Transfiguration Sunday leads us from the celebration of Epiphany into the solemnity of Lent. We read the story of Jesus on the mountaintop with Peter and James and John, and the sudden dazzling white of his clothes. We experience the full glory of Christ, standing alongside powerful representatives of the Law and the Prophets, acknowledged to be the beloved son by God’s own voice.
The disciples present with Jesus are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds on the mountain. We can invite our congregations to experience their amazement by accompanying the scripture readings with actions that are visually engaging. We can draw attention to the coming change in liturgical seasons by bringing focus to the paraments and worship elements.
This idea uses white altar cloths and paraments and sets them during worship, at key points in the lectionary readings highlighting specific parts of the texts and drawing attention to the way the paraments visually craft the worship space. Paraments are set out during the reading of scripture. Alternatively, the lights are dimmed during the gospel and slowly raised again.
There are a couple different options for visually engaging the worship space while we hear the scripture for Transfiguration Sunday.
One option: if your congregation uses paraments, set them out during worship.
1. Speak with the altar guild or whoever usually prepares the space for worship.
– Would they be comfortable with setting the paraments during worship?
– Are there smaller things (plates and chalices, palls, pulpit and lectern scarves, candles) that would be easy to set out?
– What is needed (extra flat space to store things, or example) to make it easy?
2. Determine what will be set out and when. Some suggestions for relevant verses:
2 Kings 2:8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water…
2 Kings 2:12 …when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
Psalm 50:5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”
Mark 9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
Mark 9:7 “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
3. A printable script is available with the above suggestions.
Another option: during the gospel, dim the lights.
1. Consider not printing the gospel text in the bulletin — this will keep people from straining their eyes in dimmer light.
2. Determine how dim and how bright the lights can go, and at what speed. Too slow could be clumsy — too fast will startle the eyes and distract from the scripture reading.
3. Suggestions for when and how to adjust the lights, with the gospel reading:
( Dim lights as low as possible ) Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.
( Raise lights 1/3rd, or only in the front ) And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
( Raise lights 2/3rds, or in the middle ) And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with 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 not know what to say, for they were terrified.
( Raise all lights fully, more than normal if possible ) Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
( Dim lights to normal setting ) Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
4. A script with the above suggestions is available.
What other ways have you found to engage multiple senses during the scripture reading?