The Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, year A, 2014 (preached March 2, 2014)
First reading: Exodus 24:12-18
Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-9
Today is the last Sunday before we begin Lent – just a few days before we receive ashes and remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
In the Lutheran tradition we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration – a glorious event to hold in contrast with the somber events directly ahead of us. Today we are given an image VERY far removed from ash. When we think of ashes, we think of gray or black – but today we are presented with “dazzling white.”
The definition of “transfigure” is: to transform into something more beautiful or elevated. I’ve thought about that a lot this week. In my husband’s congregation an elderly woman who has been dear to us entered inpatient hospice care on Monday. She never married and has no children, so she named me Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, so I’ve been spending A LOT of time with her.
During this time she has been sleeping mostly, with brief moments of lucidity. As I’ve been signing all kinds of forms, speaking with doctors and nurses and social workers, doing her banking, sorting through her things, I’ve had this image in my mind – to transform into something more beautiful or elevated.
And I’ve been struck by two things – that the disciples were told to both “listen” and keep quiet. Well, actually Jesus told them to “tell no one,” but keep quiet is a pretty good summation.
In our culture we spend a lot of time running around and DOING things. We’re busy people. We fill all our moments up so quickly and time races by.
This week I’ve been struck by the contrast between the running around I’ve had to do for my friend, and the absolute stillness of her, and me sitting with her.
This is what Jesus calls us to do I think. This is part of the meaning of the Transfiguration.
Sure, it’s all about the lofty theological things too: showing Jesus’ glory, connecting him with the Old Testament prophets, the continuity of faith, foreshadowing the crucifixion – but it’s also about THE VOICE telling us to “listen” and keep quiet. To STOP what we’re doing and PAY ATTENTION to God and to what’s going on around us.
Because even in the Church we can get so busy that we forget to sit and listen for God – to keep quiet and let God speak, or let the silence speak for itself.
Peter, being Peter, thought the moment required a building project, yet another way to keep busy – but he was literally CUT OFF by THE VOICE telling him to LISTEN.
God wants to transfigure the meaning of “listening” in our lives, from something that WASTES our time, to something that makes our time more BEAUTIFUL.
It’s hard to listen, really listen. Oftentimes when we “think” we’re listening we’re just being quiet and formulating what we want to say next. The other person is talking but we’ve already moved on to our next point. Sure, we may HEAR them, but hearing and listening are two different things.
“Hearing” is sound, “listening” requires work. We may hear a siren go by. Listening means we wonder where that siren is going and say a prayer.
We may hear a wave crashing at the beach. Listening means being filled with wonder at the immensity of God’s creation.
Hearing is the sound coming out of our mouths when we sing a hymn. Listening is paying attention to those words and letting their meaning fill our heart.
Hearing is the annoying sound the water bubbles make in the oxygen port coming out of the wall that is helping someone breathe. Listening is realizing that those bubbles also sound like the water of a stream gently rolling by.
If the coming season of Lent is a time to reflect on our faith, this this day of Transfiguration is a good time to reflect on how we LISTEN in our faith.
How do you listen for God in your life? How do you listen to those around you? How do you listen to LIFE?
That last statement’s a bit strange I know, but it’s a part of faith too. How many of us are SO busy that life just flies by? So many times we get so wrapped up in stuff that we miss the moments that are precious and all too fleeting.
As Christ was transfigured, his love also transfigures us. His love makes us more beautiful than we could ever hope to be on our own. His love transfigures us from folks that have to keep doing, keep performing, keep proving ourselves, to people who are loved JUST FOR BEING.
That’s right. We have nothing to prove to God. There is nothing we CAN prove to God. In fact, Jesus went to the cross precisely because there is nothing WE can DO.
I’m no fool. I know we have things in our lives that just have to get done. But God’s interaction with Peter teaches us a great lesson. He wanted to get busy and God told him to stop and listen.
We get so little time to listen. We MAKE so little time to listen. Yet God tells us listening is SO important in our lives and in our faith. Peter wasn’t listening and needed God to shush him.
So as we approach the ashes of Wednesday, I hope each of us can think of some ways that we can create a little more “listening” time in our lives. It may seem like just one more thing on our “to do” list, but the benefits of making that time are SO great.
Listen, so that you can hear the Lord speak guidance, wisdom, love and forgiveness into your life. Listen, so that you may recognize the Lord in your midst.