Transfiguring Worship

The texts for Transfiguration Sunday this year expand on last week’s reading concerning God’s constant presence and activity (light) in our lives, focusing on the dramatic interplay between light and dark, veiling and unveiling, sight and blindness: 

  • Psalm 50:1-6 – in both the rising and the setting of the sun, God shines forth – or “blazes into view” as the Message puts it; 
  • 2 Kings 2:1-12 – Elisha’s request to inherit the prophet’s mantle from Elijah is honoured when he watches his mentor ascend amidst whirlwind and fire until he disappears from sight;
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 – Paul proclaims that the brightness of the Gospel fills our lives up with light but is veiled from those look only for the god(s) of this age;  
  •  Mark 9:2-9 – as God’s glory is displayed in the transfigured radiance of his Son, a word of affirmation is spoken from deep within a cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”


Setting up the altar/focal point:

Familiar symbols on the altar such as a Bible or candle can be transformed this week with the simple addition of a gauze or veil draped over the items, hiding them partially from view.

Additional items include a piece of dazzling white cloth, folded or draped down the altar, or a simple arrangement of bright white flowers like lilies, tulips, or even daisies in a clear vase.

A lovely idea which does require planning, practice, and precision is to set up prisms or mirrors on blocks (at various heights) around a large candle or electric lantern. During the course of the service/sharing, these could be unveiled and lit – resulting in beautiful refractions of light or multiple mirror images of the flickering flame.

A wonderful idea for children or more informal/experiential worship:


Scratch art is the term given to creating an image by removing a covering layer with a pointed object like a toothpick or kebab stick.

To prepare for the exercise, colour in a sheet of cardboard with oil pastels or wax crayons. This can be an actual picture or simply blocks of colour.

Next, cover the entire drawing with a layer of acrylic black paint or a thick layer of black wax crayon (painting is far more time efficient!).

Depending on the level of involvement that you would like, you could prepare a single sheet and scratch out images related to one of the Scriptures for the day (I like the idea of God blazing into view with the rising of the sun and its setting and can see a lovely picture of the sun emerging between two mountains or over an ocean in my head) or share around how the true nature of things are sometimes hidden.

Alternatively, you may like to give each child their own scratch sheet (or teach them how to make one of their own) and see what emerges as they create and explore.

I will be using my scratch pad to illustrate the story of Elijah being taken up into heaven – etching the watching Elisha and ascending chariot into the dark paint.

Gathering In/Call to Worship – based on Psalm 50:1-6 (NIV)

The call to worship below centres around the decreasing repetition of the Psalm’s first verse amidst the others, drawing a deeper attentiveness to the mighty One, God, the Lord who has summoned us to worship.   

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun …
Our God comes

and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth …
He summons the heavens above,

and the earth, that he may judge his people.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks  …
“Gather to me this consecrated people,

who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The Mighty One, God, the Lord …
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,

for he is a God of justice.

A hymn/song of praise follows.

An encircling prayer:

An encircling prayer from The Carmina Gadelica III through which we enfold ourselves in God’s care. This can be used as a benediction or blessing or, even, in smaller groups as a prayer for healing or provision accompanied by wrapping the person being prayed for in a shawl or cloth.

My Christ! My Christ! My shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark:
My Christ! My Christ! My shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark.

Be near me, uphold me,
my treasure, my triumph,
in my lying, in my standing,
in my watching, in my sleeping.

Jesus, Son of Mary! My helper, my encircler,
Jesus, Son of David! My strength everlasting:
Jesus, Son of Mary! My helper, my encircler,
Jesus, Son of David! My strength everlasting.


Paying attention: a prayer of confession

In response to Isaiah 40:21-31

O True Light,
our Constant Companion,
we confess that we have not always paid attention to the signs of Your presence with us;
that, often, we have failed to grasp the immense gift of Your eternal love.
We spend our days scurrying after the insignificant and insubstantial –
worrying about how to get by,
how to compete
how to get ahead,
how to move on,
how to afford what we have,
how to get more,
how to find balance,
how to juggle it all
until we are burnt out, exhausted,
wondering where You are
and why You’ve lost track of us.

Great God who marches out an army of stars each night,
counts them off, and calls them by name,
forgive us for our foolishness
and set us in the firm foundation of Your faithfulness.
Remind us that You have not overlooked a single one of us,
nor a single moment of our circumstances.
As we wait upon You now, give us fresh strength
to persevere,
to hope,
to flourish
in Your presence
and through the power of Your love.

A Gathering Prayer

Following on from the gathering in – with string idea that I recently shared is a prayer based loosely on Psalm 119:49-56 which connects us with the countless generations of men, women, and children who have experienced the faithfulness of God in the triumphs and the struggles of their lives.

The naming of these saints in Scripture deliberately includes people of different ages, genders, callings, and covenants – and even those whose stories have been made known to us without naming for all have place in the kin(g)dom of God.

The simple response of two lines (in bold) roots us in this wide family and reminds us that God knows us by name. For large congregations, each person can offer their name simultaneously but in smaller congregations, I would encourage taking the time for each to offer their name in turn. It is an intimate moment of being seen and offering oneself to be known.


God we gather this day,
though life is difficult and full of its own troubles.

We gather though it often seems that the wicked prosper and flourish
even as we go through tough times.

We gather though people mock us, look down on us,
and ridicule our way of life, our beliefs.

We gather because Your Word comforts and counsels us.
We gather because Your age-old revelation keeps us on the right track.

We gather because Your instructions ignite a song within our spirit
as we walk the pilgrim way.

But above all,
we gather because we know You;
because we have experienced Your touch upon our lives
and can boldly proclaim that You are a good and gracious God –
merciful and kind,
just and true,
faithful to Your promises.

You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You are the God of Benjamin, of Samuel, and of David.
You are the God of Ruth, Deborah, and Esther.
You are the God of Daniel, of Jonah, and of Jeremiah.
You are the God of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
You are the God of Peter, of Paul, and of John.
You are the God of Mary, Lydia, and Dorcas.
You are the God of the many unnamed people who You fed, who You taught, who You healed.

Today, we gather to remember that You are the God of <insert your name>
and we place our hope in Your presence and Your promises.

Grow up!

In Ephesians 4:1-16, the apostle Paul provides a perfect picture of what it means to be a Christian: walk – no! RUN – on the road God has called us to travel. No one sitting on their hands idle. No one strolling down a path that leads to nowhere. No one declaring at the top of their lungs, “I’ll do it my way!” No fits and starts; no frantic, inconsistent bursts of activity … but all of us, as part of a Christian community, traveling together in the same direction, sharing:

  • the same faith,
  • the same hope,
  • the same baptism,
  • the same God and Father of all.

In essence, in this passage, Paul instructs those who call themselves Christians to act like grown ups: pouring themselves out for each other in acts of love, accepting one another’s differences, mending any disagreements, serving one another with humility and discipline.

It’s actually a little offensive, especially as adults, to be told that we need to grow up but when we look closely at our actions or talk to those who have left the church disillusioned, it becomes a pertinent word for us when …

… we come to the table to share in the body and blood of Christ but are actually not speaking to each other because of deep-seated mistrust and resentment …

… we are so moved by our Sunday worship that we sign up for a ministry or a course we  feel that God is calling us to but within a week have lost all passion and energy and will to show up and let God surprise us …

… we can’t wait to make it to a leadership position because then we no longer have to be a follower but have the power to pursue our own picture, to advance our own agenda …

… we pick and choose Scripture in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves and others downright terrible about themselves …

… we make others pay for the privilege of worshipping with us, praying with us, fellowshipping with us or learning with us, rather than tithing consistently so that the church can do whatever, whenever she hears the Spirit prompting …

… we show up only if we’re interested in who’s preaching or what they have to say or, simply, have an errand-free morning for a change …

… we claim to love the uniqueness, the newness of a church community then set out to make it exactly the same as the one from which we came …

… we just can’t seem to show up on time – not for one another; not even for God …

… we stop showing up at all because we no longer “feel” the worship or know the songs or like the way that things are being done ….

Paul reminds us that in many ways we are still infants, small children, spiritual babes who God wants to grow up knowing the whole truth and telling it in love.

And the truth begins with:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,
a sinner, a fake, a fraud,
a babe in the woods who has failed to stay on your straight paths
but strolled off on my own meandering way.

Forgive me for 
the poverty of my faith,
the withholding of my love,
the enormity of my ego,
the strife in my relationships,
the lack of discipline in my discipleship
and humility in my leadership.

Show me how I cling to my childish ways;
strip me of my preconceived ideas and grand notions;
put me into deep waters where I will learn to depend on your strength and your grace;
comfort and sustain me as I experience the pain of growth
and the inconvenience of having to change direction
and learning to walk at a new pace.

In the name of the One who descended to the dead
and ascended into heaven,
may I be free from the things that hold me back –
the hurts, the grudges, the time pressures, the secret ambitions –
that I may move rhythmically and easily 
with you and with all your beloved:
a fully mature adult;
fully developed;
fully alive, in and through, and with Christ.

Me, me, me is the language of infants whose world revolves around their needs; the talk of toddlers throwing tantrums in the middle of the floor when they cannot get their way.

“We” is the language that permeates us with Oneness;  that connects us with the triune nature of God; that allows our differences to become gifts to one another and our disagreements to be dealt with humbly and gently, even as we stay together through the difficulty and discomfort of conflict or change.

May there be more of “we” and less of “me” as we surrender to Christ as the source of everything we do and the head who keeps us in step with each other.


The power of a name

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.
~Tess Scott

In John 20:11-18, angels, titles, roles, designations – mommy, wife, daughter, reverend, sister, friend – cannot break through Mary’s blinding loss and grief. Yet by uttering her name, Jesus changes EVERYTHING!

What, then, does the name that I use for God change?

What would I name You, God?

Father, with a lap more expansive than the night sky You created and all-enfolding arms,     stronger than the mountains but gentler than the ocean’s breeze?

Redeemer, with a servant’s hands and humble heart and broken body upon the cross?

Liberator, who flings wide the gates of death and turns the valley of trouble into a door of hope? 

Do I name You Love, with and within me; patient, forgiving, reconciling, enduring, inspiring, alluring?

Or God of Israel, Holy One, full of power and might; zealous for my affections; worthy of may adoration?

Nay, Lord, though these You are, and thousands more beside … friend, teacher, master, healer, Spirit, Light, Shepherd, breath, living waters, eternal word ….

At Your invitation, I dare this day to call you “lover,” “husband” – my beloved, my betrothed;
  to risk a deeper intimacy with you than I have ever known;
   a full surrender;
    an absolute and unequivocal “yes” to life walked with You day by day and hand in hand.

To You alone
who knows my secret name,
my hidden depths,
I give my life
as I say “YES!”





(A series of prayers for Education Sunday based on Psalm 119:33-37 and Matthew 5:13-20)

Invoking the light 

We gather this day to worship and wonder
at the Father of all creation who, in the beginning,
spoke, “Let there be light! and there was light.
(a candle is lit)

We gather this day to listen to and learn from
Christ Jesus, the Son in whom there was no darkness;
the true light of life come into the world.
(a candle is lit)

We gather this day to surrender to and serve
the indwelling light of the Spirit
who leads us in the eternal way of truth and righteousness.

(a candle is lit)

O God-in-community – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

as we seek to worship and wonder,
as we seek to listen and learn,
as we seek to surrender and serve,
transform us from the inside out
into the flavour of love so lacking in the world.

Teach us, O God, to follow Your decrees;
then we will keep them to the end.
Give us understanding,
and we will keep your law and obey it with all our heart.
Direct us in the path of Your commands,
for there we find delight.
Turn our hearts towards Your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn our eyes away from worthless things;
renew our lives according to Your Word. 



Prayers of praise and confession 

From the beginning, O Abba, You have loved us
and longed for us to live in the light of Your favour.

From the beginning, O Adonai, we have given in to the snake slithers of ambition
and sought to make our way.

But when our choices have led us into the valley of the shadow of death,
we have cried out to You to deliver us;
When our desires have landed us in the sinking sand of sin,
we have pleaded for Your grace and mercy;
When our egos have left us feeling alone, oppressed by our enemies;
we have begged You to come to our defence.

And surely You have heard our lament,
resounding from generation to generation,
groaning in all of creation.
For to us a Son was given – Your Son –
that we might know the intimacy of God-with-us;
that we might feel the heavy burden of sin and death lifting from our shoulders;
that we might leave behind the way we were and what we used to do
and discover a new purpose, a new significance, in a new way of living and loving.

You are the light that shines in the darkness.
May we not only recognize You,
but search for You,
long for You,
learn from You.

In Jesus’ name. 


Prayers of petition and intercession

O Lord who looked out over crowds of ill, obsessed, and hurting people,
who sat them down upon a hill and taught them
about blessings found in the midst of suffering
and a law fulfilled through love:
shine Your light upon our lives;
make bright our love this day.

(led by a teacher)
We pray for teachers throughout the world,
and particularly for those who help their students grow in knowledge and wisdom and integrity with very little in the way of support or infrastructure or technology.
May we rediscover our job as a divine calling for which You empower and equip.
May we affirm the dignity and value of each child under our care.
May we teach with energy and open minds and a never-ending desire to learn.
Shine Your light upon our lives;
make bright our love this day.

(led by a parent)
We pray for parents and care-givers in every home,
who are so often torn between their dreams for their children and the circumstances of their demanding, daily lives.
May we model respect for, and show support to, those who teach our children.
May we prioritize our children’s education by helping with homework and showing up for school events.
May we listen attentively to who our children long to be and help them find their way.
Shine Your light upon our lives;
make bright our love this day.

(led by an older child)
We pray for students and learners across our land – some who hate school, some who hate others in their school, some who hate that they can’t get to school because of their gender, economic concerns, or immigrant status.
May we appreciate the opportunities we have to learn, to grow, to change.
May we be kept safe from bullies and bad influences.
May we treat property and people at school with care.
Shine Your light upon our lives;
make bright our love this day.

(led by minister or church leader)
We pray for Your people who You have instructed not to cling to childish things, but to grow in maturity and understanding and love until we are fully alive in You.
May we make time to sit at Your feet, to listen, and to learn in humility and awe.
May we boldly ask You the questions of life with which we struggle without feeling inadequate.
May we find healing and wholeness as we surrender to our Teacher, our Rabbi, our Friend.
Shine Your light upon our lives;
make bright our love this day.
In Jesus’ name we pray.



Jesus taught those that longed for the kingdom of heaven
that they are the salt of the earth and light to the world.
I will keep my face turned towards the Son of my salvation.
I will flavor the earth with God’s love.
I will let my good deeds shine for all to see
to the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit –
now and evermore.

Suggestions for Celebrating Women

On the 9th of August in South Africa we remember more than 20 000 South African women of all races who, in 1956, marched peacefully to the Union Buildings in protest against the tyranny of apartheid – many with children upon their backs.

Celebrating their nobility, bravery and solidarity becomes a profound moment of acknowledging the feminine image of God who creates and nurtures and transforms, of affirming the part that each woman plays in God’s unfolding salvation story, and praying for those who bring us into life – often in the most difficult of circumstances.

Below are some Scripture suggestions and prayers written specifically for a service that longs to emphasise the power and place of women – God’s beautiful beloved.

Call to Worship – Psalm 131 – God, our mother
Lord, my heart is not proud;
I don’t look down on others.
I don’t do great things,
and I can’t do miracles.

But I am calm and quiet,
like a baby with its mother.
I am at peace, like a baby with its mother.

People of Israel, put your hope in the Lord
now and forever.

Prayers of praise, presence and confession
O labouring God who held us in the hidden depths of your heart’s longing and mind’s wild imagining before bringing forth into being the wondrous beauty of earth and sky and sea,
we put our hope in you – now and forever. 

O affirming God who declares the goodness of each Word-birthed, Spirit-breathed creation, and the nobility of each man and woman that you make from scratch in your image
we put our hope in you – now and forever. 

O accompanying God who draws near day after day and moment after moment with outstretched hand to walk and talk, to laugh and dance, to work and play with those you have uniquely named your “beautiful beloved,”
we put our hope in you – now and forever.

O embracing God who demonstrates the length and breadth and height and depth of your great love through the self-offering and sacrifice of your own son –
a far cry from our stubbornness and selfishness and superficial ways,
we put our hope in you – now and forever.

O nurturing God who comforts and consoles us when we falter, when we fall, when we fail and guides and strengthens us when we dare and dream and strive,
we put our hope in you – now and forever.

Indeed, O mothering God, we love you
and we long to place ourselves in your arms this day and every day;
to be cradled there as peacefully and securely as a baby with its mother.

Forgive us for the pride, the greed, the fears, and the ambitions
that keep us from your embrace.
Soothe the worries, the wounds, the doubts, and the demands
that intrude upon the sacred quiet of this moment.
Open our eyes to the beauty and the abundance 
of your love, your compassion, your grace.

And bless in this time of remembrance and celebration every woman who has been a living expression of your labouring, affirming, accompanying, embracing and nurturing nature.


In Jesus’ name.

Scripture readings: The Crimson Cord – Rahab’s story
Old Testament – Joshua 2 and 6:22-25
New Testament – Matthew 1:1-6,17

Prayers of intercession
O transforming God who not only shares our story
but has the capacity to change the plot in surprising ways
we pray, this day, for the women that you have named and know –
the women in our family, in our community, our country, and the whole wide world:

for the Hannahs who have given up hope of ever having a child of their own,
and the Hagars who have no safe, welcoming space to call home,
for the Tamars who have known only rape and violation,
and the Leahs who have always felt inadequate and unwanted,
for the Rahabs who sell body and soul to make ends meet,
and the Ruths who leave everything behind them to face an uncertain future,
for the Esthers who gently work for the good of others,
and the Miriams who lead your people in unrestrained worship,
for the Abigails who speak peace into conflict,
and the Deborahs you raise up to speak truth to the tyrant,
for the Marys who long to spend life at your feet,
and the Marthas who are always worrying about what must still be done,
for the Dorcas’s who dedicate their lives to doing good,
and the Lydias who open up their homes in abundant hospitality –

infuse them with your wisdom,
encircle them with your love,
empower them with your presence,
that they may know in the very depths of their being
their beauty and their belovedness,

Communion prayer
O life-giving God, as we come to your table, we remember
that we are all sinners, equally in need of your mercy and compassion:
free us from the power of sin and death through your body and your blood.

We remember that no one is unwanted or excluded from your love, nor should be from ours:
Bind us together through your goodwill and your grace.

We remember that through you, our lives are deeply significant and full of surprises:
Lead us into new ways of being through your servanthood and surrender.

We remember that through your generosity we are bound to an eternity beyond our imagination:
Anchor us in your promises and your peace.

In Jesus’ name.

O sustaining God may the perfect peace and power of this moment spill over
into the busyness and the routine of our daily lives
and may we ever seek the warmth and comfort of your all-embracing arms,
now and forever. Amen.


~Featured image: Ruth and mother-in-law Naomi by painter Sandy Freckleton Gagon

To the God who dresses dandelions …

Inspired by Philippians 3:17-4:1

O Divine Seamstress,
who dresses dandelions in dainty white
that with the wind’s gentlest caress
they might dance into the light;

who decorates the peacock
with a thousand gleaming eyes
that glisten in moss and midnight hues
whenever he’s surprised,

who gives the elephant her trunk,
the cheetah grace and speed,
that they might forage or endure the hunt
according to their need,

who pins the stars upon the sky –
piercing the velvet night,
and hems in the ocean’s awesome power –
creating land and life,

who dreams of a love vast and wide
and all that it can be,
and then – within my mother’s womb –
so tenderly knits me,

help me to see the pattern
when life is just a mess
of You at work for my own good
with care and tenderness.




A Lenten Confession

Lenten Prayer
inspired by Isaiah 58:1-12 and the featured image which was sourced from :

Holy God,
Lover of righteousness and truth,
We have come into this place and time
declaring that we are eager to know You;
almost excited to enter into this season of prayer and penitence
for what we might get out of it –
what we might gain –
from the Lord of lords and God of gods
as (s)he gazes down on us from highest heaven
and finds us as expected
~ in the proper place,
~ at the proper time,
~ singing proper songs,
~ raising proper hands,
~ using the proper symbols,
~ making the proper promises ….

Who do we deceive, O Sinless Saviour, besides ourselves?
For You dwell not only in the highest heavens
but also in the hidden depths of our hearts.

What greeting have we given Your Spirit within us?
What does Love see in our secret places
deep beneath the proper postures and props?

We are unapologetic liars,
shameless frauds:
a people who pray for Your Love to live with and within us
even while we point judgmental fingers
and gossip behind each others’ backs.

We put on the right clothes
and bow our heads in apparent submission and humility,
even as the weight of our boots press down heavily
on the necks of those less powerful, less important,
than ourselves.

We give up meat or bread or booze
and declare that truly we have shared in Your suffering,
made an acceptable sacrifice,
when we will not spend a cent
on food for the hungry
or shelter for the refugee.

We even turn away our own flesh and blood,
declaring them unworthy of our help and our compassion.

Violence and hatred smolder throughout our land;
racism and bigotry are birthed daily though our words –
yet we stand with pious faces
and prayerful hands
and accuse You of not intervening.

Forgive us, O God, for our selfishness and sin.
Let Your light break through – into our darkness.
Illuminate the truths from which we long to hide.
Strip away our pretty masks of self-deceit
to touch marred and scarred faces long unseen.
Show us the actual meaning of sacrifice and surrender.
Hold onto us when we cannot bear the discomfort
of this season of wrestling with who we really are.

Bear our shame and give us the courage
to meet You face to face –
in the fullness of Your glory –
that we may come away changed:
~ bone deep, soul deep;
~ not just skin-deep.


Affirming servant leaders

This past Sunday we had the opportunity to celebrate and affirm those who offer their gifts in leadership and service of our community. The Scripture readings I had chosen for the occasion were Matthew 3:13-17 (the baptism of Jesus) and John 13:1-17 (Jesus washes the disciples’ feet).

Below are the vows and affirmations written for this special moment:

Minister/worship leader:
We are all God’s children:
made in God’s image,
cleansed by Christ’s blood,
full of God’s Holy Spirit.

We are all called to be servants of this Good News,
and all gifted in order to become a blessing
to one another and the world around us.

This day we celebrate those in our midst who have heard the call
and responded with outstretched hands and open hearts
to serve God within our Calvary community:
in prayer and preaching,
welcoming and praising,
cleaning and cooking,
counselling and healing,
mission and outreaching,
typing and counting,
teaching and leading,
gardening and building,
staffing and saving.

*leaders and servants of the community come forward*

I do not stand before you as a master but a servant.
I do not stand before you to gain but to give.
I do not stand before you out of pride but obedience.
I do not stand before you in my strength but by the power of the Spirit.

We give thanks to God who has named you and saved you.
We give thanks to God who has called you and equipped you.
We give thanks to God who will strengthen and sustain you.
We give thanks to God for the gift that you are.

I stand before you for my gifts are not my own.
I stand before you because of God’s great love.
I stand before you because faith needs to find expression.
I stand before you because I am willing to serve – you and God.

We affirm that your obedience is not without cost.
We affirm that in serving you bring glory and pleasure to God.
We affirm that you are a precious blessing to this Body.
We affirm that in serving you bring joy to us.

I promise to celebrate and share God’s embracing love with the world.
I promise to follow the pattern of Christ who was not afraid of getting his hands dirty.
I promise to seek to grow my gifts through prayer, and study, and training.
I promise to walk closely with God that I might serve you better and love God more.

We promise to partner with you in God’s love and work:
to seek to find our own calling and gifting,
to affirm the things that bring us joy,
to pray for you and love you.

*a time for the laying on of hands by members of the congregation and congregational prayers for those who have offered to serve*