President’s Chapel (February 5, 2008) “Listen to Him”

President’s Chapel (February 5, 2008) “Listen to Him”

February 6, 2008



I am speaking on the Tuesday before Lent begins, called "Fat Tuesday."  The theme in chapel over the whole year is focused on Jesus, this next period on Jesus and Lent.  But officially it is not Lent yet.  Still, I am choosing to speak on it so that we can prepare ourselves for the days ahead.

Lent covers 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter), not counting Sundays.  It is a time for penitence, prayer, fasting, and charitable acts.

The February issue of Christianity Today includes an article entitled "The Future Lies in the Past."  It discusses the maturing evangelical "ancient-future movement," led until recently by Robert Webber who died in the fall.  It is an attempt to admit that we in today's world do not know all the ways to draw near to our Lord.  So we look to those who have gone before us for guidance, such as in the practice of Lent or Advent or lectio divina or fasting or meditation or silence, or all kinds of traditional and historical practices of the church.


Thus the scripture readings for the 1st Sunday of Lent become our focus (you can read them yourselves if you are catching this on my Blog):



{C}·        {C}Exodus 24:12-18 (cf. Ex 34:29) ? Moses on the mountain; cloud; glory (16); 6 days; Moses entered the cloud for 40 days/nights > Word revealed



{C}·        {C}Matt 17:1-9 (cf. Matt 16:19) ? Jesus; Peter, James, brother John; Peter and 3 tents; cloud and voice as at baptism, "My Son, the Beloved One . . . Listen to Him!"



{C}·        {C}2 Peter 1:16-21 (keys) ? eyewitnesses of his majesty; attentive to prophetic message.



I would love to take the time to speak on each of these passages in detail.  But for my purpose today I want to take a look at what they have in common.  What do we find in common in these lectionary readings?  What do they say to us when read together?



Here are some of the elements the three passages share.  Only two events occur with Peter reflecting on his experience in the gospels.







    • Mountains: Mt. Sinai, deep in the Sinai peninsula, finds Moses coming up to meet with God.  In the gospel account of the Mount of Transfiguration we have difficulty identifying the mountain (actually the same could be said about Mt. Sinai).  Traditionally, Mt. Tabor has been identified.  More likely the mountain was north of the Sea of Galilee, perhaps on Mt. Hermon.  It was a place where the persons involved could be alone.  That is a difficult thing in our culture ? real alone time.







    • Cloud:  a cloud settles on the mountains, described as the "glory" or "majesty" of God.  It is a heavy presence that Moses needs to wait six days before entering on the seventh.  At the transfiguration, a bright cloud appears and God speaks from it.







    • Fear:  the people below saw the cloud and fire and feared (cf. Ex 20).  Peter, James, and John feared the voice that interrupted Peter's proposal to build three tents in honor of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.







    • Revelation:  Peter says it is a light shining in a dark place.  Moses face was changed (Ex 34:29); Jesus was transfigured ? perhaps the most magnificent glimpse of the Kingdom on earth in the Bible.  The instructions in the Torah were to lead Israel.  When they were not obedient to God's revelation, God punished them.  Now Peter points again to the revelation of God's Word.



What is all this saying to us?



Peter made a wrong perception in the midst of his life-changing experience on the mountain.  He equated the three transfigured before them.  God corrected him, not by putting Moses or Elijah down, but by correctly lifting up Jesus.  "Listen to him," God the Father commands.



That is the phrase I wish to draw your attention to from these three passages.







    • "Listen to him" ? St. Benedict's Rule begins with the word, "listen."  It is a word we fail to remember.







    • We get caught up in classes, assignments, theological knowledge, family issues, doing church, Lenten practices and services, chapels, kinds of music, biblical truth, ancient-future movement, emerging church movement, contextual movement, and the list for each of us could just go on and on.  We are too busy doing God's work to "listen to him."







    • Don't forget God's words to Peter ? listen to him.






It is not by mistake that the Book of Common Prayer always includes a Gospel reading.  Dallas Willard has enjoined us to always be reading the gospels for understanding what Jesus said and did.



Lots of things jump out of the gospels.  For example, E. Stanley Jones, missionary to India and USA in the early decades of the 20th century, says in his book Conversion that Jesus did three things by habit.  We should learn from his habits ? (1) He stood up in the synagogue and read the word of God as was his custom; (2) He turned aside to pray as was his custom; and (3) He taught them again as was his custom.



During this Lenten season let me ask you to commit yourself to read the Gospel of Mark.  This is the reading suggested for this year and you will join a myriad of others reading Mark along with you.



While you are doing this, put aside all the trappings of whatever comes into your life and "listen to him."  Your life will be changed.



Read the following scriptures slowly as you commit to what I have asked you to do.  May the Lord bless your Lent preparation by the power of his resurrection as you listen!



RS Matthew 7:24 ¶ "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.



NRS John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also.



NRS Matthew 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.



NRS Ephesians 5:1 ¶ Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,



NRS Romans 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ . . .