Summary: The Rev. Rian Adams. This sermon on the transfiguration encourages people to actively listen to God.
The Art of Listening
The Rev. Rian Adams
Peter is my favorite disciple. Not because he was perfect; God knows he was far from it. He spoke first and listened to others last. In the Gospels, he is as an overconfident loud-mouth, and he cannot contain himself, his ego needs an audience for his unsolicited opinions.
My grandmother said Peter suffered from foot-in-mouth syndrome. He wasn't perfect, and that's why I like Peter. He's real; he's authentic. Not only did he fail repeatedly, but he did it with such a splendid style I'm genuinely impressed.
Like it or not, few people hold credibility who haven’t suffered embracement and failure. Peter is a man we can trust with our struggles because we know his. We walk with him as he walks with Jesus. We watch him rebuke Jesus and even deny that he knows him.
But the fertile soil of the Gospel prepares Peter’s heart for spiritual growth. That growth occurred from listening. Sermon: “The Art of Listening.”
Peter wasn’t good at listening. His motto was “Talk first ask questions later” does not work!
And this Gospel reading shows Peter, yet again, on the wrong side of his eagerness to speak. The story says Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain to pray.
I think that’s symbolic of the journey of listening. It takes work; we have to climb and grow. If you’ve ever climbed a mountain trail, you know it’s rough work.
No wonder their eyelids were heavy, and they surrendered to sleep. While they slept, the Gospel writer says something wonderful occurred. It was a defining moment; a moment where God, grandly and mystically, appeared.
Think about that, God took them by surprise. Are we prepared for God to take us by surprise when we least expect it? Peter thought he had Jesus figured out, but he was wrong.
I figured God out. It’s easy when you’re fresh out of seminary.
Peter was a new priest, and he was ready to open his mouth and show the world his new insight.
He saw Jesus shining in glory and talking to Moses and Elijah. So he did the only thing he knew to do, he opened his mouth.
“Lord, this life-changing moment needs a physical memorial, a statue, a nameplate… Let’s put up three tents, one to you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Peter didn't listen, he spoke! I expect God to speak if we will listen.
But the art of listening doesn’t end there… it trickles over into Peter’s spiritual attitude to Jesus.
Move: His mouth is open, and his eyes are the wrong direction.
Tents… he missed the spiritual weight of that moment. You can’t listen if we focus your eyes on something else.
It’s easy to miss a miracle when we’re still to figure God out.
I’ll confess, I got lost looking in the wrong direction last week. I wanted to understand the transfiguration in the larger narrative of the bible; I was Peter and didn’t realize it.
So I did what we train clergy and ministers to do, I read scholars on the Gospel of Luke and get my questions answered.
I reached a conclusion… Peter and I are in good company because the scholars didn’t seem to know either.
Some say it served as proof that Jesus was God incarnate. Others say the writer of Luke made a point that Jesus superseded Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the prophets). So Jesus was a fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies.
Both are correct. But the transfiguration still evades a perfect interpretation. It's probably a call to spirituality instead of a proper understanding of the event.
Regardless, I understand why Peter wanted to put up tents. His heart is in the right place. It is important to remember our history. Marking our experiences of the divine is important.
He talks too much, his eyes are on the literal instead of the spiritual… but he goes a third step.
Move: He wanted something he could touch. He tried to use his hands instead of his ears.
Peter did not want to remember, he wanted to enshrine so he could return. We get lost using our hands for God instead of our using our ears to hear God.
Mediocrity offers the temptation to live in the afterglow of a sacred shrine. It provides a sense of stability.
Peter needed stability. He left his wife and family behind to follow Jesus. He walked away from a business to be a disciple, and he left home to travel a dusty road. Peter needed stability, a tent, a shrine. He wanted something to occupy his hands, so he didn’t have to use his ears.
We're familiar with that idea. It's easy to say, "We should build dynamic programs, and we should raise money." What if we said, "We will demand less of ourselves and sit quietly to see if God will speak to us."