This morning, I want to share three short stories with you. All of these stories share some common elements. They all contain mountains. They all have to do with prayer. They all have something to do with fear. And they all tell us about people who were able to shine in the midst of fear because God is there.
The first story is the one that was read for us this morning by one of the Scouts. It’s from Luke 9:28-36 and it’s about Jesus when he was – what the church calls – transfigured. In this story Jesus goes up onto the mountain to pray. But he’s not alone. He takes along with him three of his closest friends: Peter, James and John. But why is Jesus going up the mountain to pray? It’s because in the not too distant future, he will be travelling to Jerusalem and there he will be arrested, tired, condemned and crucified. And that won’t be easy so he’s looking for strength to do that because he knows that he can’t do it on his own. So Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray seeking God.
And then the oddest thing happens. Luke 9:29 says that as he is praying his face changes in appearance and his clothes start to shine like flashes of lightning. Jesus starts to shine. Why? Because up on the mountain, he has found God and when people find God they often start to shine.
But that’s not all. As he prays, suddenly two other men appear with him and they are shining too. These men are Moses and Elijah and they talk to Jesus about the very things that he’s nervous about. They talk about what it will mean for Jesus to go to Jerusalem and what will happen to him.
How do you suppose Jesus’ three friends reacted to this? They see these things and it makes them afraid. And they start to say silly things and they want to do silly things because they don’t know what else to do.
And then as suddenly as it began a cloud descends over everything and then, a few minutes later, the cloud disappears and there is Jesus just as he had always been. No radiant face. No shining clothes. No Moses. No Elijah. Just Jesus.
But it isn’t just Jesus because something has happened to him on the mountain. He had gone up the mountain concerned about what the future held but when he came down off the mountain he began his journey to Jerusalem where he would do what he had to do to forgive us of our sins and make us right with God. Jesus went on from there to change the world. And what about Peter, James and John? They and Jesus’ other friends went on from there to share Jesus’ message and establish the Christian church which has spread all over the world and made a tremendous difference in the lives of people everywhere.
That’s the first story. In that story Jesus and his friends climbed a mountain to pray and, while his friends were afraid, Jesus shone.
Now I know what you’re going to say. But that was Jesus. Jesus was the Son of God. He was the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Yeah, but that was Jesus. Jesus was not only the Son of God. Jesus was also God. But that’s not the rest of us. That’s not you. That’s not me. I’m just an ordinary person, a regular dude. Nothing special about me. I could never shine like whether in the presence of God or not, whether on a mountain or not, whether praying or not. So get real. Jesus might have lit up like a halogen headlight. But that’s not me. Do you know those little green lights that people plug in their hallway electrical sockets at night that provide just enough of a glow so you have some vague sense of where you’re going? That’s me. That’s about all the light I have. And sometimes I don’t even have that. I’m just ordinary. I could never shine like Jesus.
How could that possibly relate to us? Well it does because our second story is not about the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s about an ordinary man named Moses, one of the men who appeared with Jesus on the mountain in the first story. In this story that was read by one of the Scouts, Moses has been up on a mountain. While on the mountain, he was talking with God. And do you know what you’re doing when you’re talking to God? You’re praying. That’s all prayer is. Prayer is talking to God.
Then Moses comes down from the mountain after praying. But he has something in his hands that he didn’t have when he went up. He has two stone tablets upon which is written the Ten Commandments which are the basic rules that God wants us to live.
That’s important but what’s even more important for our purposes is how Moses looked. Listen to what it says about Moses in Exodus 34:29-30 (NIV): “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.” Just like Jesus, when Moses had finished praying his face was radiant. He didn’t really know it because he couldn’t see himself but the other people knew it because they could see him. And what was their reaction? They too, just like Peter, James and John, were afraid.
So once more, we have someone going up on a mountain to pray. In the midst of praying, in the midst of talking with God, of being in God’s presence, Moses begins to shine. And there is fear. The other people are afraid because Moses shines and they aren’t quite sure why.
But it doesn’t stop there because something has happened to Moses and he goes on from there to do some incredible things. He leads his people through the desert for forty years. Through Moses, God teaches the people all that will be expected of them. And, finally, at the very end of Moses’ life, the people enter the Promised Land and establish the nation of Israel which still exists today 3,500 years later. That’s pretty amazing.
The same thing happens to Moses as happens to Jesus. They both go up onto a mountain to pray. They both shine while in God’s presence and, in both situations, the other people around them are afraid because they had no idea what was going on. The difference, however, is that. It is that, while Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Moses is just a plain ordinary everyday guy just like you and me.
What that means for us is that you don’t have to be someone special for God to shine through you. God takes the ordinary, everyday people of this world and shines them up.
YOU CAN SHINE
Here’s a question for you. Do you want to shine? I expect you do. I expect that most of us want to be the best people we can be. But what we learn from today’s stories is that if you want to shine then you need to be willing to climb the mountains that are before you. And here’s the thing; mountains are not always easy to climb. That’s the point. Mountains look good from a distance. The look majestic and picturesque but when you’re at the foot of the mountain looking up it can seem intimidating and overwhelming.
So, what mountains do you face in your life? Do you know? If you’re not sure, let me ask you another question. What of you afraid of? Are you afraid of being laughed at? Are you afraid of failure? Are you afraid that you’ll be bullied? Are you afraid of losing friends or family over decisions that you’ve made? Are you afraid of not having enough money to pay all of your bills this month? Those are just some of the examples of the mountains that people face, the ones that they have to climb. Mountains can be scary places.
But here’s what you have to understand; if you ever want to shine, you have to be willing to climb the mountain that is before you. And here’s what you will find. You will find, just like Jesus and Moses, that when you climb the mountain you are not alone. God is with you along every step of the way.
What mountains are you facing? What are you afraid of? What struggles prevent you from shining, from being all that God wants you to be? Whatever it is, maybe you should consider taking it to God in prayer because prayer helps us up the mountain and prayers helps us to overcome our fears so that we can shine for Jesus.
I want to close this message by showing you a video clip. It’s the audition of Jonathan and Charlotte, two teenagers, seventeen and sixteen years old, who were put together by their singing teacher who thought they sounded good as a duet. In this video, they are about to climb a mountain. It’s not a very high mountain. In fact, it’s not very high at all, just five or six feet. The mountain they face is a stage but it’s not any old stage. It’s the stage of a TV show called Britain’s Got Talent. It’s just like America’s Got Talent except that it’s produced in England. It uses the same format and some of the same people. And yes even Simon is there, his usual obnoxious self.
That stage is pretty mountainous because there’s Simon and the other judges. And there’s a packed house looking on and even beyond that there are millions of people watching on TV. There is no escaping them or their critique and, if you blow it, you blow it in front of the whole world and that must be pretty intimidating. That’s an immense amount of pressure for two teenagers. It’s a tough mountain but they want to climb it and they desperately want to shine.
What you will see in Jonathan and Charlotte are two ordinary people. They look ordinary. They talk ordinary. They’re nervous. In fact, they’re quite scared, both of them, and who can blame them. At the beginning of the song, Jonathan is so nervous that he almost begins two bars too soon but Charlotte puts out her hand to calms him. You will also notice that the audience is restless and so are the judges because no one in the audience and no one on the panel is expecting very much from these two misfits who seem to have nothing in common and are completely out of their element. But somehow they have found the courage to climb the mountain before millions of people. Let’s find out if they will shine.
Play the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IegPxH89DXI
Jonathan and Charlotte climbed the mountain. They were afraid but in midst of their fear all we can say is that they shone and everyone knew it and acknowledged it. And did you notice the song that they sang? It’s call the Prayer. Jesus climbed on the mountain to say a prayer. Moses climbed the mountain to say a prayer. Jonathon and Charlotte climbed the mountain to sing a prayer. Here are some of the lyrics:
I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
To a place where we’ll be safe
And all of them shone.
I want to say this to everyone but especially to the Scouts and Guides who are here this morning; don’t be afraid of the mountains that are before you. I know they can be pretty scary. Don’t be afraid to climb. Don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t be afraid of being that all that God created you to be. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t because you will be amazed at what you can do when you find the courage to take that first step up the mountain.
And don’t forget to pray. Prayer reminds us that we are not alone on the mountains. God is with us along every step of the way to guide, to strengthen us and to give us his peace. So, be the people God created you to be. Go out there and shine.
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your Grace
place where we’ll be safe
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Your blessings, O God, flow to us like a river of hope washing over our cares and concerns. We thank you for your presence in our lives. When we call you are there. When we are blinded, you enable us to see. When we are deaf, you open our ears. By your love, you invite us to enter into life fully and freely in Jesus’ name.
We offer thanks for your many gifts. For warmth and sunshine, cool evenings and crisp winter snow, lakes and trees, buildings and structures. We thank you for our health care systems, educational programmes, clean drinking water and indoor plumbing.
Thank you for your limitless unconditional love which gives us the assurance that you are available to us at any time. Remind us daily that you will never leave us or stop loving us for we are always safe within your care. Thank you also for the love that is shared in families between husbands and wives, parents and children and siblings. May the love that you have for us be mirrored in the way that we are with one another.
We pray for those who are sick at home or in hospital. We think, especially of Sharon and Mary. Bless them with your healing touch and fill them with your Spirit.
We lift up our prayers for the family and friends of Richard Thorne. Thank you for the gift that he was and the people’s lives he touched. Thank you that his suffering is over and that he is being held in your arms.
God of Love, we want to live fully and we know that we can do that when
we make you the priority of our lives. Help us to seek you, to understand your
wisdom and heed your instruction. In so doing, we can rest peacefully knowing
without doubt or concern that the blessing you have promised will surely
follow. We pray in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
March 3, 2019 / Transfiguration / Thinking Day / Baden-Powell
Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 99; Luke 9: 28-36; 2 Corinthians 3: 12-4: 2
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come before God, the Ruler of Creation.
Beneath God’s throne, the earth shakes. Holy is the LORD!
We come before God, Supreme over the nations.
We rejoice at God’s great and majestic name. Holy is the LORD!
We come before God, the Author of justice.
Praise be to God, whom we worship on this day. Holy is the LORD!
PRAYER OF ADORATION
Come to us, O God, and speak your word of grace. At the sound of your voice, the earth trembles. By the touch of your hand, the hills are made sacred. You spoke to the Prophets and they listened. They called upon you and, in love and power, you answered. Share with us your news of hope and salvation. Enable us to walk with you that we might experience your presence in honest and trustworthy ways. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Mercy, the way of life is often clouded. Clouded by competing desires. Clouded by temptations. Clouded by fires that burn around us. Clouded by smoke of our own making. You have shone your light into the world but its brightness has frightened us. We have turned away for fear that it might reveal things that we would rather hide. Shine your light into our clouded existence and forgive our sins. Draw us back, once again, and renew us…
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
There is no mountain that can not be climbed. There is no ocean that can not be crossed. There are no clouds that are thick enough to hide us from the truth. There is no sin that is so great that God’s mercy cannot forgive.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We bring our offerings to you, Ever-giving God, for your work. Many hunger. Many thirst. Many seek justice. Many yearn for salvation. May these gifts, in some small way, enable the transformation which your Kingdom requires. Amen.
God’s light has, once again, shone into our lives.
May it glow within us as a sign of hope to our hurting