(Exodus 34:29-35 not printed here)
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a] 28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. [ 37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43aAnd all were astounded at the greatness of God.]
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Yesterday, while taking a short break from preparing for Lent and finishing up my preparations for preaching today, I decided to browse my Facebook timeline and noticed my husband’s aunt checking in after her stint in the hospital. Not having known she’d been in the hospital, I read with interest of a common surgery with an unexpected complication that could easily have resulted in death. When I commented with blessings for her healing, she responded that she is learning just how precious life is.
It made me wonder about the general lack of appreciation for the preciousness of life in this world.
Think of it. How many people are raised to find whatever way they can to put themselves on top? People are encouraged to obtain as much money as possible, and to spend it on the most admirable signs of wealth and leisure. Last week we heard testimony of a man who claims a misplaced loyalty that led him to use money in ways that put certain people down in order to raise others up. The most difficult part of that testimony for me is how unsurprising testimony like that is, not just to me, but to the general public. Even if you believe it’s all lies, it’s what people expect. People expect the worst.
We want to believe that people are good, at least generally. We want to believe that when people are not so good, that it’s an aberration, due to special circumstances. I still hope that’s true, at least for the majority. What would happen if everyone decided that behaving badly was okay? What would living in this world be like if no one had concern for any other than the self and (maybe) their closest companions?
Today’s gospel story tells us that Jesus took three of the disciples up onto the mountain, and while there, the appearance of Jesus’ face changed while he was praying, and that Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with him. At the conclusion of that event, a cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
What does it mean to listen to Jesus?
We also heard this morning the story of Moses’ face shining as he came down from the mountain carrying the tablets of the covenant after speaking with God. We may recall that the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, were carved into those stone tablets. Does the story of Moses’ shining face parallel in any what the change of Jesus’ face while praying on that mountain before speaking with Moses and Elijah there? Does listening to Jesus have anything to do with the covenant and those commandments carried by Moses those long centuries previous to this event?
There’s a depiction of Jesus publicized on Facebook that I ran across some time ago, and I think it says it well. I’d remembered it as speaking of love and law, whereas it actually speaks of love and scripture, but, since many people equate scripture with law, maybe I can be forgiven for misremembering! Here’s the frame: (projection at worship). Here we have Jesus speaking to a bunch of people with Bibles in their hands saying, “The difference between me and you is you use scripture to determine what love means and I use love to determine what scripture means.” People, though, often have a poor record in being able to interpret love…
The depiction is by David Hayward and published at a site titled “nakedpastor.com.”
If we listen to Jesus, does it change how we view Scripture? Does it change how we see the law?
Jesus specifically changed the interpretation of Sabbath, chastising people for their strict rules. On the other hand, he elsewhere chastised people for being too permissive with themselves, trying to define things like adultery so that it applied only to the behavior of their neighbors, and not to their own thoughts and desires. He spoke of the commandment on murder, saying that we fail to keep this commandment if we are merely angry others, or call them fools.
So what is it? Are we too strict or too lenient? YES!
Simply, we are generally too strict when we use the law to condemn others, and we are too lenient when we use the law to excuse ourselves and those we seek to placate.
Maybe our error is in equating “listening to Jesus” with the “law,” and neglecting all those things of Jesus that do not easily translate into “what we must do.”
What does it mean to listen to Jesus?
Jesus said so much in so many different ways, sometimes even without words. He did not tell us to hate one another, to kill each other, but rather to love our neighbors (and our enemies!). Moses ordered the murder of brothers in the midst of the covenant story from Exodus, and I don’t get that… Sometimes Jesus refused to intervene. Sometimes Jesus issued commands. Sometimes Jesus said very little.
When Jesus and the disciples come down from the mountain, they are met by a crowd, and a man suffering with his son because the (other) disciples were not able to help them. Jesus responds with what feels to me like exasperation, accusing the people of faithlessness and perversity, followed by a healing that demonstrates the greatness of God.
What is Jesus saying here? Is this where we are to listen? Are we to be about doing the works of God, healing, loving, and even consoling when loss still ravishes the soul?
Yes, our faith remains less than perfect. Sin and our human desires still pervert even the good intentions inspiring us to attempt doing good. Yet, in our faithlessness and perversity we strive yet to listen to Jesus. We trust in his guidance. If we should consume some mind-altering substance we find someone sober to drive. When we are beyond our depth in anything we seek assistance. When we live as part of a community we rely on one another trusting wisely and acting in ways that are life-enhancing for the entire community, not just ourselves. In this way we listen to Jesus. Amen