Summary: A sermon focussing on listening to Jesus for purpose and direction and vision in our lives individually and collectively.
Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday Yr C, 22/02/2004
Based on Lk 9:28-36
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson,
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Listen To Jesus”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House, frequently complained, we’re told, that no one really paid any attention to what he said.
One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who came down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir."
It was not until the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Not quite knowing what to say, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, "I’m sure she had it coming."
Listening is such an integral part of the communication process you’d think that we’d get it. Apparently we don’t.
We don’t do it very well. The auditory apparatus is not at fault. We hear the sounds others make. Yet we often refuse to grant them meaning, or we ignore the meaning we receive. Parents, children, spouses, co-workers, employers, even preachers--all complain that no one listens to them. What’s going on?
Some specialists urge that we try to "listen between the lines," i.e. that we attempt to hear the sub-text, the intention behind the actual oral communication. This requires enormous discipline and if we’re not accustomed to active listening, or "deep listening" as some experts call it, we’re going to fail.
Good listeners, say those who study listening, respect others and value their opinions. They try to stay inquisitive about each other, remembering that we can usually learn from others, even if we don’t agree with what they are saying. Good listeners take it slow and easy; they don’t jump to conclusions or race ahead in the conversation. They stay in the moment and prepare to respond thoughtfully.
Conversation is vital in the human community. That’s why books have been written on the art of listening, why Oprah has experts on listening on her show, and why college classes in conflict resolution include sections on listening. It is the best way we stay linked to each other and how we learn about others as well as ourselves. Of course, it can get sloppy and chaotic at times. Conversation doesn’t just happen in nice, concentric, and logical circles of understanding. There’s often a lot of sorting out to do.
It is so amazing that when God takes a moment to legitimize the ministry of Jesus, of all the things God could’ve said, he mentions listening. "This is Jesus, my Son, Listen up!"
So what does deep listening to Jesus mean? What’s it all about? 1
In today’s gospel, Luke tells us that, "Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray." There were times in our Lord’s life-journey when he needed to retreat, to rest, to listen, to pray, to be filled again with new strength from God so he could continue his work and ministry. Prayer and listening for Jesus--and all the more for us!--is the indispensable means, which prevents light from growing dull or dying. If we are going to let the brightness of Christ’s light shine in and through our lives, then we, like Jesus, need to pray and listen. Prayer and listening or Listening Prayer involves, on our part, daily discipline and concentrated effort.