That’s quite a story I just shared with you from Mark’s Gospel, isn’t it! It’s called “The Transfiguration.” Jesus is on a mountain top. He has taken with him three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. And there Jesus is changed. We like to say that he was transfigured – transfigured into dazzling light and brilliant white.
This moment – can we still call it a Kodak moment? You know – Kodak isn’t in the picture taking business anymore. Anyway– it was a Kodak moment – meant to show Peter, James and John – the glory that once belonged to Jesus before he came to earth – and the glory that would soon be his again – after his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. And of course, along with Jesus were two Old Testament heroes – Moses and Elijah.
But what I want to focus on today is the voice. The voice. And I’m not talking about the TV show where talented singers display their singing abilities for certain celebrities. No I’m talking about THE voice – the voice of God the Father – the voice that comes from a cloud and speaks directly to Peter, James and John, and says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
The Father identifies Jesus as His Son, and then tells these disciples to listen to him.
And that’s what I want to talk about today. Listening to Jesus.
Now – you don’t need me to tell you that there are a lot of voices out there today competing for your attention. There are a lot – just a lot of distractions out there.
For instance – how many times have you been driving your car – and looked over to see someone talking on their cell phone – or heaven forbid – texting on their cell phone – while driving. Now – how many of you have ever used your phone – talking, texting – whatever – while driving? That’s OK. No need to raise your hands. But I plead guilty. I have talked – never texted – but there have been a few occasions where I took a phone call while driving. Not good. Not good, I know. And quite frankly, I do not do that anymore.
No. When driving a car – we need to stay focused on driving.
So when God the Father says “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to Him,” it seems to me that that’s what we should do. Stay focused, and listen. Because this has always been the Christian’s primary task – to listen to Jesus. And there are lots of reasons why. Not the least of which is that – I am convinced of this anyway – but not the least of which is that Jesus shows us the way to the Father. Jesus shows us a better way to live.
But we’re distracted. Like the person who talks or texts while driving, we’re easily distracted. There are a lot of other voices out there trying to get our attention. Voices that would lead us away from Christ – away from God – away from the church.
For instance, there are New Age philosophies out there that want you to believe that you are somehow divine. You can see some of these folks on TV. I’m thinking of people like Wayne Dyer. Now, I don’t disagree with everything Mr. Dyer has to say. But when I heard him talk about “The divine within you,” I recognized immediately that he was not talking about the Holy Spirit. He was saying that we are divine – that we are gods. We have to be careful which voices we listen to, and ask ourselves, “Is what I’m hearing consistent with the message from Jesus Christ?” We need to listen to what Jesus has to say.
Now, it’s no accident that Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. These two heroes of the faith had been spokesmen for God in their day. When the people of God listened to them they were listening to God. But they also had to tune out the distractions. They had to learn to listen to God too. So when Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus it is a reminder to the disciples that just as God had been with the heroes of the faith in the past, God would be with them in and through the person of Jesus Christ.
Now, I am currently reading through the New Testament, and just finished the Book of Hebrews this week. One of the verses that always catches my attention when I read this book is right in the very first chapter, the very first verse.
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, [prophets like Moses and Elijah] but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,…” Folks, we need to tune out the distractions and listen to him.
But I know – I know – listening isn’t always easy. If we’re going to listen to Jesus, then it seems to me, that we need to learn what it means to listen.
I like a story told of King Edward VII. His grandson, Prince David, had a good relationship with his grandfather. Still David was a child, and adults in England during this period, particularly royalty, were not known to listen to children.
At dinner on one occasion little David tried to get his grandfather’s attention. He was reprimanded immediately for interrupting the king’s conversation at table. So the young prince sat in silence until given permission to speak. When he was allowed finally to address his grandfather, he said, “It’s too late now, grandpapa. There was a caterpillar on your lettuce, but you’ve eaten it.”
I think King Edward should have listened to his grandson, don’t you? Sometimes it pays to listen to friends, to family, to co-workers, to fellow students – and yes – sometimes even to children.
But I’m afraid we’re not very good – well, not always very good at listening. And you’ve heard as often as I have that there’s a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth, right? It’s because God wants us to spend twice as much time listening as we do talking. But you know what? It could very well be that God gave us two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking.
And yet, I have to agree with Paul Tillich, a well-known theologian from a few decades ago who once wrote these important words, “The first duty of love is to listen.” The first duty of love is to listen.
And that’s especially true ladies when listening to your husbands. And men. Let me tell you what you already know. I learned this myself early on in my marriage. I learned that I cannot listen to my beloved wife Nancy – and read the newspaper at the same time. I thought I could! I really believed I could. But the clear message I was giving her was that what she was telling me was not important. And more to the point, I was sending a clear message that she was not important.
Folks, we need to listen to Jesus. Because –let me tell you – when we say we listen – but we’re interrupted by some distraction – what we’re telling God is that either we’re not interested – OR – something else has our attention. Or – maybe it could be that we just don’t want to listen.
I don’t know. But I have to stand with Peter when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.”
If ever there were a reason for us to listen to Jesus – it is because Jesus has the words of eternal life. God wants us to listen to Jesus.
Listening to Jesus is not a matter of not being able to hear him. You can hear him. Anybody can hear him. But listening requires a choice. Listening requires a choice of where to place your attention.
I’ve got just a few minutes left, so let me state that we can hear Jesus speak to us today, and we can choose to listen. If the first duty of love is to listen – then we need to spend time listening to Jesus. And by the way – if you’re relying on a weekly 12 minute sermon from me each week to do the trick – then let me tell you – you’re going to be starving. I thank you for listening – but what I have to say is an appetizer. Our primary responsibility is to listen to Christ.
And quite frankly, there’s no other way to say it. First – and of course foremost – Jesus speaks – he still speaks to us today through his Word. Just open your Bible to the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John – the first four books of the New Testament. And just what does Christ have to say to us that we need to hear?
· He may want to talk with us about how we are treating family members or co-workers or friends.
· He may want to talk to us about our discipleship, about our faithfulness to the church.
· He may want to talk to us about some undesirable behavior that has crept into our life.
· Or he may simply want to offer us encouragement as we live our lives.
· And I can guarantee you that Jesus will tell you just how much the Father loves you. How much Jesus himself loves you. And that he wants you to find a place with him both now and in eternity forever.
But we need to listen and we need to trust him. Hey! Today’s reading might just be the beginning of a listening adventure for someone here today. “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Are you willing to take that step? Are you willing to fulfill the first duty of love to listen with your ears – with your eyes – with your heart?
I know we all need someone to listen to us. And if you’re like me, you don’t like it when other people don’t listen to you. Imagine then, how Jesus feels when we don’t listen to him. But we need to listen. We need to listen to Christ – and we need to trust what he says. Not only are they great words for the living of this life – but eternity hangs in the balance as well.
So listen to him. Listen to him and trust and believe. For Christ does indeed have the words of eternal life. Amen