While [Jesus] was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud
them, and from the cloud a voice said,
"This is my Son,
the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
This coming Sunday of the Transfiguration ends the season of Sundays after Epiphany. In our
, we hear a voice from a cloud. You may recall that the first Sunday after the Epiphany we celebrated the Baptism of Our Lord, in which we also heard a voice in the Gospel reading. In that narrative, a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." [Matthew 3:17]
The season thus begins and ends with readings in which a voice declares a similar message: that Jesus is God's son. The difference is that the voice in this upcoming reading adds the words, "listen to him."
Listening requires discipline. Listening requires effort. Active listening is exhausting.
Stephen R. Covey, in his transformational and inspiring classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, writes, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
In my Pastoral Care and Counseling class in seminary, we were assigned listening partners. Each week we were required to spend an hour with that person, speaking for a half hour and listening for the other half. The purpose was to get us to calm our inclination to interrupt and intentionally listento the person. At first, it was difficult. But it became easier for me as time went on. One thing that helped was knowing that I would have my time to be heard.
It was a valuable lesson. To this day, in my conversations, I make every effort to apply those skills, taking care to remain silent, and try valiantly to resist even the urge to acknowledge the person with an occasional audible, "hmmm."
In the parish, as part of pre-marital counseling with couples, I would engage them in a practice called active listening, asking them to repeat what the other had said as part of their response. It was perhaps the most challenging session of our time together. However, several expressed later how much the exercise helped.
So how do we listen to Jesus, as the voice from heaven commanded the three disciples?
How is God calling us to listen this day, when God often seems silent to many of us?
ow do we shut out all the other noises, all the distractions, so we might hear and listen for God?
Let me suggest the following:
Set aside some time each day for silence, some quality time to
listen to God, to remind ourselves of our dependence on God. Gradually build up the amount of time in silence.
Another suggestion for listening to God is through Bible Study.
Next week, as we enter the season of Lent, would be a good time to pick up a devotional of some sort and discipline yourself to spend some time in God's word each day.
A third way of listening to God is by listening to each other. God
often speaks through people. I don't need to tell you how difficult that is in these days of political polarization, when outshouting the other masquerades as civil discourse. But scripture tells us to listen to the poor, to the immigrants, the oppressed, to outsiders; for by listening to their needs we may be listening to God speaking to us. Hopefully it will open us to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
When we listen, we often find that our lives or other lives are transformed, transfigured, changed. People are fed. People are forgiven. We are forgiven. Listening to Jesus changes lives. Listening to Jesus is life-affirming, life-giving.
The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1. Once again this year, we will celebrate an Ash Wednesday Eucharist with the imposition of ashes, at the Lutheran Center (Synod Offices), 1890 Bailey Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, beginning at noon. If you are in the area, or are looking for a place to worship, we invite you to join us.
We have published our annual Lenten prayer list for 2017, listing all rostered ministers and congregations. I encourage you to make prayer for pastors, deacons and congregations a part of your Lenten discipline. I will have more to say about that next week.
This coming Sunday I will be with the good people of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Hinckley, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pastor Scott Silcox's Ordination.
Let me take advantage of this opportunity to also mention that Pastor Silcox's daughter, Amanda, is one of the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission. She is spending a year serving the people of God in Cambodia. Please keep Amanda in your prayers and keep up with Amanda's ventures by reading her blog,
Ohio Girl Goes Global
, or her newsletter,
Letters from Cambodia
. You can read either publication by clicking on the title.
May your heart be open to listen to the voice of God this week, and may you hear the word of life, which is the gospel.
+Bishop Abraham Allende