“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” –Matthew 17:5
Anyone who knows me, knows I like to talk. After the first time my wife met me she told a friend that she had never met anyone who talked so much! (At the time, she didn’t know that she’d be listening to me the rest of her life!) As a writer, preacher and teacher, words are my stock and trade. But, as verbal as I am, I also know that listening actively and carefully is also important. Doubly so. (It has been said that God gave us two ears and just one mouth for a reason!) So, I work at listening. I have to. It doesn’t come naturally!
Like in any relationship, listening to God is important. Our prayers are often so filled with words – laments, pleas, intercessions and thanksgivings – that we forget to stop and hear what God has to say! I’m always a little disappointed when a worship leader barely gives time for a breath when silence is called for in the liturgy. How often do we rush through a scripture reading during our devotion times (if we even take time for devotional reading) and don’t let the Word sink in, rattle around and soak into our souls? It’s no wonder. The worlds most of us inhabit are very noisy places filled with talk and words and voices constantly clambering for our attention.
Perhaps that’s why the part of this week’s Transfiguration story that jumped off the page at me are the final words spoken by God from the cloud, “Listen to him!” Peter wants to get to work building dwellings. But, God tells him and the others to stop, close their fear muddled mouths and listen. Just listen. It’s not all the pyrotechnics and special effects that are important here. It’s what Jesus has to say that really matters. It's Jesus' words that really show the world who he is: The beloved son of God.
Unfortunately, like an email or Facebook post or text or tweet, you can’t really tell what the inflection in God’s voice was when these heavenly words echoed from the cloud. Where was the emphasis? Did the voice say “LISTEN to him!” like a parent trying to get a distracted child’s attention, or “Listen to HIM!” as in don’t listen to what all those other voices are saying but focus on the voice that really matters.
Today, I think we need to hear both. We need to LISTEN – through prayer and devotion – to what God is saying to us. And, we need to listen to HIM – to pay attention to what Jesus might have to teach us about life and living, love and grace, forgiveness and mercy, servanthood and discipleship.
Like the disciples before us, we are easily distracted. It’s a good thing God is patient with us when we fail to pay attention. That’s a blessing and a gift worth our never-ending words of thanks and praise.
My prayer for all of us this week is that we’ll find a moment, or two, to stop and listen to Jesus.
Thanks for listening.