In our church year the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is Transfiguration Sunday. A story filled with amazing and unbelievable events where Jesus brings 3 disciples to the top of a mountain. Once up there, Jesus is transformed and made dazzling white and Elijah and Moses stop by the party for a bit. The voice of God is heard – “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.”
I am not going to pretend I know what happened that day on top of that mountain. Neither really, do the gospel authors (yes – this account is found in all 3 synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, & Luke). The placement of this story is notable – Jesus’s ministry from his baptism until know has focused on teaching and healing throughout various areas of Galilee. After this story, Jesus begins his trip to Jerusalem.
Each year as we encounter this story, it can speak to each one of us differently. In years past I have spent time wondering, what change occurred in Jesus at that place? Is that when he became divine? We can’t know. It is a mystery. Or other times, reflecting upon the significance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah – which is often lost from a Christian perspective. The original hearers of this story would have picked up on that comparison. Or Peter… thank you Peter for not being afraid to ask questions out loud – even if your idea turns out to be off the mark. It gives me comfort to know Jesus hung out with folks who didn’t get it sometimes (or most of the time…?).
In reflecting upon these words this week, and the children at both of the ministries I serve, the words of God in this passage stood out boldly. We may not know what happened that day, however we clearly know the directions given. “Listen to him.”
Just 2 chapters before this story in Mark, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisee’s and some scribes about his disciples eating with dirty hands. Jesus instructs them and the crowd, teaching that it is not outward things which defile the body – but things that come from within. How we can learn from this and so many other teachings of Jesus today. As each of us walk our own path of discipleship we must consider what it means to be a Christian.
Are we simply worshipers of Jesus? Or are we followers of Jesus? To be followers, we need to often return to bible and read the teachings of Jesus – not only generalize about love and justice – but to go back into the texts and other sources to help us understand the contexts they were written in.
As we stand on this side of the Lenten journey – God is directing us to listen to Jesus. I find myself often reminding many children I work with that we listen with both our ears and our eyes. I find that sometimes I think I can multi-task and listen to a movie or TV show and cook dinner or listen to my husband talk about his day while continuing to draft an email. Yet when we are honest to ourselves, this is not true listening. Listening does require our full attention.
I challenge you to use the upcoming season of Lent to really listen to Jesus. Many of us have heard of the lenten practice of giving something up. If there is something in your life that distracts you from listening, I encourage you to try and replace that with listening for the next 40 days. Otherwise instead of focusing on a negative, perhaps for you adding something to your daily routine would be helpful. Some suggestions:
Daily devotions (the upper room sends out free ones to your e-mail!), or a Daily Prayer practice – the rosary or a formatted prayers of the people can be nice, perhaps there is a song even a hymn) that touches you – download it and take 5 minutes a day to listen to it, doing some journalling or sketching – especially fun to do with your kids, or praying as you walk along the sidewalk for those you are near and the city.
Lent is a time for preparation – so that we may more fully experience the mystery of Easter. It’s a big mystery, so it take some time to get ready for it. (Like preparing to have lots of relatives and friends over for a Thanksgiving Feast.) I pray that it does not become a season of burden or guilt for you, yet one of reflection and learning about our amazing God.
what words of Jesus you find give you the most guidance? what aspect of the transfiguration story speak to you at this time? what this lent has in store for the communities of faith you and I are a part of?
O God of mystery, you reveal to us your love through Jesus the Christ. As we are inspired by his glory and his life we are drawn closer to you. With the strength of the Holy Spirit help us to take to heart your words today, “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.” In your holy name we pray, Amen.