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Growing With Peter Series: On the Mountain with Jesus - Matthew 17

A service plan in a Lenten series on the transfiguration of Jesus and what impact that had on Peter.

Theme of the Service

Two matters shape the theme of this service. First, the Scripture lesson and sermon focus on the privilege Peter was given when he joined Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus allowed three of his disciples the privilege of observing and experiencing the glory of God and the intimate relationship of the Father and the Son in a way they had not seen it before. Second, this worship service is patterned after the style of worship developed and practiced in the Taizé community in France. Taizé worship is quiet and reflective in character.

So the theme of this service should be that of quiet reflection on the event of the transfiguration of Jesus, what that meant for Jesus, and the impact that it had on Peter. Such quiet and deep reflection is intended to stir deep devotion.

About Taizé and Taizé Worship

Taizé is a small community in the hills of Burgundy in eastern France. This worshiping community began in the 1940's under the leadership of Brother Roger as an ecumenical community with a very Reformed flavor. It has become the center for thousands of worshipers from all around the world, most of them young, who come there each summer. Worship is the nourishing center of life at Taizé. Brother Roger has written, "Nothing is more conducive to a communion with the living God than a meditative common prayer with, at its high point, singing that never ends and that continues to the silence of one's heart when one is alone again."

The style of Taizé worship is different from what many congregations usually experience. It is reflective and meditative in spirit. Music is its mainstay. The service we are proposing here has been adapted and modified somewhat, yet still is an accurate expression of Taizé worship. Such worship is intended to have a slow and leisurely pace. Prayers are usually divided into sections with responses throughout. Lighting is subdued. The music of Taizé, which is now known and published throughout the world, tends to be quiet, repetitive, reflective and accompanied with a variety of instruments. Times of silence are included in the worship for periods of reflection and meditation.

It can be difficult for worshipers from the Western world to enter into this kind of worship. We are accustomed to noise, activity, talking, and a rather fast pace. To enter into this worship requires us to leave our hurry behind, slow down, calm our spirits, be silent and enjoy a leisurely time with God.


The Welcome and Call to Worship

Prelude: Reflection on "Laudate Dominum/Sing, Praise and Bless the Lord", Berthier

*God's Greeting with Congregational Amen

*Song: "Laudate Dominum/Sing, Praise, and Bless the Lord" SNC 30


The Readings of Scripture:
John 1:1-5, 14
John 17:1-5
Philippians 2:5-11

Song: "Alleluia" PsH 639, RN 138
(Sung multiple times by the congregation between the readings of Scripture; follow the cue of the

Silence for Meditation

Song: "Magnify the Lord/Magnificat" PsH 622, RN 131
(Sung multiple times by the choir and the congregation at the cue of the leader.)

Song: "Father, We Love You/Glorify Your Name" PsH 634, RN 37, SFL 77, TWC 10


The Reading of Scripture: Matthew 17:1-13
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

(Growing with Peter - #4)

Song: "Gloria" PH 576, RN 64, SFL 134, SNC 115, TWC 825, WOV 640
(Sung multiple times by the choir and the congregation at the cue of the leader.)

Silence for Meditation

The Reading of John 15:1-5
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Song: "You Are the Branches", Jothen
(Choir and congregation at the cue of the leader.)


Silence for Meditation


Song: "Lord of Our Life" SFL 81

Our Prayers

The Pastoral Prayer

Prayer Response: "Let Us Pray to the Lord" RN 171, SFL 51, SNC 202
(Sung multiple times at the cue of the choir and accompanist; see Liturgy Notes.)

The Lord's Prayer (in unison)

Offertory: "You Are the Branches", Jothen


*Song: "Shepherd of My Heart", O'Brien
(Sung by the choir and congregation at the cue of the leader.)

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen

Postlude: "Shepherd of My Heart", O'Brien

* - You are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

The story of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain is a strategic and moving story. The main intent of this event is to declare the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son, and to prepare Jesus for the coming days of suffering in his ministry. However, our approach to the story in this sermon is from a different angle - that of a disciple who was one of three given the privilege of "sitting in" on this event. We'll try to see the event through the eyes of Peter.

In this event, Peter became aware of two very important things - the great privilege of being in close relationship with Jesus, and the difficulty of going back down the mountain to reenter the strain of kingdom work. Those two considerations form the two halves of this sermon, which is presented in two parts for this service.

For the first part of the sermon, I would try to help the listeners stand on the mountain with Peter and try to live in to what happened there. Peter, along with James and John, was drawn into one of the most intimate moments of Jesus' life. The story of the transfiguration needs to be told, and its significance explained. If we look at it all through the eyes of Peter, we'll be able to glimpse the incredible sense of privilege he must have felt to witness the glory of God!

The second part of the sermon is quite different. Coming back down the mountain and reentering the messiness of life (notice the difficulties they encountered immediately) was a very different experience than being "up the mountain". There are risks in reentry, but Peter needed to understand that his time on the mountain was temporary, intended to better prepare him for a service-filled reentry. All worshipers need to see such a rhythm in their own lives - on the mountain temporarily to prepare us for another reentry in order to serve.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:

PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

1. The music of Taizé has a free-flowing character which is developed through repetitions of simple refrains. Many Taizé choruses are now printed in denominational hymnals. If you do not have access to many, you can find them in Songs and Prayers from Taizé published by Geoffrey, Chapman and Mowbray (ISBN 0-264-67256-9) and distributed by GIA Publications. Copyright permissions are also handled in North America by GIA Publications (1-800-442-1358). In our planning for this service, we have always taken into consideration the need for the worshiper to know some of the songs well enough that they don't always feel like they are doing something new. Because of that, we have included a couple of responses that are in the Psalter Hymnal and are consistent with the Taizé style.

2. We suggest all musical participants (with the exception of the music leader) be seated unobtrusively near the front of the sanctuary. The goal of the musicians is to aurally assist the congregation in their worship, not to visually model their song. We desire to keep the front of the sanctuary free of any possible distraction to the meditative nature of this service.

3. Uncertainty can kill congregational singing! The musical leader needs to be visible to give a welcoming hand gesture to invite the entire congregation or the congregation divided by location in the sanctuary [i.e. east, west, center] into the singing. The choir, ensemble or team that serves as prompters can sing verses or pre-planned repetitions of the refrains.

4. High school and adult instrumentalists can easily play the music of Taizé. Transposed parts for B-flat instruments can be found in Music From Taizé, Vol.I (1981) - G-2433 for vocal, G-2433A for instrumental;Vol.II (1984) - G-2778 for vocal, G-2778A for instrumental; also in Taizé: Songs for Prayer (1998) - G-4956 for vocal, G-4956A for instrumental. For other hymns incorporated into the service, it might be wise to transpose the parts for the younger instrumentalists. You can incorporate the instruments only on the melody line, or have them play the different voice parts, or have them play some of both alternatives.

5. Additional information on the Taizé community and planning a service can be found in Reformed Worship Vols. 8, 46, 58.

6. The suggested prelude music is actually the opening song played by the instrumental ensemble. Taizé music is flexible enough to accommodate few instruments or many. It is wonderful if you have a bassoon or cello to play a bass line, a viola for a tenor line, and violins, flutes, clarinet and muted trumpet for soprano and alto lines, with piano, keyboard or organ being the constant unifier. However Taizé music works just as effectively with one flute (or any other instrument), piano, and/or guitar. For the prelude, play enough repetitions with instruments varying their parts to allow the congregation to settle their spirits. Two to three minutes should be sufficient.

7. All the Taizé responses in this service should be sung a number of times - 4-9 times with variations on the repetitions. These variations could include parts of the congregation singing on specific repetitions, different instrumentation for different repetitions, having the vocal ensemble begin and conclude the singing, or including singing in a round (with cues from the director!). We suggest you begin quietly and add both instruments and more voices to the mix; then after building the sound, reverse the process and end quietly.

8. A descant for "Father, We Love You" can be found in Songs for LiFE #77.

9. "You are the Branches" is a three-part anthem based on John 15:5. Written by Michael Jothen, it is a Choristers Guild Publication (CGA755 [1996]) (E-M). This anthem includes a congregational refrain. While not a true Taizé song, this anthem is appropriate to a Taizé-style service. The instruments doubled the voice parts. This anthem was played by instruments alone for the offertory music.

10. "Shepherd of My Heart" by Francis Patrick O'Brien is a two-part or SATB responsorial anthem based on Psalm 23 (GIA G-3770 [1992]) (E-M). This anthem has instrumental parts available, as well as a congregational refrain. It too works well in a Taizé-style service. Depending on the size of your instrumental ensemble, you may wish to have some instruments double the voice parts. The postlude music was a "repeat" of this anthem, played by the instrumental ensemble only.

11. When you first worship in this tradition, it is valuable to remember that your planning will focus on a very complex service that must be offered in a simple manner. A Taizé service involves much preparation on the part of instrumentalists and vocalists. It is important that these "prompters" in worship know what they are responsible for and when they need to take the lead in the service so that the congregation can feel secure in their responses. As all the participants become more comfortable with the free-flowing nature of this type of service, less direction will need to be given, but not less preparation!

Liturgy Notes:

1. As you prepare the liturgy for this service of worship, it's very important to remind yourself that the intent of a Taizé-style worship service is to provide a time of quiet and reflective worship that moves at a slow pace, and gives adequate time for leisure in the presence of God. The "Welcome" at the opening of the service should explain such things to the worshipers. We encourage you to verbally explain what the Taizé community is, and ask them to intentionally prepare themselves for a more reflective service, including periods of silence. The sanctuary for Taizé worship usually has reduced lighting to facilitate a reflective spirit, and we've usually included some candles.

2. A worship rhythm ought to become apparent throughout this service: Scripture reading, repetitive response in song, and periods of silence for meditation. We have usually printed the entire order of worship (including the songs) into a worship booklet, so that the whole of the service is in front of worshipers and there is no page turning in the hymnal during the service.

3. Many congregations are uncomfortable with periods of silence. We usually make such periods from 45-60 seconds. It could be longer if your congregation is used to it, but if this is their first experience with such silence it will seem like a long time.

4. The sermon has been divided into two parts, partly because the two ideas being treated are quite separate, but also to facilitate the rhythm of hearing, reflecting, and responding.

5. The time of pastoral prayer is intended to be responsorial. Separate sections of the prayer are divided by a sung response (RN 171, SFL 51, SNC 202) which needs a soloist, a praise team, or a choir to sing the first part of the response to which the congregation answers. It is important that the accompanist have a written copy of this prayer so that entrances can take place at the right time. Here is a sample of such a prayer that we used for this service.

Prayer Response: Lead voice(s): "Let us pray to the Lord..
Congregation "..Lord, hear our prayer"

O Lord of heaven and earth, we give you all praise and honor for you alone are holy and glorious. Your glory appeared to Moses on the mountain. And it appeared to your people, Israel, when they traveled through the wilderness. Your glory filled Jesus Christ your Son on the Mount of Transfiguration as he prepared to lay down his life for our salvation. As we worship [today/tonight], may we be able to catch a better glimpse of his glory as he lives and reigns today and forever. We know that he will return some day with all glory, but until that time remind us over and over of what we so easily forget, that glory is his by right. And, Lord, make that glory clear here [today/tonight].

Prayer Response

We give you thanks, Father, for this Sabbath day. It is a day of rest for us, and a day in which we come into your presence for renewal and worship. But soon it will end and it will be necessary for us to come down the mountain and enter again into all the responsibilities and stress of work and life. We enjoy this time in your presence, but we ask for your presence to go with us during the days of this week when we will be so easily distracted and may even lose our way. Be patient with us. Redirect us. Hold before our hearts the vision of living as kingdom people who aim to carry out your will faithfully. Be with the young and the old, the healthy and the sick, the rich and the poor. Lead us into a week that will be marked by obedience to you and sensitivity to the needs of others around us.

Prayer Response

There are some whose needs must be lifted up for your special attention today. Some of your children are lonely and grieving. Some feel misunderstood and forgotten. Some are hospitalized and weak. Some are frightened and anxious. Some doubt and others have lost their way. Some are deeply concerned about their children and others are concerned about their parents. Some live with brokenness and need your power of healing. Some are living at a distance from you and must be drawn closer. Still others are living with poverty, oppression and injustice and in need of protection and care. Give them all rich measures of your grace and mercy. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Prayer Response

The Lord's Prayer in unison


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