Welcome (Transfiguration Sunday)

On this transfiguration day, we welcome you with words from the Living Faith 10.2

Life in the age to come
is pictured in the Bible in different ways:
an eternal kingdom,
a new heaven and earth,
a marriage feast,
an unending day,
the father's house,
and the joy of God's presence.

This age to come is not only waiting for us in future, but also is being unfolded today when we gather in Christ’s name.

Preparation: The servant song

Call to Worship

The church lives to praise God.
We have no higher calling
than to offer the worship that belongs to God
day by day, Sunday by Sunday.

Through the preaching of the Word
and the celebration of the Sacraments,
in praise, prayer, teaching and fellowship,
God sustains the life of the church.
We worship God as Lord
offering ourselves in the service of Christ,
rejoicing that we have been brought from darkness to light.

Worship draws us into the work of Christ.
Even now he intercedes for the world
to which he came and for which he died.
In union with him, the church prays
for the healing and the salvation of the world.

Blessing and honour and glory and power
be to our God for ever and ever!

Rejoice the Lord is King


Gracious God,
Fill us with love through your Son our Lord. By the Holy Spirit sanctify our imperfect worship and lift up our praises and prayers to your ear.

Cleanse us of our sins in your mercy. Bring us into your presence as sinners whose sins are forgiven because your beloved Son died and was raised so that we may be called through him. Transform our love we bring into love that is from you.

By the words we speak, be glorified, O God, our Redeemer and Saviour. Amen.

Scripture Reading Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

Sermon: Hope beyond hope

We have been talking about hope in many different ways. We try our best to figure out what we mean by hope and how we can walk in hope. So far we talked about hope as something that is coming. We do not know exactly what, but we know that we can wait patiently for this future that is unknown to us. In the world where we like to know everything about our future in detail in order to make plans to avert and protect ourselves from disasters and when everyone wants to have clear and simple answers, the attitude of entrusting to God our future is outlandish and childlike.

Is life in hope just that? A wish that someday things will turn out okay because we have strong faith or because we trust God without question? Is our Christian life more than a hope to escape future calamities like being thrown into hell? Or is our hope more real than these worries and fears? Is our hope based on our dreams and aspirations or on reality? These are the questions we often think of, but never receive answers. For too many years we are told to believe and hope as if what we believe and hope are not something that will be shown in our current daily lives.

Because we have a hard time answering the questions about the future, we have been told that our faith and hope are nothing more than conjectures and projections of our desires. Because we have no clear and concrete answers for our tomorrows, more and more people are rejecting Christianity and are telling us that faith and hope we hold are nothing more than mirages or pies in the sky. Against these charges we have no responses. At best we keep our faith and hope private. We keep faith and hope to ourselves. If we have any senses, we share love on a personal level, but not in the name of Christ.

There is something that is important for us to remember. Our faith and hope are impossible to be judged or examined fully in objectivity. Those who do not share in faith and hope that were derived from not only one’s personal experience, but also rooted in the history of the Church will not be able to know faith and hope as the very essentials of our lives. This is because without the past and present experiences, we have nothing to go on. Everything we know about life’s faith and hope are based on history as well as the current understanding of the world. From the past and present, then, we seek to see what the future will be like.

In our case, to understand the future we pay attention to the road we are on as well as how we ended up getting on this road of faith. In looking back we find various experiences that reveal a possible future. This is not to say we try to make some things in the past as those things that reveal to us the future, but we explore and see how past and present experiences point to the future in ways that we may see dimly. The caution we take in doing this kind of exploration is to understand that we can wish some events into those that symbolise or unveil the future to us if we are not careful.

Today in worship we celebrate this day as the transfiguration Sunday. This is the day we meditate on what Jesus experienced on a mountain top and was handed down to us in the Gospels. On that day, Jesus took three of his disciples to the very high mountain. We do not know which mountain this was. None of the Gospels tell us clearly. Which mountain it was is not as important as what took place when four of them, Jesus, Peter, James and John were up there. The story itself is very fantastical or dreamlike and is difficult to be received on face value. Something extraordinary happened without evidence.

It is true that Peter wanted to build three dwelling places. We do not know if Peter meant to build three houses or pillars with rocks. The story itself tells us that as Peter was speaking about possibly doing this to commemorate the presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus, the bright cloud surrounded them and they heard a voice. This is a very difficult experience for Jews like these disciples. God’s presence in Israel’s history was always felt as a dark cloud that covered or descended on the ark or the inner sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem. The darkness made it impossible for anyone to peer in and see God. Only certain sanctified priests were allowed to be present without being killed.

Here, Peter, James and John are experiencing a bright cloud which presumably blinded their eyes. They fell as they heard the voice of God saying that Jesus was the beloved Son. In a way this resembles very much like the voice of God that was spoken at Jesus’ baptism as the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. In the case of the baptism, there was no cloud that surrounded everyone. Here the cloud overshadowed them as Peter spoke in response to the transfiguration and Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah who appeared to them suddenly. In fear, they fell to the ground.

They fell to the ground in fear. This is very Biblical in a sense that from very early on in the Old Testament, people who encountered God were falling to the ground in fear. They were fearful of death because they knew that God appearing to mortals full of sin meant sure death. It is true that in most Old Testament encounters, people did not die. After all, God appeared to them to deliver the promise or good news of God’s blessings. Yet, encountering God for sinners often meant judgement leading to death for their sins. Knowing that no human being was sinless, these disciples fell to the ground.

There is another aspect of what it means to fall to the ground. Today we do not think of falling to the ground. Also we do not fall to the ground before anyone. However, just a few years ago, people fell before the powerful. We often read about how peasants fell to the ground or bowed deeply before the nobles and kings in earlier times. The past world also expected criminals or sinners to fall to the ground before judges or others who could forgive them. This act of falling to the ground is a profound humiliation. It is also an act of submission allowing the other persons to have total power over the fallen ones.

It is, therefore, in a way fitting that Peter, James and John fell to the ground. Not only they saw Jesus transfigured before their very eyes, they also witnessed the appearance of both Moses and Elijah, their great prophets of long ago in person, but also they heard the voice of God speaking in the bright cloud that surrounded them. They were no match for the transfigured Jesus, also Moses and Elijah, but now they realised they were in God’s presence. Hearing God witnessing who Jesus was put them in deathly fear. They were in a place where they had no standing whatsoever.

Then Jesus came over and touched them telling them to get up and to have no fear. Their moment in God’s presence was over when they opened their eyes. They were back in their own world with Jesus. Jesus was no longer transformed in heavenly form. The cloud was gone. Moses and Elijah were no longer present. It was almost like they were caught in a trance in which they saw something they could not be part of. They were privileged to witness, but they had no idea what this was all about. Besides, Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what took place until after the resurrection.

The vision did not remain. With Jesus’ touching their eyes opened. If you can think about Jesus’ ministry you would know that this was a standard miracle Jesus performed. The blind would come to Jesus and their eyes were opened. Now Peter, James and John whose eyes were blinded in that bright cloud have their eyes opened by Jesus’ touch and speech. They experienced the miracle of having their eyes opened. Yet, they were not to share the story of having their eyes opened and what they were able to see with others immediately. They had to wait until after Jesus’ resurrection which they had no idea about.

Jesus’ command to wait until after the resurrection indicated that other disciples and the people of their time would not understand the meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration before the death and resurrection. No one knew–we eventually learn that these three disciples also did not understand the significance of Jesus’ transfiguration before the resurrection. The heavenly things were not able to be received by the minds of this world without the death and resurrection of Jesus. The coming future that was revealed could not be accepted, received or processed by those who were in the present even when they came to follow Jesus.

After the resurrection and ascension, the disciples understood. They knew that this transfiguration of Jesus was the revelation of the future in which they would participate. The future that is of God has no death, but the risen people of God. Jesus, Moses and Elijah in whose presence were Peter, James and John signifies what our future will be like. This revelation gives us the knowledge of what it means to be God’s people who follow Christ. There is no need to fear. Death is no more. Power of death has lost its sting. Suffering is taken away.

In this life of following Christ, through Peter, James and John, we experience this unshakable hope of being in God’s presence where death is no more. This good news, however, is only possible as our reality only if we journey through the death and resurrection of Jesus and experience the loss of Jesus to death and are found in the risen Lord. Our hope in Christ is the hope beyond what we expect in our own lives. Following Christ points us to this presence in the world where the risen servants of God are brought back to life and are in God’s presence. In this way we gain strength to face the power of death as we share with each other this incredible story of the transfiguration.


Dear God,
We bring our prayers that contain our fears and anxieties. Though you have taught us not to fear because your love casts out all our fears, we are filled with worries. Each day we realise that our faith is not as strong as our doubts, our hope is not as certain as our despair and our love is not as capable as our sadness. Now in our weakness we put before you all our concerns in ways that we may find your presence in our daily lives.

Surveying our worlds makes us retreat into our own minds. Instead of confidence we are filled with anxiety and apprehensions. Though you have guided us this far, we look at how far we have to travel to find peace only to shrink right back into our fears. Instead of opportunities we see obstacles. When you present us with a challenge we work to find a way to avoid your way. Help us to be courageous in knowing that you have guided us this far and you will walk with us continually into the future. Open our eyes to see that you are the one who is leading us and will not fail us.

Many people around us are worried about losing jobs while others are wondering when they can find jobs. As our world gets filled with the news of impending economic hardship, we become more distressed. All the news we hear points to the difficulties. Our courage gets deflated when we hear about the challenges in finding a decent job. Lead us, O God, so that we may find the right path to follow and serve you. Open our minds and hearts to see that you are calling us into the life that will be all about being in you.

We pray for all those who are sick, confronted with physical hazards. Last Sunday we prayed to you about a little girl who was having an eye surgery. Today we give you thanks for how your hand guided the surgeon and her staff to do the surgery. We now pray that you will continue to bring health and growth in ways that the child will have clear sight as she recovers. We also pray for Sandy as she continues to recover from the stroke, for Genevieve as she waits for her diagnosis, for Bob and Nancy as they recuperate from their surgeries and all those who are struggling with ageing bodies. Those whose bodies are failing be with them and help us to minister to them. Those whose minds’ capacities are diminishing, walk with them to see their paths as you lead them. For those who are waiting to be with you, be present with them. Guard and protect them all.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Offering Prayer

O dear Lord,
We bring our thanksgiving to you. We offer our gratitude in these small tokens as symbols of our faith and love for you. Help us to see your blessings in our lives. Guide us by the Holy Spirit to live a life of gratitude in all things. All these we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Anniversary Sunday (March 5) is going to be our 221st. We are holding a very special service of worship on that Sunday. We will give our regular musicians a break. In their place a new band will come and help us celebrate. It is something like the service we held on one November Sunday. However, it is more like our worship service with lots of praises. Please come. Invite your friends and family.

Our Anniversary Sunday is also the Sunday we will thank God for all those who have birthdays in March. As we did in January and February, Jon (hopefully with Mike and Joan) will be providing the entertainment during the refreshments. It will be a busy Sunday full of joy as we give God thanks.

Our Lent journey begins this coming Wednesday. We are inviting all of you to come and share in our Lent Devotion and Fellowship every Wednesday at 10:30 am until Easter. Please mark the date and time. Come and enjoy this important time as we remember Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

Please remember to help the people of Ukraine. We are collecting gently used items like clothes, kitchen utensils, plates, small appliances and so on. Yes, our Lent Mission Project is to help the people of Ukraine. Some things will be sent to the people in Ukraine. The rest will be made available to those Ukrainian refugees who are settling in the Niagara region. We are helping them through St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Church on Sylvia Place.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus