The Last Sunday after Epiphany: February 11, 2018
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
Today, we remember the Transfiguration, a moment on a mountaintop when the fullness of God is revealed in Jesus, a human. In Jesus, we catch a glimpse of God’s power to illumine and transform our whole life. This powerful moment, this manifestation of the divine is followed by God’s command to listen.
As the disciples descend from that mountaintop experience filled with wonder, love, and joy, they had no idea what trials and tribulations lay before them. Or that the journey ahead would lead them closer and closer to the cross. If they had known, would they have stayed? Or would they have left? I wonder, what would you do if you were in their shoes?
When the dark days of the cross and the tomb came, Jesus’ transfiguration burned as a beacon of hope shining out of the darkness, guiding the disciples towards resurrection, redemption, renewal, reconciliation, release. What kept that beacon of hope alive was their ability to trust and listen to Jesus, God, and one another.
The Transfiguration, that beacon of hope is a reminder to all who are weary and heavy laden that new beginnings, new life are just beyond the horizon. And it is listening that will continue to nourish, strengthen, heal, and sustain us on the journey as we bear the crosses in our lives.
The Transfiguration invites us on the path of listening, a path that leads to love in action — it is the way that God is made manifest in our lives, in our relationships, in our world.
Real listening is a gift we give to others and a gift we give to ourselves. When we listen the base of our faith is broadened and our convictions are strengthened. Listening is a kind of prayer in which we hear the spirit of God who dwells in every human…the value of this kind of deep listening is beyond words. All relationships are based upon it. (Community of Hope)
Real listening with love we see in the young prophet Elisha as he walks with his Master Elijah, the great prophet of Israel. On this their final journey together, note what Elisha says and does…
“So long as God is alive and your spirit is alive, I will not leave you.” Listening with love means walking in love, in solidarity. Reminding someone, I am with you, God is with you…you are not alone.
“Yes I know…be still, hold your peace.” Listening with love means being patient and fully present to the gifts of this moment. To meet people where they are…not where they are going or where they should be.
“Grant me a double portion of your spirit. May your life repeat in my life. May I be holy like you.” Listening with love means lifting up the other. To show affirmation, gratitude, respect for all they are.
Listening with love gives us the strength and courage to gaze into a fiery whirlwind of chaos and loss and see God there.
Elisha shows that the path of listening means so much more than being silent. “Listening means reflecting, amplifying, clarifying what is being said. Asking questions to gain understanding of another’s concern and to bear that burden with them…Listening seeks to know and care and walk with. Listening is love in action.”
But listening is more than a spiritual practice or good deed. Listening is the way that we transform and transfigure our lives, our relationships, our world. Listening roots our actions in God’s love, peace, and purpose. When we stop listening to ourselves, to God, and to others, we risk harming ourselves and those around us out of a sense of fear, anger, rejection, or resentment.
More and more the news, the media, and movements like MeToo are forcing us to face our flaws and faults as a society. This week again highlighted the systemic issues of sexual harassment and domestic violence in our country. More and more stories of survivors reveal their pain of living in silence and shame, afraid that no one will listen, no one will believe. More and more we hear that those who abuse are often charming, intelligent and competent in the workplace and at the same time abusive, manipulative, and toxic in personal relationships.
If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, we are here…we are listening. As are many other faith communities around the city who have committed to a week of action against domestic violence. Handouts with information and resources are available at the front desk or back of the church.
We here at St. Michael’s have a special role to play in bringing healing, empowerment, and transformation to our society. Like Elisha and the disciples, we can offer a listening, supportive presence to those around us. We can be beacons of hope shining out of the darkness.
As we enter into this season of Lent, I invite you to join me in God’s call to listen with love.
Here’s how this works…
Make time to listen to God; listen to yourself; and listen to others. Be sure to balance these areas!
Whenever you are listening with love (From the Community of Hope International curriculum)
- Put your own needs aside, concentrate on the person
- Honor the person meeting them where they are — keep an open mind; don’t make judgments
- Stay in the present moment — don’t think ahead, problem-solve or try to fix things
- Be willing to enter into an experience that may change you; be willing to confront and accept your own limitations
Let us go forth and make God more manifest listening with love in our lives, listening with love in our relationships, and listening with love in our world. Amen.