
and all who are working for peace and security.
We entrust to you all who charged
with the responsibility of leadership and governing.
Transform our structures with your justice and peace.

Lord of glory

We behold the mystery of your love

Master, Chosen One, Peter rushed to preserve
the moment of your transfiguration.
Capture our hearts for your Kingdom
Make us agents of transformation
in public and private relationships.

Lord of glory

We behold the mystery of your love

Master Chosen One, on coming down from the mountain
you healed the boy held in grip of convulsions.
Pour out your transforming love on all
who cry for release from their pain and sufferings…
touch them with your healing and strength.

Lord of glory

We behold the mystery of your love

Master Chosen One, you spoke with the ancient prophets
of your impending passion and resurrection.
Transform our fear, let us glimpse heaven
and brings us with all the faithful departed safely home.

Lord of glory

We behold the mystery of your love

Master Chosen One, thank you for providing always
the encouragement and inspiration we need
for the work you would have us do;
give us grace to trust your will for us
and to walk boldly in your company.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those+
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.

BLESSING

Christ the Son of God gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

HYMN

DISMISSAL

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

Welcome

St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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Notices

Contemporary Service

The Contemporary Service is at 6pm, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, followed by refreshments in the hall. Check here for December arrangements which will be different.

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St John's Church

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