Sermon for February 14th

Old Testament Reading 2 Kings 2:1-12

Epistle Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Gospel Reading: Mark 9:2-9

Sermon: “Listen To Him”

Ok folks, I’m about to date myself and most of you right along with me. Back in the seventies, before all the financial scandals torn it apart, there was a stock brokerage firm called E.F. Hutton. They ran a famous series of ads where a couple of folks would be out in public talking about the stock market. About midway through the 30 second spots one would ask the other what they thought about the topic. The other would answer, “well, my broker is E.F. Hutton and E.F. Hutton says…the room would suddenly become absolutely quiet and everybody around leans in, cups their ear and strains to hear. The announcer then voices over the picture saying “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

All sorts of things draw our attention but very few things as raptly as depicted in those old commercials from a soon to be disgraced financial firm. Today’s reading from Mark describes a time when the disciples attention was indeed absolutely riveted on Jesus as they had that wondrously luminous encounter on the mountain, where Jesus is seen in the company of both Moses and Elijah, then the voice from heaven once again names Jesus as the beloved Son of God and urges them to listen to him! I don’t know about you but that is something I would remember always.

You might have noticed that we have suddenly skipped ahead quite a ways in our readings from the Gospel of Mark. The last several weeks we have concentrated on passages from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – at his Baptism – where we first hear the voice of God testifying about his Son: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus ministry continues with the calling of the disciples and the first deeds of power – healing and cast out of unclean spirits. But now we have skipped ahead to the center of Mark’s short gospel to dwell this week on a key turning point. In the Church year, we too are at a turning point – halfway between Christmas and Easter. Ash Wednesday this week begins the Season of Lent and so in the peculiar rhythm of the calendar we turn from beginnings to fulfillments.

And so the Transfiguration serves as the pivot point in Mark’s gospel. A final wondrous revealing of who Jesus is in his fullness, before the story turns to rejection, Jerusalem and the cross. The passage this morning begins abruptly in the middle of things. It comes just after Peter’s confession concerning Jesus as Messiah and Jesus first warnings about his death and resurrection. It is now almost a week later and Jesus has taken just his three closest disciples with him up a mountain. Once there, in his typical blunt and brief manner, Mark says that Jesus was transfigured before their eyes – that is his appearance was changed – Suddenly, the glory of God – shone out from Jesus. In that moment – they saw him as he would be in glory with his Heavenly Father after his resurrection and ascension. No wonder, as Mark says, those three men were terribly frightened.

Not only was Jesus appearance changed but so was their company – two others were suddenly there too. Moses and Elijah – two of the most significant figures out of Israel’s history. Moses the law giver, the one who God used to free Israel from slavery in Egypt and to form them into a nation – a people uniquely chosen by God. Elijah – one of the greatest of the Prophets, whose strange departure from this earth we read about this morning. Elijah it was who called Israel back to God after they had gone after serving Baal. At Elijah’s prayer, rain was withheld for three years and fire was called down from heaven on Mt Carmel and even life was returned to a widow’s dead son.

As if that weren’t enough, God the Father’s presence is indicated by a cloud as it had been in the wilderness and God’s voice rings out at second time in this gospel saying: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” Now I suppose that when God the Father Speaks (even more than EF Hutton) we should listen really carefully. It must have been quite a moment for those disciples, witnessing the glory and the voice of God – as the Psalmist says in Psalm 50:1-3 NRSV “The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. [2] Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. [3] Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.”

And what God says is to listen to Jesus, God’s Son.

What God said to those first disciples, God says to us as well – listen to Jesus! So dear brothers and sisters in Christ – Are we listening? Igor Stravinsky said, “To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also.” If this is true of music, how much more does it bear on Jesus’ commands? It is one thing to admire the Messiah, to be amazed at the Son of God – revealed for a moment in heavenly splendor; but to deeply listen and then obey is something else. Let me take you on a whirl wind tour of just a few of the challenging things Jesus said. We need to listening to Jesus everyday of our lives, not just a few quiet minutes on a mountain top or in a quiet sanctuary once in a while.

“Follow me” he told those first disciples at the lakeshore and I will make you fish for people.

“Pay attention to what you hear” he told the disciples as he was teaching with Parables that made them think and wonder what he really meant.

Jesus commanded obedience to the will of God saying “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

“Do not be afraid, only believe” Jesus told the leader of a Synagogue after he heard that his little daughter had died before Jesus could come.

“You give them something to eat” Jesus told his disciples when they faced a crowd of thousands of Hungry souls out in the countryside who had listened to Jesus teach all day.

“You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

“Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me”, he told Peter and the rest after they protested when he told them that he must go to Jerusalem and Die.

“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” said Jesus when they argued over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all”.

“When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

That’s only a few of the many gracious and challenging things that Jesus speaks so that we might listen and obey. Anyone who thinks Christian faith is a retreat from reality is clueless.

Transfiguration Sunday is placed in the Christian year at the conclusion of the Sundays after Epiphany where we read of the revealing of the Christ to the world. What will you do with Jesus’ epiphanies now that you are going into Lent? What will you do with God’s revelations once you realize where they lead? We must admit that a transfigured Savior demands a transfigured believer. No, check that, not just changed in appearance, but transformed – changed in essential substance and character and not for a moment but enduringly – more and more over a lifetime. Listening to Jesus is something we do all our lives.

Paul writes about this transformed life through the power of the Word of God – perfectly expressed in the person of Jesus. The passage we read this morning from 2nd Corinthians speaks of the light of Christ shining not only on us, but from within us as well. Listen to it again (2 Corinthians 4:3-7 NLT)

We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” The passage continues after our reading to say: “ We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

Our clue for interpreting this text is found in the preceding verses. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul speaks about how — through the Spirit of the Lord — all of us, with “unveiled faces,” can “behold” and “reflect” the glory of the Lord as in a mirror. As this happens, we are “transformed” into that image, from one degree of glory to another.

The divine mercy we experience through this reflected glory gives us courage and strength to live out God’s will as we seek to follow his Son – listening to his instruction and encouragement. We can forgive others as we have been forgiven. And we can boldly show the truth of who (and who’s) we are — through the gospel that shines through us — to everyone we encounter, wherever we might be.

God still speaks… in the world and through scripture

God still calls us his children and claims us as his own.

God still sends us out, down off the mountain to live out what we know.