In today's Gospel reading we encounter Jesus with three disciples on a mountain top. This is significant in that we find throughout scripture that encounters with the divine often occur on mountains. What happens on the mountain top is something that has many things to teach us as we seek to understand God's message to us through His Word. Today though our focus will be on the instruction of the Father to Listen to Jesus.
Jesus is transfigured - transformed - on the mountain, and we see a glimpse of Him as he truly is, we catch a glimpse of his divinity. However Jesus is not alone on the mountain, he is joined by Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest figures in the history of Israel, representing the Law and the prophets. These representatives of the Law and Prophets are there to give us a message from this text - Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law and Prophets. This is confirmed for us by the great voice of the Father from the cloud (the cloud being another common symbol when encountering the divine) ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’. Do you see the significance of this? in the presence of the Law, the Prophets and Jesus we are to listen to Jesus! We are to follow Jesus who fulfils the Law, who is the ultimate prophet. I wonder, how seriously do we as Christians take this directive from the Father - because it is a directive for us, and not just the disciples on the mountain top, it is recorded in Scripture for our benefit as those who seek to follow Jesus... Listen to Him!
It is so easy for us to get caught up in this world, to become so focused on what the world preaches as truth, that we forget to listen to Lord of Lords and King of kings. We get so caught up wanting to fit in, or to please family and friends that we choose to follow societies norms rather than to live the life of service, faith and love that scripture calls us to. Some of us do this because we are afraid - we don't want to be the weird Christian that people talk about and make fun of behind our backs, we don't want to be different, we want to fit in. This is a normal feeling, everyone wants to be accepted, to be welcomed and thought well of ... but is that what Jesus calls us to do? Does Jesus call us to conform with the world or to be members of His Kingdom? You see while we may be able to justify to ourselves the reasons we use for our conformity, we simply cannot conform to the world's views AND be listening to Jesus.
Lets explore an example. The world is increasingly telling us that there is no one way to God, that all faiths are equally valid and just provide a different way of understanding the divine. Now there are an increasing number of Christians who agree with this view. A growing number of those who claim to be followers of Christ are willing to openly declare that Islam, or Hinduism provide just as valid a path to God. They do this out of some naive attempt to be non-offensive to members of other faiths. However this is not what Jesus said, if we are to listen to Jesus as the father commands us then we must take Him at His word when he tells us ... ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6). Now this can be a hard thing for us to explain to the world - that Jesus is the only way, but it is what He said, and we must be honest with those around us. We must listen to Him, and tell others what He says. It won't always be easy, no-one wants to tell someone something that they don't want to hear, but by conforming with the world, we perpetuate a lie, and when we do that we become followers not of Christ, but of the master of lies - Satan.
There are many other examples where Christians are being tempted to espouse the view of the world rather than the view put forth by Jesus, and the thing most often said is that we need to show love on issues and not be outspoken after all we are all sinners. Of course that is true - we are all sinners, every last one of us. However if we are to be sinners that listen to Jesus then we are called to repentance, we are called to live a life in which we seek to turn away from sin - not just allow it to continue. Let me ask you this - is it loving to tell someone that it is ok to continue to go on rejecting God? Is it really a loving thing for us to tell Muslim a Hindu or a Buddhist that they will be just fine - that Jesus isn't the only way to salvation? Would it not be much more loving for us to tell people the truth? That Jesus calls us to turn from sin, that the ONLY way to salvation is through the redeeming work of Jesus? Lets be honest when we conform to the worldly view of these things, we are not showing love for anyone - except ourselves in order to try and protect our own egos and feelings.
What about on social issues? Is it loving for us to stay silent when we see injustice? Are we listening to Jesus, if we turn our backs to the poor, the weak and the oppressed? Jesus said we are to love God with our whole heart and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
If we were showing true love for others we would be seeking to introduce them to the Gospel - the true Gospel, not the watered down version that is acceptable to society, but the genuine Gospel of Christ which calls us to repentance and brings us to salvation through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross and through his resurrection. We will also be seeking justice and standing with and supporting those who cannot support themselves, we will be caring for the widows and orphans, we will support those fleeing persecution and fear.
As we move into Lent this week I pray that with me you will seek to renew your commitment to listening to Jesus, just as the father commanded on that mountain top. I pray that we will have the courage to speak the truth of the Gospel out of a genuine love. I pray that we will use this time of preparation and reflection, where it is traditional to give something up, to give up our tendency to be followers of the world instead of Christ, and to take up the challenge of displaying the true love of Christ through truly listening, and doing what he says – and through this commitment that we will see our own lives transfigured and transformed.