Readings for the day (Transfiguration Sunday, February 11, 2018):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Yesterday, we were at a mall and the kids were playing in one of those indoor playgrounds. And I couldn’t help but notice a grandmother playing with her grandkids. From 15 feet away, the mother of the kids was trying to get her mom’s attention and was struggling to do just that. She said her name a handful of times; progressively getting louder each time she said her name. Finally the grandmother heard her daughter and they were able to have a conversation about where they were going for lunch.
When the grandmother finally acknowledged her daughter, was it because she finally heard her? Or was it because she finally listened to her daughter? There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is just a subconscious thing that we do. We hear sounds. We hear noises. But just because we hear a sound doesn’t mean that we know exactly what it is that we are hearing. Listening is different. Listening takes effort. Listening takes a conscious effort to not only hear, but to hear and concentration on what was heard so that our brains can process the meaning of what we just heard.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. The last Sunday in the season after Epiphany and the final Sunday before the beginning of Lent. The transfiguration is a turning point. From Christmas through the season after Epiphany, our focus has been on who Jesus is (the Messiah, God’s chosen One) and what He is capable of (healing people and casting out demons). Now as we go through the season of Lent, our focus turns to what Jesus has come to do; specifically heading to the cross for the final sacrifice to fulfill the law and the prophets.
In Mark’s Gospel, we hear three times that Jesus is the “Son of God.” First, at the beginning of the Gospel account, when Jesus comes out of the water after being baptized by John in the Jordan River, from heaven God proclaims to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” A second time we hear someone proclaim Jesus as the “Son of God” is at the end of Mark’s Gospel, at the foot of the cross, where a Roman centurion, seeing Jesus breathe His last, says, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” And third, in the reading for today, as Jesus is on the mountaintop with His disciples, Peter, James, and John, a cloud overshadows them and from that same cloud, the voice of God says, “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!”
This is my Son, listen to Him. Listen to Him. Notice God doesn’t say hear Him. We aren’t supposed to just hear Jesus speaking and teaching; we are supposed to listen to Him. But many of us struggle with listening, at least right away. Why? Take that grandmother in the mall, for example. The reason why she didn’t hear her daughter calling her name was because she wasn’t listening to her. And she wasn’t listening to her because her grandkids were distracting her. Her focus was on her grandkids, not listening for her daughter.
We all get distracted. And I think that the level of distraction is getting worse. With the overwhelming use of smartphones today, our ability to remain idle for any lengthen of time in order to listen seems almost obsolete. People can’t even go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, or drive their car or ride a bicycle without grabbing their phone and doing something on it. These little devices have done some wonderful things for business, for socializing, for staying connected with friends across the world. But these little devices have created a monster. They have made us more into multi-taskers, causing us to be more distracted the more we use them. And more importantly, we have become less comfortable with silence and idle time. We don’t like sitting around and not doing anything. And when you do find yourself in a situation where you aren’t doing anything, how long do you spend in that idle time before reaching for your phone?
And yet, it is only during those idle times, those quiet times, those times when we aren’t doing anything else, that we have the opportunity to hear God. These are precisely the times when God does speak to us. If only we weren’t so distracted, maybe we would not only hear Him, we might actually listen to Him too! And that is what we are called to do, to listen to Jesus. So when Jesus says, “Follow me,” we follow Him, not following after our own desires. When Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, only believe,” we put our faith and trust in Him, and Him alone. When Jesus says, “Deny [yourself] and take up [your cross] and follow me,” we put aside all of those things that hinder and distract us from having a close, healthy relationship with our creator.
As we begin the season of Lent this week, take some time and think about your relationship with God and what it is that you would like to focus on over the next 40 days. Maybe it is removing something from your diet that is unhealthy or removing something from your routine that is a distraction. Maybe it is adding something to your life that will draw you closer to God or making time to simply be with God more. To have some idle time to listen for God and listen to God.
When we are distracted by things around us, we aren’t able to hear and listen clearly to what people are trying to tell us. The same is true in our relationship with God. When we are distracted by many things, it becomes easy for us to push our relationship with God to the side and allow work, school, sports, extra-curriculars, and smartphones, get in the way. Rather, when God tells Peter, James, and John that the man standing in their midst is the Son of the Living God and that they should listen to Him, they really should heed that advice and listen to Him. For Jesus is trying to tell all of his disciples, then and now, that the Son of God has come to make all things new. We follow Him because the only way to our salvation and eternal life is through the Son of God. We walk by faith and are not afraid because God has always kept His promises and the Son of God has promised that He will come again to shine so brilliantly bright as He did on the mountain when He was transfigured, that His light will be brighter than the sun and push the darkness of this world completely away. Once and for all. So that one day we will no longer need to walk by faith or follow Him because then we will be with our Savior face to face. And then there truly will be no distractions. Until that day, how willing are you to listen to God? Or are you too distracted to listen to Him? Amen.
© 2018 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.
 Mark 1:11, NRSV
 Mark 15:39, NRSV
 Mark 9:7, NRSV