General Conference 2019 is over. The Traditional Plan passed, though large parts of it have been and are expected to again be declared unconstitutional. This means that the voting delegates from around the world voted decisively (about 47% to 53%) to retain a ban on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy, with stricter and more consistent punishments for those who break the rules.

The dust is still settling, and there is much that is not yet clear. How much of the Traditional Plan will actually be included in the new Book of Discipline. When it will take effect. What will happen at next year’s regular, quadrennial General Conference. Meanwhile, many, many churches and clergy in the U.S. have declared their ongoing commitment to practice inclusive and affirming ministries. We wait for greater clarity, and continue in the ministries to which God has called us.

For United Methodist congregations observing Transfiguration Sunday this week, as the lectionary always brings us to immediately before Lent, I offer the following liturgies, updated slightly from my worship series, From Glory to Glory: Following the Spirit from Epiphany to Transfiguration. If you find them helpful, a donation of $10 or whatever you can afford is greatly appreciated.

clouds sunburst b&w darkness lightMarch 3 – Transfiguration Sunday

Seeing the Glory – Patience

Note:    Each week of the worship series uses a different fruit of the Spirit as the lens through which to read the Scriptures for that Sunday. Not knowing the outcome of GC2019 as I wrote these liturgies nearly two months ago, Patience felt like a more helpful lens than, say, Joy. Today, I know that Patience is not the right choice for many congregations; it will sound like asking those who are being harmed to just “hang in there” and “wait their turn.” That is not my intent. I want to direct our attention to something more like Perseverance or Persistence, as in Jesus’s story of the widow not giving up in her campaign to change the unjust judge’s mind. Please adapt the liturgies as needed for your context.

2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2 – 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.

Luke 9:28-36 – Now about eight days after these sayings 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.

Sermon Starter:

The Transfiguration was a moment of seeing God’s glory for Peter, John, and James. It is a revelation of Jesus’ closeness with God and his divine purpose, the presence of God with him and the glory of God at work in and through him. Yet it is not the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose; that comes with the cross and the empty tomb, the birth of the church and the work we all continue as the Body of Christ. So we practice being present to each revelation of God’s glory (in ourselves, in other people, in the world around us) while we wait and work for the fulfillment of God’s reign.

Questions for the Preacher

  1. Where have you seen the glory of God recently? When have you encountered the living Christ? In your local congregation or community, your family, or the world of current events? In the Special General Conference?
  2. What figures from history might be important for us to see standing side by side with Jesus at this time? Who embodies God’s past faithfulness and future promise for us?
  3. What moment of revelation and transcendence stands out in your personal experience, or the experience of your congregation, that you or they are tempted to try to dwell in permanently? Have you learned anything about what happens when you come down from the mountain?
  4. The 2 Corinthians passage provides the theme text for this series: we all see God’s glory “as though reflected in a mirror,” and we are all “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” And because this is “from the Lord, the Spirit,” and therefore “we do not lose heart.” This speaks to me of our creation as humanity in God’s image, seeing God in one another, seeing that God is transforming all of us into the image of God in Christ. But unlike the mountaintop moment with Jesus, for us it is a lifelong process of being changed “from one degree of glory to another”; that is, in Wesleyan language, the work of sanctification is not instantaneous but gradual. How might we frame this moment, after the 2019 Special General Conference, as part of that gradual and perpetual transformation?

 

Call to Worship

One:     Come, people of God,
let us hear the invitation of Christ to follow him
and so draw close to the living God.

Many:  We are a people in process,
seeking to be made holy.

One:     We long for the mountaintop moments
of clarity, vision, revelation, transcendence.
But more often we find ourselves lost in the fog
or scrambling through rocky valleys.

Many:  We are a people in process,
seeking to see more clearly.

One:     We find ourselves sleepy and confused at critical moments,
missing the thread, the plot, the point,
clinging to whatever we can grasp
as we try to glimpse God’s glory.

Many:  We are a people in process,
seeking to understand more fully.

One:     May our eyes and ears, our hearts and minds,
our hands and lives be open, O God,

Many:  to see and hear you, to trust and believe you,
to serve you and let your glory shine through us.
Amen.

 

Alt. Call to Worship © 2013 Kerry Greenhill

One:     From the highest mountaintop to the lowest valley,

All:        God is with us and will not forsake us.

One:     From the joy of new beginnings to the grief of goodbyes,

All:        God is with us and will not forsake us.

One:     Whether we gather with loved ones or feel lost in the crowd,

All:        God is with us and will not forsake us.

One:     No matter our identity, background, gifts, or shortcomings,

All:        God is with us and will not forsake us.

One:     Let us give thanks to God, who made us and loves us.

All:        With thanks we sing, we pray, we listen, we worship.
May our lives bear witness to the God of love.

 

Pastoral Prayer

Illuminating God,
we come to you today as people with deeply mixed feelings.

The events of General Conference
have left some of us exhausted, wounded, and despairing,
others feeling victorious or satisfied,
and many of us more cynical than ever
about this limb of the Body of Christ
that we call The United Methodist Church.

So we come to you today with our grief and anger,
our aches and anguish,
our rage at injustice
and our longing for your comfort.

We pray today for healing,
for individuals and communities,
and for our congregation.

May we be gentle with one another,
patient in listening to each other’s sorrows
and waiting for the right time to look to the future.

We pray for hope to be renewed,
knowing that although the Church is as broken and flawed
as any mortal human being,
yet it is also something more:
a vessel for the divine, an ongoing incarnation of your love,
the vehicle through which you continue the ministry of Christ
in today’s world.

We pray for love and compassion to well up within each of us
and between each group that disagrees
about your priorities and purposes for humankind.

We pray for persistence in the work and ministry
to which you have called each of us and all of us,
in this community and around the world.

And we pray for patience,
as you redeem the fallenness of our human condition,
as you bring healing out of brokenness
and new purpose out of dead ends,
as we are all being transformed into your image
from one degree of glory to another.

We pray in the name of Jesus,
who long ago taught his anxious disciples to pray, saying,

“Our Father, who art in heaven…”

 

Prayer of Confession

God of Truth and Justice,

We confess we have let our hearts and minds become hardened.

We have decided on the outcomes we want to see
in our lives, our church, our world,
and we refuse to believe you are in anything outside of our plans.

We have veiled our eyes
to the glimpses of glory you offer
in the people we do not want to love.

And we have clung to the moments of closeness to you
that seemed perfect to us,
forgetting that others did not experience them the same way.

Let us not be blinded by the glory we have seen,
but let it illuminate our path forward,
into the valley where others are suffering.

Let it inspire us to continue your ministry of healing,
of restoring all people to wholeness and right relationship.

Open our ears to listen to your voice,
to hear the voice of Jesus
calling us into the world around us
to work for justice and compassion, hope and peace.

We pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior, Teacher and Redeemer,
Healer and Revealer of your glory. Amen.

 

Rally Hymn of the Kin’dom
By Kerry Greenhill © 2019

(sung to the tune Battle Hymn of the Republic)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the presence of the Lord
in each hungry child that’s fed and when compassion is outpoured;
in the work we do for justice and the hope that calls us forward;
God’s love is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
God’s love is marching on.

I have seen Christ in a homeless man and in a mother’s plea,
in the fierce and desperate courage that sustains the refugee,
in communities of non-conforming folks turned family:
God’s love is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
God’s love is marching on.

There is beauty in our faithfulness to all that came before,
and there’s glory in our openness to what God holds in store,
and we’re moving toward true holiness when nothing is worth more
than Love still marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
God’s love is marching on.

Though we keenly feel our brokenness, God works to make us whole.
Many members in one body, and each one a different role.
So the Church may die, yet rise again with one eternal goal:
God’s love still marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
God’s love is marching on.

 

Benediction

One:     May your vision be clear and your heart not be hardened.
May you be paying attention at the moment when the veil is lifted.
May God’s glory not just dazzle you, but renew and inspire you

to continue the work of Jesus in the world:
proclaiming good news to the poor,
release to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,
liberating those who are oppressed and those who oppress them,
and proclaiming the time of Jubilee.

All:        And may the same Spirit that breathes life into us
and claims us as Beloved
give us all courage, wisdom, patience, and joy
as we wait and work for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Amen.

 

Permission is given to reproduce these liturgies for use in worship. Please include “by Rev. Kerry Greenhill © 2019, http://www.SacredStonesMinistries.org” in any printed or projected materials. If you do use them and wish to support Sacred Stones Ministries in our continuing to offer such resources, a donation of $10 or whatever you can afford is greatly appreciated.

You might also want to check out these other liturgies written by Rev. Kerry that seem fitting following General Conference. And you can sign up for our email newsletter to be notified when new resources are available.

 

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