Index

Sundays
Second Quarter
2019

 

J. Nichols Adams et al

March 3, 2019, Transfiguration of the Lord

 

 

LectionAid 2nd Quarter 2019

March 3, 2019, Transfiguration of the Lord

A Cloud, A Voice, An Epiphany and A Eureka

Psalm 99, Exodus 34:29-35, 2Cor 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

Theme: Transfiguration a Eureka Moment

Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON

Starting Thoughts

We all have Chinese food from time to time. This always includes the fortune cookie. So how do explain the one I received two days before we left for a long-anticipated trip to Europe. It read, “A smooth long journey! Great Expectations.” How did they know? And how do they get those messages in there? Was that a sudden divine moment? Was it just happenstance? That is the trouble with divine moments we are never sure. How often have we seen or experienced something in our lives that made us catch our breath for a few moments? But after a time, we partially forget about what we saw, even though we were very happy that we got to see it.
In our lesson for this day, the message could not be more clear or pertinent to us. It is not the luck of the draw nor is it necessarily restricted to a audience, but it is addressed to all willing to listen to the voice of God. So, we need to pay close attention to the message given to us in the transfiguration narrative. At first it might sound like something from the world of magic. You might say it has a touch of Harry Potter about it. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is a very explicit message that is ground breaking.
The Transfiguration is God giving us the whole picture in terms of the time line of history. Jesus was next to Elijah and Moses. Moses helped free the children of Israel the Children of God from the slavery of the Egyptians. Earlier we find Elijah freeing the people of Israel, the children of God from the royally sponsored false worship of Baal. Elijah and Moses freed the people of God from falseness and slavery. They freed the people of God from worshiping a fertility and storm God who must have been very frightening to one God, Yahweh. Jesus was like the other two prophets came to free God’s people, all God people from the slavery of sin and death. Jesus came to show us a loving and hopeful God. He finished the work of both Moses and Elijah. That was the Eureka moment for the disciples.
Annie Dillard in her 1974 book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” published by Harpers Press tells about walking through the outdoors and rounding the corner of an outbuilding, catches a glimpse of a mocking bird diving toward the earth at thirty-two feet per second. It appears as if it were about to crash into the ground when it fans its feathers and steps off on the grass as if getting off an escalator. The old philosophical question comes to her mind: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound? Re-framing that she wondered if she had not come around the corner at that moment in time, would the grace and beauty of that descent still have happened? She concluded it would have but added, “Thank God I was there as a witness.” The inner circle can thank God they were there as witnesses to the Transfiguration as you and I can give thanks to God when we witness the glory of God in our daily lives.
The point is simply that it was great to see something so special but even after it was all over the disciples and even most of us today are still not sure what was seen. But the very fact that it was seen, and we celebrate this fact once a year is often over looked. Often Eureka moments take years to understand. Everything from Microwaves to purple dye has had a Eureka moment but it took years to develop and understand and that is true with the Transfiguration.

Exegetical Comments

Though the narrative of the Transfiguration should suffice, should one choose to include the additional story, it would provide balance as the disciples move from the mountain top experience to their own inability to cast out a demon. This chapter began with the commissioning of the twelve disciples; the feeding of the five thousand; and the confession of Peter. More immediately, Jesus has just completed a series of sayings about the nature of discipleship. Luke introduces this next section by noting it occurs eight days after these sayings.
With brevity, the scene is set with the mention of three items. First, Jesus takes with him Peter, John, and James. They comprise the inner circle. When set apart from the other disciples, something significant usually is described. Second, they go to a high mountain. Likewise mention of mountains in Scripture usually signifies a momentous event. Third, Jesus is presented as being in a time of prayer. This heightens the importance of the moment.
While in prayer, the face and clothes of Jesus begin to change with the clothes described as being dazzling white. Two men appear “in glory”: Moses and Elijah. They are the two great Jewish leaders from the past. The appearance of Jesus in the midst of these two prominent leaders’ places Jesus in a special status. The observer is taken deeper into the scene when told that these two men talked to Jesus.
The observer is permitted to eavesdrop on the conversation and overhear the subject. They spoke of the exodus or departure of Jesus that was to take place at Jerusalem. This Greek word “exodus” is used by Luke to describe the pending death of Jesus. With that word comes overtones of the great event of the Old Testament when the People of God were led out of slavery to the Promised Land. The Gospel writer implies that here was the new Moses leading the People of God from a subtler form of slavery, namely sin, into the Kingdom of God itself. He has already passed through the sea of baptism and been obedient to the Father.
Meanwhile, the three disciples are described as being heavy with sleep. In a somewhat groggy state, they saw “his glory” and the two who stood with him. Jesus is the subject and Moses and Elijah take secondary positions. Peter realizes the importance of the moment and concludes timing is everything. He offers to preserve the moment with the building of three booths or tents.
Yet this disciple who identified Jesus as the Messiah now fails to comprehend the superior status of Jesus over Moses and Elijah. The latter two will fade from view but Jesus will not. Peter also fails to comprehend the impossibility of containing the moment to a box. He seeks to enshrine the moment much like Israel had sought to enshrine the Lord in the desert of Sinai; there is no need for a tabernacle. God has already provided Jesus. Nor can it be relegated to a past time and place. The glory of Jesus is a dynamic living being seeking to beckon us into a relationship.
Peter is interrupted with a cloud that overshadowed them. From the cloud comes a voice, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” This theophany is reminiscent of the baptism of Jesus. The difference is that in the earlier theophany, only Jesus heard the voice. Now the inner circle hears the pronouncement as well.
Moses and Elijah were already relegated to the past as the voice from the cloud called attention to Jesus. Now the two fade from the scene and the full weight of the revelation points to Jesus. The three disciples are left speechless and in awe. This in itself testifies to the mystery of the event and perhaps unknowingly obliges the warning of Jesus that they t Luke has highlighted, throughout this passage, the way in which the transfiguration was preparing Jesus himself not just for one human tragedy but for the greatest threat of all. Moses and Elijah, says Luke, were speaking with Jesus ‘about his departure, which he was going to fulfil at Jerusalem’. The word for ‘departure’ is exodus, and Luke means us to understand that in several senses. It can mean, like ‘exodus’ in the Old Testament, ‘departure,’ ‘going away’. It can also serve as a euphemism for ‘death,’ as when someone says, ‘when I am no longer here’, referring to their own death. But the reason Luke has chosen this word—not least in connection with Moses! —is that in his death Jesus will enact an event just like the great Exodus from Egypt, only more so. In the first Exodus, Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and home to the promised land. In the new Exodus, Jesus will lead all God’s people out of the slavery of sin and death, and home to their promised inheritance—the new creation in which the whole world will be redeemed. (Wright, T. Luke for Everyone [2004, London] p114–115)
Jesus is transformed in front of the disciples (hence the name “Transfiguration,” from metamorphoō in Matt 17:2 and Mark 9:2; TDNT 4:755–59), and his clothes shine white. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, and Peter offers to build three tents (or booths), one each for Jesus and those who have appeared with him. A cloud then overshadows the proceedings, and a voice from the cloud announces that Jesus is his son, and commands, “Hear him.” Jesus is then left alone with the disciples, who say nothing of the experience at the time.
The account abounds with exegetical difficulties, all the more so when each gospel’s divergencies from the common story (sketched above) are examined. Such questions resolve themselves fairly straightforwardly once we recognize the sort of material with which we are confronted. Because scholars have tended to restrict their attention to genres, they believe they know from the NT, the Transfiguration has been described variously as a misplaced story of Jesus’ resurrection (Stein 1976), his second coming (Boobyer 1942), his heavenly enthronement (Riesenfeld 1947), and/or his ascension (McCurley 1974). The only benefit of such a categorization is that it appears to limit the number of unintelligible events associated with Jesus: for example, the Transfiguration is subsumed within the resurrection and is dealt with only in general (and probably theological) terms. But even that benefit is only apparent. The Transfiguration is quite unlike the other passages with which it has been classed, except that it is a mysterious invocation of theophany. Those other passages which have been mentioned do not constitute literary genres, for the simple reason that they do not appear frequently enough to establish a convention of presentation which amounts to a system of speech.
(Chilton, B. Transfiguration. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary [1992, New York] Vol. 6, p. 640)

Preaching Possibilities

There are several approaches to these verses that should help underline the very unique moment that the disciples saw who and what Jesus truly was. It is a Eureka moment topped by an epiphany surrounded by a cloud. It was a sudden moment like when someone who you have never seen except in the movies suddenly appears before you. It is the sudden world stopping moment that changes things a moment we can never forget.

Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON

Different Sermon Illustrations

Everyone knows that Archimedes had a brilliant idea in his bath and shouted ‘Eureka’ at his discovery — indeed, it is possibly the only Greek word most people know.
Similarly, Isaac Newton is indelibly imprinted on our minds with the image of an apple falling on his head.
These are what William Irvine, in this lucid, engaging and thought-provoking book, calls ‘aha moments’ — unexpected insights powering intellectual and creative breakthroughs.
Irvine, a distinguished American professor of philosophy, explores this process in the five areas of human activity in which he judges inspiration (or revelation) to be essential — religion, morality, science, mathematics and the arts — and examines the psychology and neuroscience behind these lightbulb moments. They come from everywhere totally unexpected. Fleming discovered penicillin as a result of keeping an untidy lab; Roger Penrose’s understanding of black holes came to him on a walk.
The sections on science and mathematics are the most thrilling. For Irvine, mathematical insights are the purest, requiring the greatest dedication in their pursuit and resulting in the purest beauty, as in Andrew Wiles proving Fermat’s Last Theorem.
Irvine also shows us that original insight and invention are nothing without the old-fashioned virtues of hard work and perseverance.
While using the conscious mind to solve a problem, great mathematicians, scientists and artists employ a process of trial and error that also requires moments of inspiration for their work to progress: ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’, in the words of Louis Pasteur. Einstein’s realization that time is not absolute was followed by eight years of hard work; Mahler’s 7th Symphony theme came to him when he heard the oars of a boat — but only after many hours of struggle. (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-2970923/Eureka-moments-change-world.html)

Dmitri Mendeleev is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the Periodic Table of Elements. A Russian aristocrat and academic, Mendeleev already invested his time in the basic elements of the universe, but everything is still at random. He couldn’t figure out how to arrange these elements. Until one night, Mendeleev fell asleep with chamber music playing in the background and had a dream. In his dream, he had a vision of the basic elements of the universe flowing together just like the progression of a musical sequence. Right after he woke up, he noted down every element in his dream in order, which is now the reference of chemistry majors and chemical engineers alike called the Periodic Table.
Another revolutionary idea that is founded from a dream is that of Niels Bohr. Despite his doctorate in physics, Bohr couldn’t understand the framework of an atom which he had focused on studying, at least while he was awake. In his sleep, Bohr visualized a nucleus of the atom with the electrons spinning around it, just as the planets do around the sun. This dream had urged Bohr to work on this structure in his laboratory and soon formed the Bohr model of the atom. This model shows the atom as a small, positively charged nucleus surrounded by electrons that travel in circular orbits around the nucleus. The structure is pretty much like that of the solar system but with attraction provided by electrostatic forces instead of gravity.
The sewing machine that we have now wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the dream that Elias Howe had. Initially, Howe had the idea of a machine that consisted of a needle that would go through the material. He tried using a needle with a sharp point at both ends and an eye in the middle, but the idea didn’t work. Until one night, in a dream, Howe realized that the needle should have the hole near the tip. Howe, in his mind during deep slumber, was taken as a prisoner by a group of savages who danced around him and had spears with a hole near the tip. He got the inspiration from that dream and re-modelled his invention to the present sewing machine. (https://gineersnow.com/engineering/science/7-eureka-moments-famous-engineers-scientists)

Sometimes, however, a commonly held understanding really is overturned in one fell swoop. As science fiction writer Isaac Asimov is said to have quipped, the exclamation that heralds such discoveries isn't really “Eureka!” but “That's funny.” There's no doubt that the history of science is filled with fortuitous finds and moments of unanticipated connection. Chinese alchemists are said to have invented gunpowder while testing a prescription for eternal life; Archimedes discovered principles of volume while sloshing about in his bath. Hard evidence for these ancient tales is lacking, but a host of more recent scientific breakthroughs were definitely the result of happy chance—coupled with the fact that they occurred before watchful eyes and scientific minds trained to observe them.
In 1856, 18-year-old William Perkin was trying to find a cure for malaria when he stumbled upon a way to color clothes. Perkin was assisting famed German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann, who hoped to find uses for the era's major industrial waste: coal tar, a sludge leftover from the process of turning coal into gaslight. Because it shared chemical similarities with existing medicines like aspirin, Hofmann hoped young Perkin might find a way to use coal tar to cheaply produce quinine, an effective but expensive anti-malarial drug. Working at home during Easter vacation, Perkin battled against long odds, mixing different coal tar components with potassium dichromate and sulfuric acid. Like a Harry Potter spell gone wrong, instead of quinine, Perkin accidentally produced a purple sludge. Luckily for Perkin, purple in his day was fashion's most coveted color—and the exclusive domain of the wealthy due to the high cost of existing dyes made from crushed snails. Perkin started a dye factory, democratized the color purple, and launched an entirely new era of chemical industry that made color available to all. Within 50 years more than 2,000 artificial colors were available, with applications ranging from paints to food coloring to medical imaging. Synthetic dyes remain big business and even the name 'coal-tar' dyes has endured, but in reality, today most are made from another source—petroleum.
Belgian immigrant Leo Baekeland's first great invention made him a fortune. In 1899, entrepreneur George Eastman bought his photographic printing paper for $750,000—more than $21 million in today's dollars. (Eastman would go on to popularize the camera and found what is today the Kodak Company.) But the chemist's next discovery Bakelite, proved far more enduring.
In 1907, Baekeland stumbled on a soft synthetic resin that could be shaped and then permanently hardened when put under pressure. “For three years he tried to come up with a flexible material for insulating wires, but ended up making a hard material,” Gaughan says. “Instead of tossing it out as a failure, Baekeland discovered his new material could be shaped into billiard balls, toothbrushes, and airplane propellers."
His discovery was, of course, plastic. The find continues to fuel innovations that are reshaping the future. "Baekeland’s discovery was hailed as the opening of a new era, where humanity could create whatever they wanted, says Gaughan. Today, the era of 3D printing, and the potential to make anything we need anywhere we are, is pushing the limits of what plastics make possible.
Raytheon engineer Percy Spencer was boosting the power of his company's radar sets when he discovered that a peanut cluster bar in his pocket had melted. “He would always carry a peanut cluster bar in his pocket to break up and feed [squirrels] during lunch,” Percy's grandson George "Rod" Spencer Jr. told Popular Mechanics in 2016. Amazed by the melted squirrel snack, Spencer next tried putting an egg under the magnetron tube—and saw it promptly explode.
“I always thought that was the origin of the expression 'egg in your face,” Rod Spencer said.
The very next day, Percy Spencer invented an enduring staple of microwave cuisine: he brought in kernels of corn and whipped up a batch of popcorn for his coworkers. In fact, one of Spencer's first patent applications touted the potential of microwave pop. Raytheon's first primitive commercial microwave, the “Radarange,” went out for sale the very next year. But it wasn't quite ready for the mainstream—it was the size of a refrigerator and cost some $50,000 in today's dollars. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/sometimes-scientific-eureka-moment-really-does-change-world-180968331/#riG8Bpkp7GBXKwYX.99) Jesus’ Eureka moment gave us much more than purple dye or microwave popcorn. But the sudden moment of discovery was exactly the same for the disciples.

Who was changed by the transfiguration? Was it Jesus, the disciples, or both? Given the title of the Sunday, The Transfiguration of Our Lord, it is easy to conclude that only Jesus was changed. Further reflection is likely to bring us to the realization that certainly the understanding of the disciples changed as to who Jesus was. But were not both changed? Do we have the same notions of Jesus that we had yesteryear or are they developing and changing? How have we developed as Christians? How has the Gospel shaped us over the years? Are we the same people we would have been if we chose not to follow Jesus? How is God inspiring us?

Earlier in this same chapter of Luke, Herod asked, “Who is this about whom I hear such things?” A few verses later, Jesus himself asks the disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” and “But who do you say that I am?” The Transfiguration responds that here is one who links the span of time. Jesus comes from the tradition of Moses and Elijah and in his own right (the cross and resurrection) ushers in a new future. Jesus is not just another great prophet, but he is the Anointed One from God. As such, he shares a unique relationship with God. For Luke the relationship is exercised as the story began—in the posture of prayer.

There appears to be a link between this text and the declaration of Peter in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter, James, and John are the privileged witnesses to the dramatic confirmation of who Jesus is. At the time of the confession of Peter, Jesus responded by noting that the Messiah must suffer; that his disciples must be prepared to share in that suffering; and that both their and his suffering is to be understood within the context of glory from God.

Grace Adolphsen Brame in her 1981 book “Receptive Prayer” published by CBP Press writes about prayer in which we listen to God. Most people think of prayers as monologues in which they talk to God. Consequently, that is how they pray. Brame helps her reader begin to listen to God in prayer. The Gospel of Luke has a fondness of prayer and in this text, the theophany follows a time of prayer and includes the instruction to listen to Jesus.

This lesson follows a series of sayings from Jesus on discipleship. One is told where discipleship will lead and though some may be quick to conclude the glory to be of worldly standards, this Gospel makes clear that it is a glory understood through the suffering on the cross. The disciples fail to be able to cast out a demon but on the cross Jesus cast out our demons as he is faithful to the Father.

Several years ago I came across a newspaper article about the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. For years art lovers have been visiting the museum. For years some of the greatest works of art have been displayed there and enjoyed by some of the greatest art lovers in the world. But only in late 1995 did art historian Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt notice the three-foot statue of a naked, curly-headed boy with a blissful expression and a quiver of arrows strapped to his back sitting in plain view directly across from the museum. The statue of Cupid has been there since 1908. She discovered that it was likely the work of Michelangelo. Imagine museum experts and renowned artists passing it for years on their way to the art museum to enjoy art but failing to recognize a work of Michelangelo on the street corner. I wonder how many people go to church to worship God but fail to recognize God totally in everyday life? There are mountain top experiences and there are valleys. Might we recognize God in each?

“Be still and know that I am God” reads the wooden sign at the remote entrance to the Nova Nada hermitage in the forest of southwestern Nova Scotia. Two dozen members of the Catholic Carmelite order lived and worked there for twenty-five years when the silence was disrupted by huge logging machines that cut timber around the clock. Ironically, the order had moved there in 1972 from Arizona where their hermitage had fallen prey to golf courses and condominiums. Of course the Carmelites derive their name from the wilderness community established on Mount Carmel by the prophet Elijah. Much of their life evolves around periods of silence including two days a week and one week a month. As we make the transition into the Lenten Season with its call to prayer, where will our places of prayer be? (Kevin Cox, “Progress Breaks a Vow of Silence,” The Globe and Mail, 10/97)

A man was on his way to church one Sunday morning as the church bells were ringing through the mountains of central Europe. A he walked past a shepherd boy, he noted the boy kneeling and reciting the alphabet. The man stopped to asked the boy what he was doing. The boy answered that he was praying. The man observed that he had never heard a prayer like that and wondered what kind of prayer that was. The boy responded that he had never learned any prayers but he wanted to pray. So he concluded that if he said all the letters of the alphabet, God would hear them and put them together for him, spelling out what ought to be expressed in prayer! As strange as that may sound to us, the fact of the matter is, many of us have difficulty expressing ourselves to God or discerning how God expresses himself to us. Perhaps we become as befuddled as Peter when he suggests building three booths.

Thomas Merton, a well-known monk of the twentieth century has written a great deal about how we come to discover who we are in the eyes of God. We may have all sorts of perceptions about ourselves and the world but they don’t mean a thing until we can see ourselves in the eyes of God. In the Transfiguration, the disciples not only discover who Jesus was but who they were!

“WYSIWYG” (pronounced wizzywig) is a term used in computer software which stands for “what you see is what you get.” Many people looked at Jesus and saw a dusty itinerant preacher. That day on the mountaintop of transfiguration, the disciples caught a glimpse of the fact that what they were getting with Jesus was so much more than they had seen to that point.

In the musical Godspell, Jesus appears on stage wearing a Superman shirt, thus inviting comparisons to our comic book superheroes. Superman is not a good comparison, however, for Superman plays at being the human, Clark Kent, when he is really not human. Jesus, however, is truly human. The revelation on the mount of Transfiguration does not indicate that Jesus has been traveling in disguise, but that there is more to Jesus than has yet been revealed. A better Superhero comparison might be Peter Parker, Spiderman, who really is Peter Parker but also has another side of himself he does not reveal to everyone at all times.

There are times when God’s holy glory overwhelms our understanding. These are those rare moments in life when one is singularly aware of being in the presence of something incomprehensible; not something simply foreign to our limited culture or education but Something Utterly Alien and yet clearly visible, tangible, and audible. In those encounters the very fabric of time feels suspended and one stands still in the presence of Otherness. Viewing the full Aurora Borealis, visiting a place as remote as Antarctica, or staring full-faced into a motion picture of the creatures who live at the bottom of the Mariannas Trench are such moments.

There are people who exude God’s righteous will and when we are in their presence, our rebellion grows silent. These people have a magnetism that commands our respect. They lack guile. Their integrity and sheer competence compel us to be better than our best instincts. There are some people whose artistry in living is so complete that we wish to imitate them. John Paul II was such a person as was Mother Theresa. The current Dali Lama or listening to a recording of, Dmitry Sitkovetsky playing Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor by Shostakovich will introduce you to such individuals.

Here’s what Jesus tells us about God the Father is deeply grieved by our brokenness and by our rebellion. In this moment of transfiguration, the Father sends Jesus to repair our brokenness and redeem our rebelliousness. Comprehension of these truths is beyond our understanding but faith in their legitimacy is within our grasp. This is a faith that comes primarily through the interior witness of the Holy Spirit rather than the exterior weight of rational argument.

When we stand in the presence of Christ, we find out what he truly thinks of us. It is fashionable to debate the authorship of scripture rather than submit to the Author of scripture. It is fashionable to see in Jesus our own preferences rather than allowing him to shape our choices. It is fashionable to hear in Jesus only the acceptance that meets us in our sin rather than the salvation that transforms our heart. But in the moment of transfiguration, we hear him say to us this: if we would be mature disciples we must come to the place where our unity that is formed in an affection is tried in the furnace of affliction rather than fed by the pabulum that mistakes passivity for God’s perfect peace.

It is common to confuse being civil with being self-censoring, so we allow evil to prosper. But Jesus admonishes us to speak triumphant truth. It is common to yield in the face of opposition because we will not bear the lies spread about us. But Jesus has covered us with his glory so that in ultimate terms the lies will not abide on our soul. It is common to be distracted by the pressing needs of the moment. But Jesus calls us to press forward for his kingdom alone. The great moments in church history have come at precisely the moment when ordinary people of faith stand up in the face of evil. Jesus equips us with the Spirit so we can stand and endure. Such moments are genuine present-day epiphanies.

In the Transfiguration experience it is interesting how Peter wants to pin down the transcendent experience by building “three dwellings,” one for each of the figures he had seen on top of the mountain. This urge to hold onto and pin down what is essentially spiritual, leading to institutionalizing it, is a human trait, perhaps arising from our desire to control things. In the film Francesco, in which the actor Mickey Rourke was unexpectedly cast as Francis of Assisi, we see this conflict, one that Jesus resolved by refusing to countenance Peter’s request. Francesco had left his father and mother to fulfill his call from Christ to “rebuild my church.” Thinking at first that this meant the rebuilding of the small ruined chapel of St. Damian, just outside the walls of Assisi, Francis began begging for food and stones. Most people laughed at him, but the man persisted in repairing the edifice. Soon, they were won over by his simple faith and joined him. Learning that Christ had a far greater intent for his mission, that of bringing back the poor whom the church leaders had neglected, Francis enters into a life of wandering and preaching. Day by day his following increases. With the blessing of the local bishop, he preaches to the poor, assuring them that they too are valued by Christ. His followers have increased so that he seeks an audience with the pope for the blessing of a new order. His followers grow from a few hundred to several thousand, and the crisis of leadership arises. Many followers do not accept the simple ways of Francis and his denunciation of wealth. They want well-equipped monasteries and churches, not a life of begging espoused by the little saint. The leadership is taken from his hands, and he goes his way, eventually dying after a period of great suffering. The Franciscan Order is a great and wealthy one, and to this day it has to struggle between the vision of poverty and service of its founder, and of his Lord, and that between Peter’s and the Franciscans’ of order and security.

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Call to Worship

Leader: We come to celebrate God in praise and glory! Give the Creator honor and sing with joy!
People: Jesus Christ leads us in the way of peace and hope! We rejoice to serve in His name.
Leader: We are people of the Spirit, touched by mercy and restored by grace! We receive the Holy Spirit to do good and walk in the holy way.

Prayer of Confession

Holy God and Merciful Creator: You see the depth of our need, knowing we are made from dust; we want to be happy but we confuse happiness with excitement; we want to be holy but we presume that holiness means being inflexible; we desire to be loved yet we think love means passion; we look for courage but get sidetracked into impulsiveness; Merciful Creator, forgive our confusion and pride; make us again people of patience and tenderness for the sake of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

Living Christ, as You warm our hearts with Your compassion, so empower us to bring Your love to others; as You changed our vision with Your good news, so enable us to be instruments of Your mercy, Amen!

Pastoral Prayer

Lord of New Life and Our Savior, so often we do not see Your presence in our life because events draw our attention away from You. We thank You for this time of worship when our thoughts can turn toward You. Your eyes watch over our path and we are grateful for Your protection; Your voice echoes within us and we are grateful for Your instruction; Your hands reach toward us when we are discouraged, and we are grateful for Your reassurance. Our Savior You know the depth of suffering in many hearts and we lift their names to You now – bring them relief; You recognize the need for wisdom in many of our decisions and we place them before You now – grant us insight; You are already active in the lives of our neighbors and we would join You in Your mercy – guide us to do Your work. All these things we ask in Your name and for Your kingdom’s sake, Amen.