A Morning Service for the Sunday before Lent 2023


In the 40 years since I started training as a (then) Lay Reader, I have never been asked to preach on the Transfiguration, although I have heard sermons on it in French Protestant churches. It seems to there are two questions that need looking at with regard to the Transfiguration: is it true and what does it mean. I will take these in order, starting with the difficult one.

A Morning Service for the Sunday before Lent 2023

HYMN – Christ whose glory fills the skies  NEH 234/AMR 7 – Ratisbon 

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,

Christ, the true, the only light,

Sun of Righteousness, arise,

Triumph o’er the shades of night;

Dayspring from on high, be near;

Daystar, in my heart appear.

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn

Unaccompanied by thee;

Joyless is the day’s return,

Till thy mercy’s beams I see;

Till they inward light impart,

Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

3 Visit then this soul of mine,

Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;

Fill me, radiancy divine,

Scatter all my unbelief;

More and more thyself display,

Shining to the perfect day.

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.
Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,
and confess our sins to God our redeemer.   cf. Ephesians 4.30,32

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen


Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty

before he suffered death upon the cross:

give us grace to perceive his glory,

that we may be strengthened to suffer with him

and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

FIRST READING – Exodus 24.12-18

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

HYMN – Tis good Lord to be here,  NEH178/AMR560 – Carlisle

1 ‘Tis good, Lord, to be here!

Thy glory fills the night;

Thy face and garments, like the sun,

Shine with unborrowed light.

2 ‘Tis good, Lord, to be here,

Thy beauty to behold,

Where Moses and Elijah stand,

Thy messengers of old.

3 Fulfiller of the past,

Promise of things to be,

We hail thy Body glorified,

And our redemption see.

4 Before we taste of death,

We see thy kingdom come;

We fain would hold the vision bright,

And make this hill our home.

5 ‘Tis good, Lord, to be here!

Yet we may not remain;

But since you bidst us leave the mount

Come with us to the plain.

GOSPEL – Matthew 17.1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

SERMON – Keith Atton

In the 40 years since I started training as a (then) Lay Reader, I have never been asked to preach on the Transfiguration, although I have heard sermons on it in French Protestant churches. It seems to there are two questions that need looking at with regard to the Transfiguration: is it true and what does it mean. I will take these in order, starting with the difficult one.

A month ago, I went to the funeral of a friend of ours in the church where I was LLM for nearly twenty years. My wife knew Ian and Penny from an art class before both were widowed and I knew Ian and his wife from church. Once single they had become partners but both kept  their own houses, being together some days and separate on others. After the service, Penny who had stayed in Ian’s house since his sudden death revealed that she felt Ian’s presence around the house – “I cannot get my head around it, he still seems to be here” as she put it. She was experiencing two irreconcilable things as both being true at the same time: Ian just buried, Ian still in his house with her. I suspect feelings like these are quite common in such circumstances. This is the reality we live with, but which many choose to ignore.

In our gospel reading there is a mixture of the ordinary – Jesus goes off with three disciples – and the most extraordinary – he was transformed, his face shone, his clothes became white as light and Moses and Elijah, both long dead, appear. How did Peter, James and John know who the two men with Jesus were? Nor is hearing a voice from a cloud – identified as the voice of God – an everyday event. I suggest we experience, in addition to the ordinary factual things, like the building materials of this church, the extraordinary that we cannot easily explain. In the transfiguration story there is very clearly the different reality, a different kind of truth.

So, what does the story mean? The gospels, like any essay, article, book or thesis are attempting to tell us a story, to make a case as explained in John 20.30. Mark in 1.1 makes it clear what his purpose is and, by extension, the purpose of the other gospel writers. The story of the Transfiguration is there to tell the listeners who Jesus was; He was not just a great teacher and healer, not just a prophet, but He was so close to God that He could only be properly described as The Son of God. The gospel writers, looking back, could see the clues, which at the time were not fully understood, as Mark’s gospel makes clear. Indeed, even after the resurrection their understanding continued to develop from Mark’s understanding with Jesus’ sort of adoption by God at His baptism to John’s understanding with Jesus presence from the beginning of time.

In the first three gospels, the experience on the mountain – a place believed to be where a connection between God and His prophets did happen in the Old Testament – has clear parallels with the stories of Moses described in chapters 34 and 24 of Exodus. One aspect of the story of  the Transfiguration is to depict Jesus as the new Moses. Moses and Elijah represent respectively the law and the prophets. The voice of God from the cloud repeats the authority given to Jesus at His baptism. There is also a link with the suffering servant idea in Isaiah chapter 42.  The Transfiguration anticipates the resurrection and the glory of Jesus’ second coming but is also the inverse of the crucifixion; there Moses and Elijah are replaced by the two criminals; the high mountain is replaced by the cross; instead of supremely clear light there is darkness. Overall, the past and the future are rolled into one in the present.

Truth in many circumstances is very complex, as it is in the case of history and literature. For us now, in the twenty first century, this story represents a different kind of truth to the literal one. However, its message is clear; that message is who Jesus was, is and will be.


Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

HYMN – O vision blest of heavenly light  NEH 176 – Melcombe

O Vision blest of heavenly light, 

Which meets the three disciples’ sight, When on the holy mount they see 

Their Lord’s transfigured majesty. 

More bright than day his raiment shone; The Father’s voice proclaimed the Son Belov’d before the worlds were made, For us in mortal flesh arrayed. 

And with him there on either hand 

Lo, Moses and Elijah stand, 

To show how Christ, to those who see, Fulfils both law and prophecy. 

O Light from light, by love inclined, 

Jesu, redeemer of mankind, 

Accept thy people’s prayer and praise Which on the mount to thee they raise. 

Be with us, Lord, as we descend 

To walk with thee to journey’s end, 

That through thy cross we too may rise, And share thy triumph in the skies. 

To thee, O Father; Christ to thee, 

Let praise and endless glory be, 

Whom with the Spirit we adore, 

One Lord, one God for evermore. Amen

INTERCESSIONS – John Wilkinson

Holy God, your Son Jesus was wonderfully transfigured in front of his disciples upon the holy mountain, and at the time he asked them to keep it secret. Help us not to keep the secret, but to proclaim it to all that Jesus Christ is Lord. Give us strength to live the Gospel  in our daily lives so we may bear witness to all whom we meet.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Gracious God, we pray for all the members of the Church in their vocation and ministry, that they may serve you in truth and love. We especially pray for William our Rector and all who support worship in this Benefice.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Merciful God, we bring before you the trials & tribulations of this world & ask for your saving grace.  God of time and space, we cry for your children, our neighbours, in southern Turkey & northern Syria, following the earthquakes that have devastated thousands of lives.  We give thanks for the aid that is being given and the promises of help that has been made by many. Comfort ,we pray, the survivors, those who have lost loved ones, those desperately waiting for news, and those digging through rubble to help others. Grant the gift of hope so that those caught between life and death know that you are with them, and others are ready to support them. In Jesus’ name. 

A prayer for Ukraine : God of peace and justice, we pray for the people of Ukraine. We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons. We pray for those who fear for tomorrow, that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them. We pray for those with power over war and peace, for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide decisions. Above all, we pray for your precious children, at risk and in fear, that you will hold and protect them. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Creator God, you gave us a beautiful world to live in and to care for. We know that in many areas our stewardship has not met your expectations yet. Through the victory of Jesus Christ, we know that you can transfigure and restore all things in creation. We pray earnestly for a change of heart and attitude, an awakening to a better way of living, and the courage to reject wrong principles and decisions throughout the world.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for all who lie stricken with illness, grief or despair. Bring healing to every broken life, relief to all who are in pain, hope to the dying and strength to those who care for them.        We bring before you;  Helen Reed, Roger Lowman, Liz Tatham (Slinn) for your support & comfort.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Merciful God, we raise before you those whom we love who are already transformed into your Heavenly presence. Comfort us and all who mourn, give them a patient faith in this time of darkness and strengthen them with the knowledge of your love. We bring before you the departed souls of Malcolm Clark and Harry Keeling. 

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Everlasting God, in the week that lies before us may we reflect  your love in our families, our church and our community, so that the world can see that we are transformed by Christ and thereby draw others into Jesus’ loving care.

Merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.


Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory 

and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; 

and the blessing of God Almighty, 

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you 

and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN Ye holy angels bright NEH 475 – Darwell’s 148th

1. Ye holy angels bright, 

who wait at God’s right hand, 

or through the realms of light 

fly at your Lord’s command, 

assist our song, 

for else the theme 

too high doth seem 

for mortal tongue.

2. Ye blessèd souls at rest, 

who ran this earthly race 

and now, from sin released, 

behold your Saviour’s face, 

his praises sound, 

as in his sight 

with sweet delight 

ye do abound.

3. Ye saints, who toil below, 

adore your heavenly King, 

and onward as ye go 

some joyful anthem sing; 

take what he gives 

and praise him still, 

through good or ill, 

who ever lives!

4. My soul, bear thou thy part, 

triumph in God above: 

and with a well-tuned heart 

sing thou the songs of love! 

Let all thy days 

till life shall end, 

whate’er he send, 

be filled with praise!

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

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