Transfiguration

08 March 2004 | Faith & Society

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST ON THE MOUNTAIN

(seven weeks before Easter)

.\fark 9: 2-8

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was tranif,.gured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking uith Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here: let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He did •we know what to say,for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice. 'This is my Son, the Beloved; :iscen to him!' Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

This reading emphasises to Christians that Jesus' ministry grows out of, and is continuous with,Judaism. The prayers below were prayed ar St Martin-in-the-Fields on this day, which was 14 February, in : 999. The service was part of an annual series of inter-faith visits organised by the Council of Christians and Jews. In the week of the service, the first war crimes trial in the UK began.

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Heavenly Father, you called Moses and Jesus into the cloudcovered mountains and disclosed your glory and power. Generations before, you provided Abraham with a ram to sacrifice on the top of a mountain, so that it was said, 'On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.' We pray for all those who are called to high positions of religious and secular leadership. Awaken in each of us a sense of the :nountains which you would have us climb; give us the persistence and courage to meet you in lonely and inhospitable places; and bless us, and our leaders, with the knowledge that on the mountain of the Lord you will provide. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

In the first reference to mountains in the Bible, they are under water. Noah was in his ark, and 'the waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered'. Then the water subsides, and the ark rests on a mountain top in Ararat. The whole landscape of life has been wiped away. Noah only knows that there must be dry land somewhere when the dove he releases comes back with an olive leaf in her beak. Help all of us in those times when we are on the mountain top, not transfigured in glory but fleeing in terror; when certainties and se';!lrity have been swept away; when normality is impossible. We think of victims of natural disaster and victims of war; the victims every day on our roads, and of abuse in families; and also those who suffer from serious mental or physical illness. We pray for any who strain daily for a dove bearing an olive leaf, but find none. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, the devil took him up to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 'All these I will give you,' the devil said, 'if you will fall down and worship me.'We see the devil and his kingdoms nightly on the news. Heavenly Father, show us rather the vision of Micah: 'In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say:-Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob ... He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against: nation, neither shall they learn war any more.' Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

This week, as the first war crimes trial in this country takes place at the Old Bailey, we think particularly of all those killed in Dornachevo, Belarus, where on one day in September 1942 2,900 Jews were killed.

Bring them, and us, to the last high mountain in the Bible: the one in Revelation from which we see the holy city new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, shining with the glory of God. It has a great high wall with twelve gates; and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There shall be no more night, nor will they need the light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

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Biblical references in these prayers are respectively to Genesis 22: 14; Genesis 7: 19; Matthew 4: 9; Micah 4: 1-3; Revelation 21: 10-12.

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