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Can You Hear Me Now?

February 19th 2012

Today we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday. As Jesus is Transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John, the Father's voice is heard saying, "This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him." In his message from Mark 9, Vicar Chittick proclaims what it means to "listen to Jesus."

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Transfiguration Sunday B - "Can You Hear Me Now?" - Mark 9:2-9 -February 19, 2012

I would like you to try something with me. I want you to close your right eye, and notice that in the bottom right hand corner of your vision, you can just see the tip of your nose. Now switch eyes, and notice the same thing. In fact, even if you look straight ahead you will notice that you can still see your nose. Go ahead and open both of your eyes. If you didn’t know it before, you now know that everyday of your life you have been seeing your nose out of the corner of your eye. But your brain has made a choice for you. It has chosen to ignore this information. It does this sort of thing all the time. You can hear a clock tick in a quiet room, but you don’t always notice it. Heck if you spend enough time in a room with a grandfather clock you will eventually hear a chime and realize you haven’t heard the last few hours worth of chimes. I’m sure if you asked Melissa, she could give you a whole list of things she has told me that I never heard. And it’s not like this information isn’t important. You would want to know right away if you didn’t have a nose anymore. You just have so much other information bombarding your senses that you simply cannot process every single thing you see and hear. You have learned to tune out things that you don’t need to be reminded of every second of every day.

Our gospel text today focuses on us hearing something - something that we have heard before, and already know in our hearts to be true; Jesus Christ is the Lord of all creation, and the only path to eternal life. But, much like the ticking of the clock, this message is not always at the forefront of our minds. We are bombarded with all kinds of messages and ideas, each vying for our attention. And these voices get so loud that they become nearly impossible to ignore.

We hear from our televisions, from our internet newsfeeds, from the bumper stickers on our way to work, that the world would be a better place if not for this silly religion thing. You know, when you see a co-exist sticker, the message that person is trying to convey is not that all religions are equally valid. What they are really trying to say is that all religions are equally invalid. It is with a sense of arrogance that people call for tolerance. Once they put Christianity on an equal plain with Buddhism and Mormonism, they can start to discredit “religion”. It is a way of reverse idolatry. Instead of raising false gods and treating them like they were real, they bring the real God down. They turn to true path to eternal salvation into a letter t.

A great example is the evolution vs. creation debate. If you listen to a proponent of evolution, you would think it was a debate between science and religion. They claim that all research and evidence points unerringly toward evolution. That is, of course, not true. Research only shows evidence of evolution if you desperately want to it to. Christians don’t need to fight a God vs. science battle. We come out just fine in a science vs. science battle. What is sad, is that we are losing the God vs. god debate.

Evolution isn’t a result of clear thinking and thorough research. It is a result of people wanting an explanation for existence that does not include God. They start with the assumption that God does not exist, and they work backwards from there. They have the conclusion to their experiments before they even conduct them, then declare the results “facts”. Now, all of this could be chalked up the ignorance of an ungodly world, if it weren’t for the simple fact that we, the redeemed children of God, are starting to listen to them.

We are trusting these so called facts more than we trust the true Word of God. You hear things like “creation is just a metaphor for the big bang.” Or “God created the world, but evolution is how He did it.” When we do this kind of thing, we validate human arrogance and understanding over and above the truth. And that is just one of the voices the world is trying to convince us with. Those voices want to drown out what the Bible says about parenting, sex, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, blasphemy. These things are clearly spelled out in the Bible. The voices of this world can’t change what the Bible says, but they can scream so loud that we lose our focus on what is really true.

We don’t need to adjust the Word of God to the latest theory or popular notion. God’s Word is the ultimate source of truth. We need to interpret what we learn on this planet in light of that. We need to stop listening to all the voices of this world that want us only to deny that the Bible is true. We need to listen to that still small voice that proclaims in our hearts that the God of all creation loves us, and sent His son Jesus to become one of us. We need to see the proof that is right in front of our faces. That proof is what we have been looking at this entire epiphany season.

In our Gospel readings over the last couple of months we have been hearing of the countless witnesses of Jesus divine power and authority. We heard about how He healed the sick of incurable diseases and moved the ocean with a whim. We heard Him command demons to depart and forgive the sins of men. We heard God come down and declare before crowds of people that Jesus is His very Son. And today we heard as two disciples bore witness to Christ in all His glory, shining brighter than anything they had ever seen.

In our gospel message today we see Moses and Elijah appearing on a mountainside with Jesus. They are there to show us that all the Father has done, all that He has promised to do, all of the Law, every prophecy, is fulfilled now in Jesus Christ, who is His Son. And then He says something very special, and very important. The Father says to all creation, “listen to him.” Listen to Him. There is so much packed into this little phrase.

This is not the way that you listen to me talk, or listen to a clock tick. This is the kind of “listen to him” that you would say to your children when you drop them off with their grandfather. Here, in these simple words, God the Father is declaring before all creation that His Son has all authority on heaven and earth. Jesus, the Bible, the Word of God, is true. We can trust what He says knowing that it has absolute authority. A 6 day creation is still a mystery. There is plenty of science to back it up, but there is still much we don’t understand. We believe it, not because we gather enough proof, but because the one who did the creating declares it to be true. “Listen to him” means trusting that what Jesus says, what the Bible says, is more real than anything the world has to say.

And there is even more to this little phrase. Listening to Jesus means having faith in Him like children have in their parents. Listening to Jesus means believing what He says. Believing in what He has done for us. Out of love for us, the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds and makes us believe that Jesus Christ is God, and that He did die for our sins, and that He is resurrected, living today in that same glorious body that the disciples glimpsed on that mountain. God desires that all His children would listen, and believe in Jesus.

Listening to Jesus means doing as He commands. As we prepare for the season of Lent, we will see the incredible journey to the cross that Christ took on our behalf, and in the midst of it, we will see Him stop to say “love one another, just as I have loved you.” in John 13. Jesus commands us to “forgive our brother from our heart” in Matthew 18. He commands us to baptize all people, and teach the truth of Gods Word in Matthew 28. Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will keep His commands in John 14. In this little phrase, “listen to him”, the Father declares that love is what He desires from us, and for us. We are to listen to Jesus, by loving as He commands.

But we don’t. Before the fall, Adam and Eve didn’t even have to try to listen to the Word of God, and now, because of sin, even when we try our absolute hardest, we fail to listen, every single day. The voices of this sinful world, Satan, and even our own nature get so loud that we stop listening to God. But when we fail to listen to God, God shows us that He has never stopped listening to us. Jesus is God’s answer to the cries of sinners living in a fallen world. We come before Him crying out for mercy and He says “I forgive you. Not because of anything that you have said or done, but because of what I say, because of what I have done.” Jesus came to this earth as a perfect man, listened to the Father as no one else ever could, died on a cross and was raised from the dead. This is what God wants us to hear. This is what makes it possible for us to “listen to him”. This is the grace poured into our hearts when He makes us His own in Holy Baptism. This is the mercy poured into our bodies when He strengthens and renews us at the Lord’s Supper. Listen: Jesus loves you, and He died to make you His forever. Amen.

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