Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
7 Feb. 2016, Last Sunday of Epiphany Year C:
Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]; Psalm 99
We've been on whirlwind travels through Jesus' life since Christmas. Today the whirlwind continues & God says:
"This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
On this last Sunday after Epiphany before we change our worship pace in Lent, notice the whirlwind journey we're having with Jesus: his birth, his family fleeing to Egypt, his staying in the Jerusalem temple as a 12-year-old & worrying the daylights out of his parents. We've seen him as an adult emerge from the water of baptism &, while he prays, the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove.
We witnessed his 1st miracle, heard him wow his hometown folk in the synagogue & saw their admiration suddenly change into a whirlwind of murderous rage.
We heard Peter declare Jesus as the Messiah when Jesus prayed alone with the disciples. In today's Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, John & James up the mountain to pray. Notice: prayer is important.
After Jesus sends the disciples to cast out demons, to heal & proclaim the good news, after they return from this mission & see Jesus feed the 5,000, after Jesus tells of his pending death & resurrection, suddenly today they see Jesus in a new light.
Notice what our Gospel says about Jesus' companions on the mountain: they are weighed down with sleep. What weighs us down? How do we manage to stay awake like the disciples so that we see Jesus' glory?
If we are tired & surprised like Peter, we don't know what to say & may blurt out: “Let's take on a building project!”
Notice what they hear God say when the cloud overshadows them: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
How deep does the silence feel when they are
How deep does the silence feel when you are
alone together with friends in God's presence?
God says: listen to Jesus. Interestingly the disciples remain silent. Impulsive Peter stays silent. The disciples say nothing to anyone about the experience. After this whirlwind experience, they come down & immediately face down-to-earth challenges.
From the great crowd, a dad shouts “heal my son” since the disciples not on the mountain can't cast out the demon. How frustrated Jesus sounds: “You faithless & perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you & bear with you?”
However long it takes, Jesus puts up with us. Jesus waits for us to listen to him. Our work of listening enhances our work as Jesus' disciples. As one preacher says of today's Gospel:
In all the world's joys & heartbreaks, all the delight & despair, all we know & can never know, God gently calls us to listen.1
Prayer is central to our relationship with God. Prayer is central to our work as Jesus' loving hands reaching out to our brothers & sisters in the human family. Listening in prayer is central to our relationship with God & our work with God. Listening prepares us for our work in the whirlwind of life's demands. It's hard to hear in a whirlwind. Like practicing any skill, prayer trains us how to listen in the whirlwind.
In his book Bread for the Journey, which the preacher quotes, priest, writer & professor Henri J.M. Nouwen says: “To listen is very hard...it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. [True listeners] are free to receive, to welcome, to accept…[Nouwen says:] The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously & discovering their own true selves.
He says: "Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, & even to dare to be silent with you."2
"Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, & even to dare to be silent with you."
“Bright Shining Faces”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/ Accessed: 4 Feb. 2016.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Jolly, The Rev. Marshall A. “Listening for God, Last Epiphany (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 4 Feb. 2016. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/01/20/listening-for-god-last-epiphany-2016/
“Mountaintop Experience”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/mountaintop-experiences.html Accessed: 4 Feb. 2016.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
1 Jolly, The Rev. Marshall A. “Listening for God, Last Epiphany (C) – 2016”. Accessed: 4 Feb. 2016. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/01/20/listening-for-god-last-epiphany-2016/
2 Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. HarperOne, 1997. Quoted by The Rev. Marshall A. Jolly. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/01/20/listening-for-god-last-epiphany-2016/