Summary: A short talk encouraging people to listen to Jesus - to ditch our daydreaming, to deal with any disinterest, and to discontinue any disobedience.
I remember it well. It was a maths lesson. I’d been chatting to my friends on either side of me, and I’d also had a good hard stare out of the classroom window. I wasn’t being badly disruptive but with hindsight I was certainly flitting between daydreaming, disinterest and disobedience. It was at that moment that it hit me – or rather it very nearly hit me! At the precise moment that my head turned to face the teacher I saw the blackboard rubber leave his hand like a cricket ball heading in my direction – fast! I didn’t have time to duck but thankfully the rubber whistled past my ear and left a very obvious chalk mark on the wall. My maths teacher was very red in the face as he yelled at the top of his voice, “Warner Pidgeon, will you please pay attention!” Just in case you’re interested the chalk mark on the wall was still there a few months later, acting as a reminder to me!
God doesn’t throw black board rubbers at us.
But there is a very real sense in which God is speaking to us – speaking to me – and saying, “Warner Pidgeon, will you please pay attention.” Members of St. Andrew’s Wickford, will you please pay attention – this is your Captain speaking.” The good news is that Jesus is the captain, not the Vicar or the Rector, but I do believe he is saying to us this morning, “Will you please pay attention.”
Jesus has just been teaching ‘his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things’ (16:21). As part of that discipleship talk Jesus said these famous words, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (16:25); and now Jesus has taken just his closest disciples – Peter, James and John - by themselves up a mountain (17:1). While they are there the face and the clothes of Jesus begin to shine like the sun (17:2) and then quite suddenly Moses and Elijah appear – and they talk with Jesus (17:3).
Wouldn’t you just love to know what they talked about? “How’s it going Jesus?” “Well, the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees is rising. I’m on my way to Jerusalem where I’m sure I’m going to be killed, and my main man Peter, the rock (my Church Warden), only last week I had to rebuke him. However, I think Peter, James and John especially are starting to get it. I’m investing my time in teaching them the truth”; was that their conversation? I don’t know; but I do know that Peter was enjoying this get-together so much that he wanted to build three shelters, one for Jesus, one for Elijah and one for Moses (17:4), probably in order to prolong the moment. There were occasions on my wedding day, and occasions playing with my children, and have been occasions during worship when I have thought, “I wish this moment could go on forever.” Sometimes we feel that way about Church, about the way we like things to be. I wish it could stay like this. Why can’t it stay like this? But Jesus had to face the cross. Change was coming.
I realise that you are facing change here in Wickford and I know what a distressing time it has been following Philip’s untimely death. Perhaps there have been moments when you’ve wished time could stop so that things can stay just as they are.
While Jesus was still speaking a voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him” (17:5); sounding very much like the same voice that spoke on the day of Jesus’ baptism (3:17). The difference is that on this occasion the voice from heaven adds these words: “Listen to him!” Pay attention! I’m suddenly transported back to my maths class but at the same time I hear God saying to me, “Warner, pay attention. Ditch your daydreaming. Deal with your disinterest, and discontinue your disobedience. Pay attention to Jesus!” But just how do we do that? There is a danger that all sermons can end up fitting into one of three categories: pray more, do more, give more!
That’s not what I’m saying this morning, but I do believe this Bible event comes hurtling towards us like my teacher’s blackboard rubber, leaving a mark somewhere to remind us. God says simply and yet powerfully to those who wish to follow Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Can I encourage you to take Jesus at his word, to believe and trust his word, and to be obedient to his word? Can I encourage all of you to listen to Jesus?
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit - Amen!