Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
February 11, 2024 – Transfiguration Sunday
Words of welcome, announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle
In this season of Light, we light this candle to remind us of God’s light that shines even in the darkness. May this light of hope, peace, and justice shine for all the world to see. May this light bless our homes and our journey in the days that lie ahead.
Choral Introit “Care’s Chorus”
Call To worship
Climb every mountain, Search high and low,
Follow every byway, Every path you know.
Climb every mountain, Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, ‘Till you find your dream.
A dream that will need, All the love you can give,
Every day of your life, For as long as you live.
Come, let us climb God’s holy mountain,
and see God’s love revealed for all to see.
Climb every mountain, Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, Till you find your dream
Hymn Come, Let Us Sing VU 222
- Come, let us sing to the Lord our song,
we have stood silently too long;
surely the Lord deserves our praise,
so joyfully thank God for our days.
- O thirsty soul, come drink at the well;
God’s living waters will never fail.
Surely the Lord will help you to stand,
strengthened and comforted by God’s hand.
- You dwell among us and cause us to pray,
and walk with each other following your way;
our precious brothers and sisters will grow
in the fulfilling love they know.
- Deserts shall bloom and mountains shall sing
to the desire of all living things.
Come, all you creatures, high and low,
let your praises endlessly flow.
Prayer of Approach
God of Mercy and Grace, you come to us in Jesus of Nazareth to break down the dividing walls of hostility between us. Forgive us for those times when we maintain walls that separate and isolate. Merciful God, you have shared with us the ministry of reconciliation. Forgive us for those times when we hang on to our hurts and withhold the gift of forgiveness. You have invited us to join with Peter, James, and John on the mountain of Transfiguration: Help us to appreciate the wonders you have worked in our own lives. You invite us to share our wealth. Help us to recognize and relieve the poverty that is all around us. You bless our lives with boundless love. May we learn new ways to share it so more people may come to know you. Forgive our selfishness, we pray. Transform us by your Spirit and your Word, so the light of Christ might shine in us today. Amen.
Scripture Reader: Barb Moogk
First Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-12
Responsive Psalm Psalm 50 VU 775
Refrain: The mighty one, God the Sovereign,
speaks and summons the earth.
God, the Almighty, has spoken;
and summoned the world
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
God shines out from Zion, a city perfect in beauty.
Our God appears, and will not keep silence. Refrain
Before you, God, runs a consuming fire,
and a mighty tempest rages about you.
You call on the heavens above,
and on the earth below,
to witness the judgement of your people:
“Gather my people before me,
the people who made covenant with me by sacrifice.”
The heavens proclaim your justice,
for you yourself are judge. Refrain
Gospel Lesson: Mark 9:2-9
Hymn We Have Come at Christ’s Own Bidding VU 104
- We have come at Christ’s own bidding
to this high and Holy place,
where we wait with hope and longing
for some token of God’s grace.
Here we pray for new assurance
that our faith is not in vain,
searching like those first disciples
for a sign both clear and plain.
- Light breaks in upon our darkness;
splendour baths the flesh-joined Word;
Moses and Elijah marvel
as the heavenly voice is heard.
Eyes and hearts behold with wonder
how the Law and Prophets meet:
Christ, with garments drenched in brightness,
stands transfigured and complete.
- Strengthened by this glimpse of glory,
fearful lest our faith decline,
we like Peter find it tempting
to remain and build a shrine.
But true worship gives us courage
to proclaim what we profess,
that our daily lives may prove us
people of the God we bless.
Homily “Finding the Thin Places”
We give thanks for everyone who continues to support TSA and our many ministries. Your gifts of support and encouragement mean a lot to us. You can get more information about making a donation by contacting the church office or by visiting our website. For all the gifts you share, for all the people you bless by your serving and giving as a disciple of Jesus, we give thanks.
Offering Song Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow VU 541
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God, all creatures high and low;
give thanks to God in love made known;
Creator, Word, and Spirit, One.
May the offerings brought this day be used as seeds, that will be planted faithfully and nurtured lovingly so that God’s ways may be realized anew in this world. Bless the gifts of our hands, our hearts, and voices, that all we do and say might be a blessing as we tend your precious garden.
Hymn Eternal Light, Shine in My Heart VU 629
- Eternal light, shine in my heart;
eternal hope, lift up my eyes;
eternal power, be my support;
eternal wisdom, make me wise.
- Eternal life, raise me from death;
eternal brightness, make me see;
eternal Spirit, give me breath;
eternal Saviour, come to me,
- until by your most costly grace,
invited by your holy word,
at last I come before your face
to know you, my eternal God.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn I Feel the Winds of God VU 625
- I feel the winds of God today;
today my sail I lift,
though heavy oft with drenching spray
and torn with many a rift;
if hope but light the water’s crest,
and Christ my bark will use,
I’ll seek the seas at his behest,
and brave another cruise.
- It is the wind of God that dries
my vain regretful tears,
until with braver thoughts shall rise
the purer, brighter years;
if cast on shores of selfish ease
or pleasure I should be,
O let me feel your freshening breeze,
and I’ll put back to sea.
- If ever I forget your love
and how that love was shown,
lift high the blood-red flag above;
it bears your name alone.
Great pilot of my onward way,
you will not let me drift.
I feel the winds of God today;
today my sail I lift.
There is more to this world than what we can see. For God’s glory is hidden in everything and it is waiting to be revealed to the eyes of those who believe.
May your eyes and your heart be open to the Glory of God that is all around you. For there is yet a greater glory still waiting to be revealed. Go now in hope, Go now in peace, Go now with God’s love.
Choral Amen Go Now in Peace VU 964
Go now in peace, go now in peace.
May the love of God surround you everywhere,
everywhere you may go.
Getting Changed. Transfiguration Sunday, February 11, 2024
by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew
This morning we shared the story of Jesus’ mountain top experience. Both Jesus and his disciples are changed because of this spiritual experience. Spiritual experiences can happen to anyone, at any time, and in any place. Such mystical moments open the doors of perception that transcend our every day experience. They reveal the deeper truths about God, about life, and about who we are as individuals. The great news is that such mountain top experiences don’t just happen in the Bible. Such profound moments can happen to us, if we are open to what the moment will bring.
One of my earliest religious experiences came when I was at a church youth group event. We were lead through a guided meditation. We were asked to close our eyes, and imagine a place where we felt very comfortable and relaxed. We were then asked to imagine Jesus coming to visit us in this special place. Afterwards, we were asked to describe the place and what Jesus looked like. People described meeting Jesus at their home, and at the church. Most of the other teenagers described Jesus as wearing the long robes we are used to seeing him wear in those Sunday School pictures. I still laugh at my response. I had pictured Cavendish beach on Prince Edward Island. Our family spent many summer vacations there so it so it has always been a source of happy memories for me. The Jesus I pictured was wearing a pair of cut- off jean shorts, which had been bleached white from the sun. This image shocked a few in the group, but it came as no surprise to me. For me, a beach, with its coming together of the land, the water and the big sky, is one of those truly remarkable places where I feel very much at peace.
The ancient Celts, those early people of Ireland and Scotland called such spiritual spots a “thin place.” My understanding of “thin places” is they are locations where the veil between earth and heaven, God and creation indeed is thin. It is a transparent place where, for a moment, you and God are one. Some people think it is a matter of geography, with certain locations having this special power. Others believe it is perhaps a place or moment in the heart. However you describe it, the thin place is where your experience of God is real, immanent, and powerful.
Many thousands of people travel to Israel each year, seeking out those thin places in the Holy Land. They travel from all over the world in hopes of experiencing a special feeling by standing in the places where Jesus once stood. A few years ago the United Church Moderator Stan McKay felt that we gave too much weight to Israel as a Holy place. Being our first indigenous moderator, Reverend McKay said that every land is a Holy Land. In the indigenous tradition, as with the Celtic tradition, all places have the potential to be thin places, where all people may fully experience the power and truth of God’s presence.
We have many hymns which express this understanding that any place can be holy ground. Hymns like “This is my Father’s World”, “All Creatures of Our God and King”, and “Morning has broken” were all written by people who understood the inner spirit’s power to pierce the veil. They felt any location could be the place where you feel intimately close to God, closer than you have ever felt before.
For that is the purpose of thin places. When we experience such a mountain top experience it gives us a momentary lift. The mountain top is not the destination. Such transfiguring moments exist to give us strength for the rest of our life’s journey. Jesus and his disciples shared a mystical experience on the mountain top. But they did not stay there or return to it. They moved on. It was from there Jesus begins his final journey towards Jerusalem and the cross.
It is tempting to stay and dwell on the mountaintop of past experiences. But our task is to eventually come down and be used by God to create thin places for others who are unaware of the world of spirit. It is natural to crave the high we get on the mountain top. There is an intense spiritual rush such thin places offer. But that is not our home. We are not to be junkies who crave high after high. A mountain top experience is supposed to be special, to give perspective, lift and energy for the rest of life which is lived in the valleys and in the fields where we live every day.
We seek such mountain top moments because God makes all things new. Because such events don’t just happen to Jesus. God is still doing something new right now here in our midst. Right now in their hearts and in special places men and women are climbing mountains to witness transfiguration and stumbling back down forever changed. It can happen at a place of pilgrimage like Mount Saint Patrick. It can happen on the top of the ski hill in Calabogie. It can also happen in the frozen food aisle at the No Frills here in town.
We do not have to define how transfiguration happens, or what the experience must be like if it is to count. God alone transfigures. The God of infinite possibilities is alive and will never condescend to be contained in the box of our limited expectations. As soon as you can neatly define God, God will seek to exceed your greatest imaginings.
A few summers ago Christine and I went to Prince Edward Island for our summer vacation. It was the first time in fifty years that I had revisited the beach at Cavendish. It was a much needed vacation as my church in Ottawa had just completed two years of stressful negotiations to sell our building to Carleton University. One morning I got up early and went for a walk on the beach just as the sun was rising over the ocean. It was a beautiful moment to feel the warmth of the rising sun on my face. I sat on a rock and did my morning meditation. Once again I felt that sense of deep connection with God. I knew I was completely surrounded and supported by God’s love. The gentle caress of the ocean on my feet made me feel grounded in the red sand. It wasn’t the high mountain top moment I had in my youth, but still there was this deep sense of God’s abiding presence. I needed that moment of assurance since I was going through a difficult time of great uncertainty at my church. It was a gift of joy that I still treasure.
As Psalm 50 puts it,
The mighty one, God speaks. God summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
From Mount Zion, which is the perfection of beauty, our God shines forth.
May the light of God shine for you, so you too might shine. Amen.