As action-oriented people, we like a “take-home message” from our worship services and Bible studies, something to add to our to-do list. “Feed the hungry” is rather clear. “Forgive and share and love,” are difficult, but direct commands.
I’m guilty of piling those commands on us. I do so, in part, because of the text. I also do that because it’s how I operate. I’m a to-do list person, which isn’t faithful. The problem with that is evident in this paragraph – 3 sentences in and five “I’s” and no mention of God. That indicates something.
The Transfiguration story that we’ll read this Sunday (Luke 9:28-36) is a nice counter-narrative. Notice how passive it is. The only action initiated by a disciple is apparently a mistaken one (Luke 9:33). The actions are done to the disciples – Jesus took them up a mountain to pray, the did nothing to bring Moses and Elijah, they cloud overwhelmed them, a voice spoke to them, they kept silent. Even Jesus is rather passive. Besides taking the disciples to the mountain, the rest of the story happens to him.
The conclusion of the story underscores the point – before there is any talk of what they are supposed to do, the disciples are to listen to Jesus. Good listening is certainly an active exercise, but how much better will all those other actions we commit ourselves to be if they begin with listening to Jesus?
I hope there are many of you who set aside deliberate time for prayer and reflection, but I know one for sure because his insights about life, including the church, always begin with, “In my devotion time this morning, it came to me that…” He’s listening as his first act, meaning he’s not starting with himself, but with God, and, as a result, how he builds and accomplishes his to-do list is quite faithful.
The Transfiguration, first and foremost, is about Jesus’ glory and the awe that it inspires in us. If that’s all it is, that’s more than enough. But since we are people moved to respond, we do well to learn from it that our first act of response is to listen.