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Lent 1A, Liturgy, Reflectionary

Selah (a confession and pardon for Lent 1A)

One: When the psalmists did not know what to say, they built pauses into their prayers with the word “Selah.” (Say-lah.) As we enter a time of prayer, we will mark our silences with the same word. Selah.
Many: Selah.

(a time of silence)

One: Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Many: It is a good feeling to be forgiven, to know God cares for us enough to take care of everything.

One: Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Many: When we have done things well, God can see it. When we have been honest, God will know.

One: While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
Many: O God, you knew all the things on my mind, but they still weighed heavily on me. 

One: For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Many: I can’t hide things from you. I don’t know what else to say. 

One: And so we say it together.
All: Selah

(A time of silence.)

One: Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity.
Many: I opened my heart to you, Lord.

One: I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
Many: I did confess. I do confess.

One: And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 
All: Selah

(A time of silence.)

One: Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Many: It feels good to be forgiven.

One: God hears our prayers and forgives us. This is the Good News that brings new life.
All: We thank God for it. 


You are welcome to use both the Confession, drawn from Psalm 32, and the image in worship.

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Reflectionary, Transfiguration, Year A

Overshadowed

Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain.

Exodus 24:18 (Transfiguration Sunday)

In the short-lived hiking phase of my life, I made it to the top of half-a-dozen mountains in New Hampshire, and I carry a vivid memory of the view from one on an overcast day. Atmospheric conditions masked the reality I knew from a past trip to this mountaintop; instead of 360 degrees valleys and peaks, it looked like a sea of billowing waves in shades of bright grey, the mountains like little islands, with barely a difference in color-shading to mark where the sky began. It was the same view, and not the same; something I expected, yet something I had never seen before.  

“Moses went up into the mountain of God,” Exodus 24:13 tells us, onto a mountain covered with a cloud, but not just a cloud; it was the glory of the LORD. Moses waited for six days while that glory “was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain;” at the foot of the mountain, the people could see it. God put on a show for them, but when Moses did not come down again for forty days, in their fear that he was gone for good and that there God was not going to save them, they melted all their gold down to create an idol to worship instead. 

Peter, James, and John went up the mountain with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elijah talking with him. They were fine until “a bright cloud overshadowed them” and the divine voice spoke, echoing the heavenly affirmation at Jesus’ baptism. Awestruck, fearful, the disciples threw themselves on the ground. They were in the presence of – what?!? Could they trust their perceptions?

In this era of propaganda and marketing, social media and political campaigns, our perceptions are being messed with all the time. What are we noticing? Has truth changed? How do we know if what we are seeing is real or true? 

On the Day of Transfiguration, nothing essential about Jesus changed. What changed is what the disciples knew about him. They had known a friend, a teacher, a wise person; now they experienced the brightly blinding presence of the Divine declaring Jesus to be Son of God.

That day on the mountaintop, I let myself rest in my weather-addled perceptions. Maybe the clouds had something to say to me. To know the truth, be open to noticing something unexpected. We are the ones who will be changed. 


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Liturgy, Transfiguration

A prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

Holy One,

We have been to the high places,
the extreme edges of bliss,
the far reaches of where-to-find-you,
the mind-bending moments of truth,
the spill of something ineffable,
the fragrance of words-can’t-describe.

We have been there, most of us, once or twice, if that.
Mystics have gone more often, and poets, surely. 
Some still wait for a trip to the mountaintop,
or it is a childhood recollection confused with dreams.

When we went there, we felt
scared
delighted
relieved
faint
perplexed
joyful
unnerved.

We said things,
possibly laughable.

And then it was over.
The moment passed.
The brightness dimmed.
Clothes, faces, sounds
returned to normal.

You know we need you more
when we come down again.

Be with us, here on the ground.
Help us to find the words and the actions
to make you real to ourselves, 
to those who need you most.

You’re welcome to use the prayer and image in worship.

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