Last week I climbed the mount of transfiguration with the other disciples. They were there in person, but I followed, climbing my own way through the story in Scripture. There we watched Jesus appear as light, something of the holy interrupting the regularity of a Thursday.
It was a rainy day, and a little cold. There was a rumor of snow coming but, really, twice in one winter? None of us thought that was going to happen. But it was enough to unfocus our children who had gotten ready for the day late. We made it to school just under the wire.
I sat down to read and pray and write; but then my wife came home and said that the van had a flat tire. And when she put the baby down for a nap he really kept coughing — as he had all night — so I opined that he probably had another ear infection. We had bundled our coughing girls off to school already but most parents know the sound of a cough and a COUGH. So it was decided that I would take the car to get the tire patched and work on my computer while waiting at the car dealer and my wife was going to take the baby to the pediatrician (again). And I had forgotten about checking on the leak under the sink from where we had had the dishwasher fixed the other week and the new water line installed but, despite all that, I gathered a few moments to climb the mountain of transfiguration and say, with the Apostle Peter, “Lord, it is good to be here.”
And saying this, I can imagine God in reply, “are you really here?” Or maybe, as in the text of the story, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Listen to him. That’s the hard thing, really. Because no matter who you are you spend a lot of your time listening — to your spouse or your children; your parents or your teacher or your boss; the radio in the car; the phone that won’t leave you alone; the news as you wind down for the day; the advice of doctors and financial planners; and, above all, that voice in your head that talks to you all day long saying things like, “remember the leak under the kitchen sink.” We have plenty of time to listen. But it’s important to remember that the voice of God speaks to the disciples telling them to listen to Jesus. Listen to HIM.
But maybe, just maybe, every once in a while, God confronts you with a vision that changes you — something you didn’t expect, something that reveals your life for what it actually is in God’s eyes: holy and precious. That’s when you stop and listen.
Sometimes it’s in midlife when you’ve been going through the motions long enough and you wonder if something else is going on. So for a while maybe you show up at church a little more hoping for some of the light Jesus seems to offer.
Or a relationship changes you to the point that you realize there must be something more in your life than people coming in and out like atoms colliding and spinning off onto their own.
Maybe it’s a sense during communion or a half-hearted prayer that all of a sudden becomes meaningful and profound and you get the feeling that there is some will at work in you that isn’t quite your own and for just a second, you pause to look.
The Apostle Peter can only take the miracle for so long. “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” You might wonder, if it were good to be where they were, whether Peter might have just stood there with James and John to behold the glory of God in wonder. We think, maybe we would do the same.
We avoid the miracle, we avert our eyes, because it lets us off the hook from actually listening to what Jesus has to say. But if we rush into the silence with our own ideas, like Peter, we miss what Jesus says. Things like: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
It’s no wonder the disciples cowered in fear when they heard the voice of God telling them to listen to Jesus.
We don’t always listen.
Most of the time, and this is OK, we listen to the voices of those around us. The daily commitments and chores and tasks that occupy most of our time and really must be done.
But sometimes Jesus’ voice reminds us to care for the poor, or love until we’re poured out, or give until we have nothing left. And it’s just in that fear and apprehension, where it meets the joy of possibility of our expansive new world, that we recognize, wherever we are, that God speaks to us.
“Get up and do not be afraid.”
As I drove home in the fixed van, the sun peaked through the clouds, and I couldn’t block it with a visor. I paused to listen.
Will Scott is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dalton. His column appears the fourth Friday of the month.