A time to listen

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019

This Sunday is a special one for us in the church, though not a very well-known one. It is Transfiguration Sunday. It is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of solemn reflection leading up to the high holy day of Easter.

Transfiguration Sunday remembers the time when Jesus went with his inner circle of disciples – Peter, James and John – up a high mountain, and while there he was ‘transfigured’; his clothes became dazzling white and the two great giants of Hebrew history, Moses and Elijah (symbolizing the law and the prophets) came to visit him. They talked with him about his “exodus” as it says in Luke’s gospel, his departure; his suffering, his passion, his death.

Totally befuddled by all of this, the disciples cowered in fear, with Peter, as usual, being the one to speak up. “Hey Jesus, we’re glad we’re here (really?!). Let’s make some tents for you all to stay in.” All three of the Synoptic Gospels say that none of them knew what they were saying. To which a voice from heaven came and said, similar to the words at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my own dear Son, the Beloved. Listen to him!”

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It’s an other-worldly scene. This is not the kind of thing that happens to everybody. It’s something that is beyond our wildest imaginations, which makes it grace-full. But that doesn’t mean we know what to say. There are times when we just don’t know what to say. All we are called to do is listen.

Being a preacher, I talk a lot. But sometimes I need to sit and listen. Fortunately I have had some good teachers along the way who have taught me that. But that doesn’t mean I always get it. Sometimes people expect me to say something, just like sometimes in your life people expect you to say something. The pressure is on. What can we say that will be of help, that will illuminate the situation?

The reality is that sometimes we don’t have anything to say. We’re at a loss as much as anyone else. And that is OK. There are times and occasions when we need to be still, live in the moment, and let it teach us what it has to offer. A friend gets sick, a loved one dies, a friend loses their way, and rather than ignoring them and walking away, we want to say something. But maybe it’s not time yet. Maybe it’s just time to sit with them and help them work it out.

I often think that listening is a lost art. But it is a necessary one; for me, for you, for all of us. There is a time to speak, but there is also a time to listen. And especially to listen to the Transfigured One.

REV. DR. TOM ROBINSON is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address is robin216@embarqmail.com.