As the season of Epiphany winds to a close, we have come to Transfiguration Sunday. Even as Epiphany took us to places and texts that spoke of the ways in which God is revealed to us, the story of the Transfiguation brings that to a culmination. In this set of readings, we don't have a traditional Transfiguration story, but we do have words about the revelation of God in the ministries of Melchizedek and Jesus. As the title of this set of readings offered to us by David Ackerman in his Beyond the Lectionary suggests -- God's vision is broad enough to include Jew and Gentile -- with Melchizedek symbolizing this reality. May our own eyes be opened to the work of God in our midst -- we may be surprised at what we'll discover.
“God Includes the Gentiles”
Call to Worship: Psalm 110:1-4 NRSV
One: The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Many: The Lord sends out from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes.
One: Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day you lead your forces on the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning, like dew, your youth will come to you.
Many: The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Gathering Prayer: You have included us, God, in this gathering here, and you include us in your great plan of saving grace. Thank you for uniting us with you this day.
Confession: We have been self-serving people, God, who have sought our own glory instead of yours. We have pushed away the people you have sent to bless us, and we have not welcomed you into our lives as we should. Forgive us, God. Transform us by your grace, so that as Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, we too might reflect your glory and love in our lives.
Assurance: God has called and commissioned us to be agents of change and transformation in this world. The things that once kept us from being fully alive to the Spirit are gone. Let us therefore give thanks and praise to God, then, who gives us new lives this day.
Scriptures: Genesis 14:18-20 – “Abram and Melchizedek”
Hebrews 7:1-3, 11-19 – “Jesus and Melchizedek”
John 5:30-47 – “Seek God’s Glory”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- Who is King Melchizedek? What do you think are some of the things that are important about his gifts of bread and wine and his blessing of Abram?
- To whom do you think Psalm 110 is referring when it says, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”? (Hint: think Genesis 14 and the people represented by Abram).
- Does Hebrews 7 help you to better understand why Melchizedek was important to some in the early church? How is the fact that he is a Gentile/outsider important for Christians? How is this especially pertinent on a day like Transfiguration Sunday, which reflects “the high point” for the Sundays after Epiphany?
- Are there dangers in dismissing earlier priesthoods and earlier commandments, as Hebrews 7 seems to suggest? How do you think this passage would be received if it were shared in a Jewish synagogue? How do we make sense of it?
- In John 5, what do you make of Jesus’ statements about light and glory? How is the traditional story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36) about Jesus’ glory and resurrection?
- Have you gone through any significant changes in your life lately? How has God helped you or been with you during these changes?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: God, your glory surrounds us this day. Thank you for coming to us and naming and claiming us as your own. Teach us to be people who let your joy radiate through our lives, so that this world may truly be changed by your grace.
Benediction: God has lifted us up so that we might be sources of hope and new life. Let us go now as a people who share the glorious news of your resurrection with the world. Amen.