Worship Preview 2.19.23 "What Changed?" Transfiguration Sunday
Press Release: for Feb 18, 2023 edition.
First United Methodist Church
This Weekend: Sunday at 10:30am “What Changed?”
Scriptures: Exodus 24:12-18, Matthew 12:1-21 and 17:1-13 – with Rev. Christopher Eshelman preaching.
This week is the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany. Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This Sunday before Lent begins is celebrated on the Christian calendar as Transfiguration Sunday. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus inviting Peter, James, and John up the mountain – traditionally Mt. Tabor – where he is transfigured. Clothing whiter than bleaching could accomplish. Light and clouds – and the unexpected appearance of Moses and Elijah talking with him. The Law and the Prophets – the history of God’s people, symbols of God’s works of reconciliation and call. It is a moment of Epiphany – and another moment in which Peter, James and John don’t quite yet understand.
In Webster’s Dictionary, Transfiguration is defined as: “to give a new and typically exalted or spiritual appearance; to transform outwardly and usually for the better.” Another related term is metamorphosis – which we often use for the change a butterfly undergoes in the chrysalis.
For a moment, Jesus is again revealed as divine. “This is my Son, listen to him” a voice says from the cloud. The scene is quite similar to the story of Moses receiving the Law, which we will briefly hear from Exodus. Here again, we, the people of God are receiving God’s self-revelation and being instructed in how to live.
To help us ponder these stories, we will also hear one of Pastor Christopher’s favorite stories of healing – from Matthew 12. A man whose hand is malformed or broken, the story says “withered.” It is not a matter of life and death. There is no particular urgency to the situation, his hand has, apparently, been this way for some time. And it is the Sabbath. God commanded his people to keep the Sabbath – do rest and do no work on God’s Holy day. Over time, the Jewish people had developed very clear, perhaps even rigid, understandings. Jesus challenges the traditions and assumptions. What changed? This, too, is a moment of Epiphany and God’s self-revelation. This too, is a call to us to see and understand – to be transformed for the better.
What parts of our lives – individually and collectively – have become empty or withered? Where have we become too rigid and begun to miss the point, even if our starting point was good and well intentioned? What does it mean to become more like Christ? As we move towards Lent, we will ponder what it means for Jesus to say God “desires mercy, not sacrifice.” In the coming weeks, in a season of repentance, we will be invited to lean into the light, to soak up God’s presence revealed in Jesus – that what is empty, withered, or darkened within us might be healed and renewed.
No matter where you are on your own journey of faith, you are invited to join in worship and celebration at 10:30am at 301 S. National, coming just as you are, with your questions, doubts and hopes - and to experience the transformative, healing love and grace of Christ - which makes us whole. Visit www.firstumcfsks.org/newvisitors for more information on what to expect.
Upcoming Events: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 5:30pm Feeding Families in His Name – this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. We are thankful for all the volunteers from other area churches and community groups that make this meal possible each week.
Ash Wednesday Service, Feb. 22nd, 7pm. We will begin to explore our Lenten series theme: Leaning Towards the Light: Soaking Up the Presence of God. Ash Wednesday we will acknowledge the ashes of our brokenness and shortcomings and, using metaphors of light and water, we will give thanks for Christ’s lifegiving grace. One Sundays as we move towards Easter and Spring, we will use the imagery of plants turning towards the light and drawing nutrients from the ground to grow and bear fruit. Pastor Christopher looks forward to sharing messages of hope and healing in this season of repentance and renewal.
Also Mark your calendar for our next “Shepherd’s Center: Adventures in Learning” event coming March 10th! Program details will be shared soon!