Are You Listening
February 18, 2007 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 9:28–9:36
Transfiguration of Our Lord
"Are You Listening?"
Many people are familiar with the scene of the child standing in front of dad, just bursting to tell him what happened in school that day. Unfortunately, dad has the newspaper in front of his face and even when he drops the paper down half-way, it is visibly apparent that he is not really listening. A student solved the problem of getting dad to listen from behind his protective paper wall. Her solution was to say, "Move your face, dad, when I'm talking to you." Dad had to move his face out from behind his newspaper in order to do some effective listening. The old phrase is that we were given two ears but only one mouth because God knew that listening was twice as hard as talking. Active listening intentionally focuses on who you are listening to, whether in a group or one-on-one, in order to understand what he or she is saying. To listen - really listen, actively listen - requires work on our part. Are you listening? That is God's call to us today on the mountain top with Peter, James, and John as the Lord Jesus is transfigured before us. The Father's voice speaks to us: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him" (Luke 9:35). May the Lord's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing - the listening, and the living of his Word, for Jesus' sake.
If listening is work - and it is, there are lots of things that get in the way of our listening. For example, right now as I stand before you preaching this sermon, your mind may be drifting to other things: your "to do" list at home, what you're going to have for lunch, what the person next to you is wearing. These are distractions and they get in the way of listening. They may be internal distractions like what I just mentioned, or they may be external distractions like the room is too warm and it's hard to focus. Sometimes it's easier to blame the presenter than take personal responsibility for why we're not engaged in active listening. Here in God's house, the One we're called to listen to isn't me, but the Lord himself speaking through his Word, which you have called me to preach and teach. My calling here is to present that Word of the Lord in such a way that I don't get in the way of the message because when all is said and done, it's about the message, not the messenger. Jesus stands with two of his messengers of old on that mountain top in today's Gospel: Moses and Elijah. These two towering figures of the Old Testament represent the Law - given by God and received through Moses on a mountain top, Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20), and the Prophets - Elijah and others like him, through whom the Lord spoke to his people. God spoke to his people through Elijah on yet another mountain, Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), when He powerfully demonstrated that He alone is God. Did the people listen to Moses and Elijah? Sure, for a while, but then they, like we, became distracted. The communication between God and his people became filled with lots of static and noise, not on God's part but ours. The relationship between God and his people was fractured by sin, preventing us from listening to our Maker and Redeemer. We all know what happens when listening and communication break down on a human level: there is misinformation, misunderstanding and miscommunication. Feelings get hurt and people get upset. We miss what the message is really all about. We may need a communications specialist to help us listen and understand.
God sent a communications specialist into our world because of our problem in listening and understanding what He is saying to us. The Scriptures tell us: "In many and various ways, God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2a). Jesus is that divine communications specialist. He is God's own Son who came into the world not to undo what Moses and Elijah had done, but to fulfill it. This is what Moses and Elijah were doing with Jesus there on the mountain top. They "were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). The word "departure" here literally means exodus, that is, a going out. If there is an exodus, there must also be an entrance. The Transfiguration of Our Lord serves as a bridge between Jesus' entrance and his exit, his exodus. His entrance is what we celebrate at Christmas, how "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). His exodus is what we are moving toward this week with Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This 40-day period culminates in Jesus' passover from death to life - his exodus, for "through him [he reconciled] to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:19). In Jesus, God has clearly communicated his love, forgiveness, and mercy for all people. Are you listening? Are we listening?
I give thanks to God that so many people in India are listening to Jesus, just as the Father instructed us to do. In many ways, they are listening in ways that we are not. There is new-found joy in the gift of salvation found only in Jesus, something that seems old-hat to us. I will be sharing with you next Sunday night about my trip to India and the work of Mission India, so plan to be present on February 25 for a potluck dinner beginning at 5:00 PM. Listening is not always easy, but we're not left by ourselves here. God has sent his Spirit to help us listen and understand. That Spirit is first given to us in holy Baptism, and that same Spirit comes to us in the reading, study, preaching, and teaching of God's Word, and in the Lord's Supper. All of these gifts enable us to listen to Jesus, and in our listening we are being transformed, as Paul tells us: "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).
Active listening moves us from listening into action. We take what we have heard and begin to implement it in our living. May our transfigured Lord Jesus Christ help us not only to listen to what He is saying, but to live it. Amen.