listencTransfiguration 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 26, 2017
Psalm 2:6-12, Exodus 24:8-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

Sermons online:

There may be some danger talking about this at the beginning of a sermon, but often we have a problem with listening.  I’m sure that none of you have this issue, but I have heard that some folks have trouble sitting and paying attention for 15 minutes or so to listen to a sermon.  We are not always very good at listening.

I once had a training where one of things we were taught to do was to sit and listen to someone tell their story for ten uninterrupted minutes.  We were not allowed to say anything while the person was speaking; just listen and nod to let the person know you are hearing what they said.  It was incredibly difficult to stay quiet and just listen.  It was also incredibly powerful to have someone simply listen to what you have to say.

In this busy, busy society where we often live with a smart phone in our hand it is very hard to pay attention to someone.  I have watched children desperately try to get their parent’s attention but the parent is too involved on their phone to listen to their child.  There are likely times I could observe this by looking in the mirror.

We are in such a hurry in life that we have no patience for listening.  If someone is speaking too slowly we want to complete their sentences so we can get on with more important things.

I want you to try this when someone is talking to you.  Silence your phone, set it aside and listen to the other person without interrupting to make suggestions or to try to talk about something similar that happened to you.  I know this is very, very hard for me.  I need to try harder to listen.  I know that far too often when someone is talking to me I interrupt to add something or make a suggestion or try to offer a solution to their problem.  I need to try to do like mom used to say.  Just keep your big mouth shut.

Peter, James and John are up on the Mount of Transfiguration.  They are seeing the glory of God radiating from Jesus as his face shines like the sun and his clothes become white as light.  They are seeing the glory of God shining from Jesus.  This is overwhelming; what a sense of awe they must have standing there seeing this transfiguration.  Alleluia!  Praise the Lord.  And then to add to this magnificent Alleluia moment, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus.  The law and the prophets and Jesus all together in glory talking with each other.  How awesome; how overpowering, to be so close to the presence of God.  What a great time to just watch and listen and take it all in.  But Peter cannot do this.  Peter cannot be still and know that God is God.  Peter thinks he has something to add.  Peter just has to talk.  “Lord, it is good that we are here.”  Really?  Jesus is there with Moses and Elijah, but Peter thinks it is good that he is there with James and John because he can be helpful.  “If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Peter cannot just listen; he has to offer a suggestion.  It is hard for us to keep quiet and listen.

Peter cannot listen; he has to talk, but not for long.  Peter is interrupted.  God the Father speaks from a bright cloud, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”  This gathering on the mountain is such a bizarre scene.  Jesus, who always looks like a normal man, is shining brightly and talking with Moses and Elijah but this is not enough to keep Peter quiet.  Jesus shining is not enough to quiet Peter, but at the voice of God the Father Peter, James and John are driven to their faces in terror; speechless and petrified.  God is a God of consuming fire and His voice brings great fear.  But then Jesus takes all the light and glory and tucks it back away into His flesh and He comes to the three and touches them and tells them, “Don’t tell anyone.”

I fear that too often we don’t listen to God.  We’d rather take the almighty God and tell Him who He is.  We try to make him more manageable; less challenging, more compatible with our way of thinking and living.  We want a safe god, a meek god, a god we can control, a god we can take or leave depending on our mood.  We are so tempted to turn the true, fearsome, powerful God into a helper god, a god who is there to make life easier.

When we don’t listen it is hard to remember that God is truly an awesome being who created the universe with just His word.  God has fearsome power.  God is terrifying and dangerous.  We rightly fear God.

We like to think about God’s love.  And God is love, but God is also just.  And this justice is seen in the dark valley between the Alleluia moment on the Mount of Transfiguration and the Alleluia moment of Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus, Peter, James and John come down from the mountain and Jesus makes His way toward Jerusalem to the cross waiting there for Him; the cross where the punishment for the sins of the world will be paid.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem where that robe that glowed white with light on the mountain will be stained with blood and stripped off of Jesus and be torn up and divided amongst the soldiers that crucify him.  From the Mount of Transfiguration to Mount Calvary it seems that everything has gone terribly wrong.

            We are so tempted to listen to the world.  We need to listen to the Word; we need to listen to Jesus through the Word of God.

Jesus has tried to tell the disciples that He must go to the cross but they don’t want to listen.  The disciples do not want to hear about the cross.  They do not want to hear about suffering and death.  Before going up to the mountain Jesus told the disciples that He will be killed and rise again and Peter told Jesus, “Far be it from you, Lord!  This shall never happen to you.”  Peter wasn’t listening to Jesus.  Peter knew better.

The voice of God the Father speaks to Peter, James and John.  The voice of God speaks to you, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

In the great busyness of your life listening is a difficult spiritual practice.  In your hyperactive life it is challenging to be still and listen to God.  God speaks to you in His Word.  Listen to His Word.  Spend time with God’s word.  Hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God.  Jesus tells you that you are to take up your cross and follow Him.  But we don’t want to listen.

We are so tempted to listen to the world.  We need to listen to the Word; we need to listen to Jesus through the Word of God.

The world says that god should be all about you and your comfort and your success.  This is a very popular idea.  Preaching about how to be successful can really get people in the doors to listen to the wisdom of the world.  Jesus’ message is a not the message of the world.  Jesus’ message is strange in this world.  Jesus’ message is a message of humble service.  A message of turning the other cheek.  A message of loving your enemy.  A message of forgiving others.  A message of selflessness.  It is a message of sacrifice.  And Jesus doesn’t just teach these things, Jesus lives these things.  We see Jesus live out love and forgiveness and service and sacrifice; even to the point of giving His life.  It is not a message about how God just wants you to be happy.  Jesus message is not a message of personal fulfillment.  It is not a message of success.  Jesus message is a message of love and forgiveness and sacrifice.

Lent is a journey through a dark valley from the Alleluia of Transfiguration to the Alleluia of Easter.  Your life is also a similar journey.  You were on the mountain of alleluia as you came to the baptismal font to be washed into Christ and were clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness which covers all your sins.  In Christ you are now able to approach the fearsome Father through the mediation of his Son.  You were on the mountain of Alleluia as you were brought into the Kingdom of Heaven and you will be on the mountain of Alleluia again on the day of the resurrection when you will be raised from the dead and clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness and you, with all the saints, will march into the heavenly City of New Jerusalem.

The day is coming when the full Alleluia will be back, but in the meantime you live in the valley of the shadow of death.  You live in a world full of sin and suffering and sickness and violence and abuse and death and it seems at times that everything has gone so wrong.  You stand at the bedside of a sick or dying loved one and you wonder, why is God allowing this to happen.  Life is hard in this world.  Listen to Jesus.

Life is not all about the Alleluia’s but we know that the great Alleluia is coming again on the last day.  For now you live in the shadow of God’s glory, for now you do not see His glory fully.  For now you are in God’s presence where two or more are gathered in His name.  For now, at the altar of the Lord, you get a foretaste of the feast to come.  One day you will be seated at the heavenly feast with Jesus shining as the light of heaven.  And knowing the great day of Alleluia is coming, you listen to Jesus.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s