February 26, 2017 – Last Epiphany/Transfiguration Sunday
Revised Common Lectionary Year A – Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 2 or Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21, and Matthew 17:1-9
Transfiguration Sunday is a Sunday that fills me with awe and wonder. In a previous lesson I shared for teaching the Transfiguration to children, I shared a bit about why I think children can grasp things like the Transfiguration better than we can as adults. Because children (between the ages of 5-7) are still in the midst of gaining their capacities for logic and reason, they are very skilled at using their imaginations. We need healthy imaginations to be able to visualize all that the disciples must have seen when Jesus’ glory was revealed to them.
For children who have already gone through the stage of logical development, the Transfiguration may lead to a lot of questions. How can Jesus be both God and human? Why was Jesus’ glory visible at this moment and not at so many others? My hope is that this lesson I am offering below will help rekindle some of those feelings of awe and wonder for the child who may be more scientific, while still remaining accessible to younger children who are still more imaginative and filled with wonder.
**Just a note: This lesson will require a few days of preparation. Supplies are relatively inexpensive, but the process takes a few days for the colors to reach their height.
Transfigured before Them – a Transfiguration Sunday Children’s Lesson
White flowers (the woodier the stem, the longer it will take for the colors to show up)
Vases (as many vases as you are doing colors, plus one for clear water)
Food coloring (20 drops of color per 8 ounces of water)
**I had the best results with yellow, green, and blue food coloring. My red food coloring killed the flowers…though I have heard that some have found the red to make the flowers a beautiful pink. I did one vase with red and blue mixed (attempting to make purple flowers), but only the blue came through. If your vases begin to dry up, don’t just add plain water. The colors will eventually transpire out of the petals if you use clear water in the vase.
To do in advance:
Purchase a big bouquet of white flowers. I found some at my grocery store for a relatively inexpensive price. I wanted to have enough flowers to have a small bouquet of white flowers, and a small bouquet of colorful flowers.
Separate out the flowers that will be left white. Cut the stems at an angle and place in a vase filled with clear water.
Next, you will prepare the vases of colored water.
I used 20 drops of color per about a cup of water.
Cut the stems at an angle to allow the colorful water to travel up the stem. After I prepared all my vases, my flowers looked like this:
After a few hours, they were beginnings to change already.
I prepared my flowers about 5 days in advance. By about day 4, the flowers were almost as brilliant as they were going to get. On Sunday morning, I consolidated the best looking colorful flowers into a vase that looked similar to the vase of flowers that had been in the clear water. I hid the colorful flowers in the sanctuary, and placed the bouquet of white flowers out on a flower stand.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read a story of Peter, James, and John going up the mountain with Jesus. While they were there, suddenly Jesus’ appearance was changed and he was glowing brightly like the sun. The Bible says “he was transfigured before them.” Can you imagine how much of a surprise that must have been to the three disciples? They had never seen Jesus like this before!
As if that wasn’t surprising enough, next to Jesus appeared Moses and Elijah – can you believe it? Moses and Elijah were people from long, long ago. It must have been so hard for the disciples to understand what was happening. What did it mean that Jesus looked differently now? How could it be that Moses and Elijah – people from so long ago – were here with Jesus? How do you think you might have felt if you had been there?
The story tells us that a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke and said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” I wonder if that made the three disciples feel any better? The voice told them that Jesus was God’s Son and that they should listen to Jesus. But, it seems like the disciples were still afraid. I think I would have been too. What happened next is probably my favorite part of the story. Jesus touched the disciples and told them not to be afraid.
Do you see these flowers I have? These white flowers are regular flowers. I bought them at the store. I wonder if we could use our imaginations for a minute. Remember in our story how Jesus took his disciples up the mountain with him before he was transfigured before them? Let’s take these flowers up the mountain, too.
(At this point I swapped out the white flowers for the colorful flowers I had hidden earlier. Hold up the colorful flowers.)
Look at these beautiful, rainbow flowers! Can you believe that these flowers were white just like the others I had before? In fact…they came from the same bouquet.
(I have some older kids in my church, so I explained to them the science experiment that changed the color of the flowers for those who might want to try it at home sometime.)
When these flowers are in clear water, the water travels up the stem and fills the petals and leaves with the clear water. When we add a little bit of color to the water, we are able to see things about these flowers that we normally don’t ever see. The flowers look like they’ve changed to us, but really we are just able to see things about the flowers we can’t always see.
The story of the Transfiguration is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Not only do these three disciples have the opportunity to see something about Jesus they had never seen before, but Jesus cares enough for them that he comforts them when they are afraid. Jesus does those same things for us, too. We may not always see God’s glory. And when we do, we might feel afraid or confused. But, Jesus is always there to reach out and comfort us and tell us that we don’t need to be afraid.
Dear God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for allowing Peter, James, and John to see his glory on the mountain. Open our eyes so that we can see you, too. In Jesus’ name – Amen.