a Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany C
Text: Luke 9:28-36
There was GOD. And GOD found a man who was special. A man who would make the world new. So GOD invited the man to go on a journey. The man did. This man was named Abram and would be the source a new humanity. Though he didn’t know that yet.
Abram, his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot traveled to Canaan.
Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:6-7)
Abram’s response to this moment is natural.
This place is special: GOD is giving it to me.
This moment is special: GOD is speaking to me.
I will mark it and keep it.
He builds a marker. Then he leaves.
In today’s gospel, we have one of the most important moments in Scripture. We call it the Transfiguration. Perhaps most important is that GOD the Father speaks. Not a common occurance in the gospels. And it occurs in the three Synoptic gospels: Mark, Matthew, and Luke. In each, Jesus takes three disciples with him up a mountain, there is a blinding light, they see Moses and Elijah, and Peter, overwhelmed by the moment, wants to build something. He wants to mark this site as holy, that they might stay and worship.
But GOD has other plans.
You want us to listen?
When dealing with the Transfiguration, I am always struck by how Jesus doesn’t want a big response for this big moment. Here they are, having a literal mountain top experience and GOD shuts it down. If this moment isn’t the time to worship, then when is?
One difference between what Abram did and what Peter wants to do is that Abram marked the spot and moved on. Humans are responsible for naming things, after all. But Peter is looking to stay. He wants to stick around on the mountain top. GOD says listen. To do that, Peter has to stop talking.
We don’t have much patience for listening. Not real listening, any way. We want it packaged, easy. Prepared for us, wrapped in wax paper so we can ingest it while we drive through. We like our listening like our fast food.
Mostly it is that we don’t like silence. Silence is uncomfortable. It is inefficient. Our culture pushes and demands multitasking (what an evil word) and timeliness.
To us, listening is so passive. We want to do. We have much to fix. We have to move! we think. But GOD speaks and says “listen to him.”
Taking the time
GOD shows up in the old way—in a cloud. The booming voice, the statement about Jesus reminds us of the Baptism. In that story, the Holy Spirit comes down “in bodily form like a dove.” (Luke 3:22) An experience of the divine so new, so different, it marks the path Jesus will follow. This moment with the divine is markedly different. It is of the past, with figures from the past. And GOD tells the three witnesses that Jesus was chosen; “listen to him.”
In this backward-looking moment, we are moved to listen. Not replicate. Not pause for three seconds and then keep moving. Listen. To hear from the chosen one, the one who was with GOD in the past, present, and future.
It is also not a place in which we stay. Always listening, worshiping, or doing. But it is important to do. To set aside the time.
GOD says to listen. Let’s take time now to listen. All of us. To do that, I’ll need to shut up. Let us be quiet. Let us sit and listen.