Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church 955 Main St. (P.O. Box 222) Barboursville, West Virginia 25504 February 27, 2022.
*Call to Worship
“Listen to him!” Our God cries from the mountaintop.
It is good for us to be here. We bow before our God in worship.
May God’s Word resonate in our ears and sink into our innermost beings.
May our hearts be transfigured, our minds filled with understanding
*Hymn 1 Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Prayer of Confession
God of compassion,
in Jesus Christ you reveal the light of your glory.
But we turn away, distracted by our own plans.
We confess that we speak when we should listen,
and act when we should wait.
Forgive our aimless enthusiasms.
Grant us wisdom to live in your light
and to follow in the way of your beloved Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
*Hymn 698 Take, O Take Me As I Am
Assurance of Forgiveness
Though we were blinded by sin,
God’s saving light has been beamed into our hearts
that we may see the radiant mercy of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.
Sisters and brothers, I declare to you, your sins are forgiven. Be at peace. Amen.
Old Testament Reading Exodus 34:29-35
Time With Our Young Disciples
Gospel Reading Luke 9:28-36
We were headed to Boston for spring break. Ed and I and about forty high school choir students and assorted parents. But it’s a long way from Ona, West Virginia to the place where everybody knows your name.
So, we stopped for the night right outside New York City, enjoyed a great Italian meal, and turned in. The next day we would go into the city, and though the rain was pouring buckets, we would pay our respects at the 9/11 Memorial and ascend the 102 stories to the Observation Tower of One World Trade, enjoying the Big Apple’s skyline from the tallest building in the western hemisphere.
Truth be told, I would have preferred staying on the ground, at the 9/11 Memorial. There was something mysterious and compelling about that place where so many lost their lives that tragic September day. A few moments felt too short a time to absorb the suffering. Too little time to thank God for leading us to live and move and have our being on September 12th, although we would be forever transformed.
Up we went, by elevator and stairs, finally reaching the first observation deck. The enthusiastic tour guides pumped us all up for the big reveal. You see, when you get to the observation deck, there are ceiling to floor windows, like Windows on the World, the famous restaurant that once topped the World Trade Center. From this point, visitors would be able to see across Manhattan, and identify city landmarks. Shades cover the windows adding to the excitement.
At the moment of greatest suspense, the shades rose slowly to reveal…
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We were shrouded in fog so dense you could see nothing of the great throbbing city below. No Statue of Liberty beckoning to the tired and poor, no Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center or St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We knew they were there. We had seen some of them from the busy Manhattan streets.
But, in that moment, all we could see was a solid white wall of fog. We were so high up, it was like being enveloped in a cloud. And being in a cloud is disorienting and just a little terrifying.
The transfiguration of Jesus is a beautiful and mysterious story found in all three of the synoptic gospels. Jesus has taken his closest disciples-Peter, James, and John, the brother of Jesus, up Mt. Horeb for some time set apart, to pray, to think about this life God has called them to.
The transfiguration not only supports the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. But the statement, “Listen to him,” identifies Jesus as the messenger and voice of God. The significance of this identity is affirmed by the presence of Moses, the law-giver, and Elijah, the great prophet. This is vitally important as the bridge to connecting Jewish believers into the ministry.
What a moment for Peter, James, and John. Not just to see, but fully experience Jesus in all his glory. And yet, they were terrified. Scripture says so. So terrified that they could do nothing else but fall facedown on the ground.
The disciples didn’t anticipate this event. But, they were in the company of Jesus, and when they were with Jesus, all kinds of unusual things could happen. They had witnessed his compelling preaching and teaching. They had seen him perform miracles. They knew deep down in their hearts that Jesus was of God.
And still…they were afraid. Is there any other way to respond? Suppose this happened to you. How do you explain what happened? Who would believe you anyway?
That’s a good question for us. Has Jesus come to you in some transcendent way? Maybe he has spoken to you, or appeared in a dream, or comforted you in a time of trouble. How did it make you feel? Did you tell anyone? Why? Why not?
Tova Sido, is a minister in the United Methodist Church. She shares this story:
She says, “When I was a child the only thing I ever wanted to be was a mom. So, in the year 2000, when I became pregnant, I was ecstatic. This was the beginning of all my dreams coming true. Over the next five years, my husband and I experienced unspeakable tragedy. She would be pregnant five times and five times lose a child at birth or soon after to a rare metabolic disorder.
The summer of 2005 proved to be the darkest of Tova’s life. She was suicidal. She felt like she had no purpose, no joy, and no hope for a future without children. Her dreams of becoming a mom had only ended in heartbreak. She was deeply depressed and very afraid.
This season of tragedy made it very difficult to trust that life was worth living. She was not a particularly spiritual or religious person at the time. But something within her told Tova that the only way out of this was to reach out to someone or something much bigger than she.
She made an appointment with her pastor. On a hot summer day, Tova sat down with him, describing how sad, lonely, and depressed she was. She told of all the losses she and her husband had suffered. She cried what she called an ocean of tears.
When she quieted down, her pastor looked at her, and after a long pause, gently asked, “Are you done?”
Now, that would have made me cry even more. Didn’t he hear me? Could he not at least sympathize with my pain and grief? If I were Tova, I probably would have left never to return.
But, that’s not what happened. Tova’s pastor asked her, “What are you going to do now?”
She replied that she had no idea and that was why she was there. She needed help sorting that out. She had great fears. She didn’t know how to live or go on, her dreams now shattered.
He looked at her and said what might seem like harsh words. “Tova, God did not put you on earth to sit around and cry about things you cannot change. The scriptures say this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
The pastor then left the room and soon came back with the church’s human resources director. He said, “Tova, you need a job. You need to get out of your home, and we need help at the church. I will see you at 9 am on Monday.” Then he promptly left the room and left Tova and the HR director to work out the details.
Tova says she thought her pastor had lost his mind. Never in a million years did she expect this kind of response from him. Was this how God gave comfort? It sure didn’t feel like it.
Walking into the church that day had taken monumental courage. Tova was so weak and broken and suffering. She was filled with feelings of worthlessness and failure. Heartbroken. Sometimes it was hard just to breathe. It was excruciatingly hard to hold a conversation. How in the world could she commit to a job? It all seemed impossible.
But Tova was in for her own transformation story. The first six months were the roughest. Some days, just getting out of bed took all the energy she had. She still cried a lot, but soon the clouds began to lift. Sometimes she even caught herself smiling. In that church, God revealed himself to her in ways that she never imagined. She experienced God’s love, witnessed his miracles- healing power in her own life.
Over the next few years, she moved from serving in adult ministry to youth ministry, to eventually becoming one of the church’s pastors. God’s healing power called her out of her grief and pain and showed her how to be Christ’s disciple.
Even so, with all the reassurances of God’s presence and power and activity in her life, Tova sometimes becomes fearful.
That’s natural. We are human. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t always easy. Jesus is not Santa Claus, appearing occasionally to lavish gifts on us. Sometimes being a disciple requires more of us than we think we can handle. And sometimes following Christ requires sacrifice.
Jesus didn’t leave Peter, James, and John up on that mountain alone. In short order, Jesus would be put to the ultimate test. When he came down from that mountain, Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. He didn’t abandon his disciples even then, when his very life was threatened. No. Jesus was faithful to the end.
And that’s good news for us. Jesus will never forsake us or leave us. He will be with us to the end.
Tova says she wakes every morning and asks God to light her path and show her the way. Sometimes, it scares her that this is her prayer. What if God takes her someplace she doesn’t want to go? Or directs her to do something she doesn’t want to do?
She knows the answer and so do we: if God calls us into a work, God will give us the skills and courage to accomplish it. What if we don’t feel equipped to handle this task? Then we can borrow from God. In God’s storehouse, we find a supply of strength and courage that never runs out or passes its expiration date.
Our last stop that cold spring day in New York, was to visit the Statue of Liberty. Cold rain poured as we boarded the ferry that would take us across the harbor. Visibility was no better than it had been at One World Trade. And now we were on the water and there was a great big ocean out there. The majority of the kids went up on the top deck, where they were drenched and blown about. They were so in hopes of seeing that iconic symbol of welcome that the stormy day just added to the suspense.
I had taken this tour before and had no appetite to get colder and wetter than I already was. So I found a seat and started counting life vests. And I started listening. To the sounds of the passengers, of course, but also to the sounds of the ferry’s motor. To the sounds of the choppy water slapping the boat’s body. To the sounds of the fog horn, its lone voice calling mournfully across the water, reminding us of the presence of one we could hear, but could not see.
And, I heard those most comforting of words in my own anxious heart that day, “Cinda, be still, and know that I am God.”
And that is always enough.
*Affirmation of Faith Apostles’ Creed p. 35
*Hymn 581 Gloria Patri
Pastoral Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
O Lord, our God,
you are great indeed, clothed in majesty and splendor,
wrapped in light as with a robe.
In the solitude of a mountain height,
you revealed your glory in Jesus Christ
even as he faced his crucifixion.
We praise you for this glimpse of the mystery of our redemption.
Transfigure us by your Spirit,
and let your love shine in all we do and say
that all the world may see the radiance of your light,
Christ Jesus, your Son,
Who guides all creation to the fullness of your glory.
We lift up those in our community of faith, our friends, and family members who are in need of healing and wholeness, all those in need, the forgotten, lost, and abused,
and pray for the coming of your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
We pray as Jesus taught us, saying, Our Father…Amen.
Presenting Our Tithes and Offerings
*Hymn 606 Doxology
*Prayer of Dedication
God of grace, you provide for us in more ways than we can know or understand. Accept these offerings as signs of our gratitude and bless them to carry out the ministry of Jesus Christ, that the radiance of his light may transform hearts and minds and wills.
*Hymn 193 Jesus, Take Us to the Mountain
Blessing Nathan Nettleton, Laughingbird.net
Go now, and speak of what you have seen of God.
Do not cling to the holy moments when heaven overshadows you.
But, as the Lord lives, listen to Christ and follow him from the places of revelation to the places of mission.
And may God shine the light of glory into your hearts.
May Christ be with you and never leave you.
And may the Spirit renew the image of God within you.