A close up of a statue

Listen to Him!

ESPERANZA LUTHERAN CHURCH https://myesperanza.org

Transfiguration A2023
Matthew 17:1-9

Six days after Jesus predicts his own crucifixion, death, and resurrection, Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. Jesus, dazzling and glorious, is transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah, prophets long dead, appear alongside Jesus and talk with him. Apparently excited, Peter offers to build three dwellings—one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, there on the mountaintop. While Peter is still speaking, a bright cloud overshadows them and a voice from the cloud, we assume the voice of God, says: This is my Son, the beloved. With him I am well pleased. Listen to him! God interrupts Peter to tell him to listen to Jesus. Stop talking, I hear God saying, and listen to Jesus.

Poor Peter. He is definitely known as the open mouth-insert foot disciple, and here, God interrupts him to tell him to be quiet. I don’t think Peter is saying anything particularly egregious. When enveloped in the glory of God, who wouldn’t want to live there permanently, set up shop, build some dwellings? Especially when Jesus had mentioned a few days prior that he would be killed? Constructing dwellings and hanging out on the mountaintop seem like an effective way to avoid all that suffering and death. Even though Jesus was clear that his suffering and death must happen, I don’t think God is upset with Peter.

Instead, note that, while in the Old Testament, God speaks to the prophets and patriarchs many times, in the New Testament, God speaks in only two stories: Jesus’ baptism and Jesus’ transfiguration. In both stories, God declares: This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. At Jesus’ transfiguration, God adds: Listen to him! Only twice does God speak to the people of God in the New Testament, and in both instances God confirms the identity of Jesus. At the transfiguration, God then commands Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus. What Jesus has to say, being the Son of God, God’s beloved, is worth listening to.

Shaped by our frenzied, frenetic culture, we are a frenzied, frenetic people who don’t take many opportunities to listen these days. Instead, we are busy, busy with work, busy with school, busy with errands and appointments, all of them well and good and necessary. We are also busy volunteering at church, busy helping our neighbors, busy going to events and traveling and enjoying ourselves. I am as busy as you. Busy working, volunteering, spending time with friends, learning and exercising and gardening and doing all the things I get to do in my life. More than our outward actions, we are also busy in our minds. We are taking in information the volume of which humans have never before seen on a daily basis. Sounds and words, pictures and lights, constant breaking news, constant sensory stimulation, mostly while interacting with technology.

In the frenzy of our daily lives, Jesus is worth listening to. Which requires us to stop. Talking. Stop. Doing. Before anything else, listening requires us to stop. Talking. And texting. And emailing. To stop. Doing. To just stop. Talking. To stop. Doing.

Here at Esperanza, we are people of action, doers, go-getters. We jump in with both feet. In meetings and studies and social events, many of us have lots to say. Me too. We rush to make our points or struggle to get a word in edgewise. I’ve noticed. Silence doesn’t come naturally to us. But silence is what is required for us to listen to Jesus. Not all the time, of course. There are times to speak and times to listen. But there are times to listen.

A friend of mine likes to incite me by sending me podcast episodes he knows will rile me up. He flags them for me, sending accompanying texts that note I will be challenged by the speaker. It makes me curious, these episodes, so I click on them and begin to listen. I listen to people say things that are absolutely ridiculous! And entirely against my values! And totally wrong! And as I am about to angrily press the stop button on my phone, I can hear, in my head, my friend chuckling. I can’t even listen to what they’re saying? How far gone am I? And I allow the speaker to continue, to listen the best I can. I’ve taken this on as a spiritual practice, listening to people with whom I disagree. Because sometimes, God speaks through these people. Seldom, I hope and pray, but maybe more often than I am comfortable with.

God commands us to listen to Jesus. Who speaks through scripture. In times of prayer. Through other people. In mystical ways that extend beyond our capacity to understand. It’s not always going to be comfortable to listen. Jesus has some things to say we aren’t going to like. I’m sure Peter, James, and John didn’t like to hear that Jesus would be crucified and die, and we might not like to hear what Jesus has to say to us now—if it conflicts with our own ideas or if he speaks through someone unexpected. But of all the things God could have said to God’s people in New Testament times, this is what God chose: This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!

This morning, I invite us to put our faith in motion by listening to Jesus, specifically by engaging in lectio divina, an ancient spiritual practice. I invite us to listen to Jesus now and in the next few months as we go through the interim process and you call a new pastor.

Sit down. For lectio divina, our eyes may be open or closed, whatever we prefer. There are 4 steps in lectio divina: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. During lectio, we will listen to a biblical passage. During meditatio, we will listen to the passage again and consider how God is speaking to us through the passage, not in study mode, but just considering silently what God is saying to us through the passage. During oratio, I will begin a spoken prayer and will then leave space for you to share your petitions related to your meditatio, either silently or aloud. When everyone seems done, I will conclude the prayer. During contemplatio, we will listen to the passage a final time and then just sit in God’s presence with no agenda.

A reading from I Kings: The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

We listen to the passage again and consider what God may be saying to us through it. Not in study mode, not considering its historical context or something similar, just what God is saying to us. If you’d like, you may share one word or phrase about what touched your heart. Just one word or phrase. No conversation.

Oratio (Response):
I will open in prayer and then offer space for anyone who feels led to share a petition aloud or silently. Let us pray…

We listen to the passage a final time and just sit in God’s presence.
Thank you for trying out lectio divina.

On a day when God challenges us to listen to Jesus, to listen to God, the good news is that God is speaking! Thanks be to God! Amen.