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Matthew 17_1-9

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TITLE:   Listening to Jesus                                         SCRIPTURE:    Matthew 17:1-9

SERMON:    

Have you ever experienced the presence of the Lord?  I hope so!  I believe that God is with us now in this sanctuary -- but I believe that God was with us yesterday too -- wherever we were -- and I believe that God will be with us tomorrow -- wherever we might find ourselves.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that we have EXPERIENCED God's presence -- that we were aware of God being present with us -- loving us -- guiding us -- encouraging us.  Most of the time we find ourselves consumed with the things that demand our attention -- doing our jobs -- fixing dinner -- doing our homework -- filling the gas tank -- paying bills. It is hard to imagine that God would be present with us in such mundane activities-- but I believe that God is present with us in every moment -- at every place.

And once in awhile God manages to break through to our consciousness.  Now and then God makes himself noticeably real to us -- reveals himself in powerful and dramatic ways.  That's what happened when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain.  There the three disciples saw Jesus transfigured -- the New Testament Greek word is metamorphothe (pronounced met-uh-more-foe-theh) -- from which we get our word "metamorphosis." 

Whenever I hear that word, metamorphosis, I think of a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly.  I have never seen that happen in the wild, but I have seen it on television.  To see a caterpillar slowly but surely change into a butterfly is inspiring -- magical -- mysterious.  It doesn't seem that it would be possible for such a transformation to take place, but it does -- millions of times every year.  I don't know why God chose to transform caterpillars into butterflies, but perhaps he did it to give us a touch of wonder -- to let us see a little miracle.

But butterflies are just one of the many transformations that God engineers.  Every day, God transforms lives -- makes a good man out of a bad man -- makes a good woman out of a bad woman -- helps an alcoholic to quit drinking -- heals a person of a deadly disease -- transforms someone's heart. 

Some of those transformations take place so gradually that we fail to notice them, but others happen with sha-zaam suddenness that seems as dramatic and wonderful as an ugly caterpillar suddenly emerging as a beautiful butterfly


But God doesn't always work with high drama.  Sometimes God changes lives in ways so ordinary that we might never notice unless we have our hearts set on high alert: 

-- John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed, and began a journey that transformed the world -- a journey that is still having wonderful effect two centuries after his death. 

-- Billy Graham came to Christ one night in 1934, and felt no different.  But he was different.  The next Sunday, he said, "Mother, you know Dr. Lindsay certainly preached a great sermon this morning."  His mother replied, "Well, son, it wasn't Dr. Lindsay's preaching:  he preached the same.  You're different.  You now know Christ."

God comes to us in the terrible moments of our lives -- and in the wonderful moments, too.  God comes to us in quiet moments -- in unexpected ways -- to reveal Christ to us -- to draw us to Christ -- to change our lives.

God did that for Peter, James, and John.  They hiked up that mountain with Jesus.  I doubt that they realized that that day would be special -- different from the day before. 

But they were in for a big surprise.  There, on the mountainside, Jesus' face began to shine brightly -- and his clothing too.  Then Moses and Elijah came to talk with Jesus.  And then a voice from heaven said,

  "This is my Son, the Beloved;
  with him I am well pleased;
  LISTEN to him!"

I don't know about you, but that would have knocked me to my knees.  I wouldn't have known what to do.  Brought face to face with God, I would be honored -- afraid -- and completely mystified. 

But the voice from heaven told the disciples what to do.  It said:

  "This is my Son, the Beloved;
  with him I am well pleased;
  LISTEN to him!"

That is always good advice.  When you don't know what to do, LISTEN to Jesus.  He will help you. 

In recent years, people have been wearing bracelets with the letters WWJD -- meaning "What Would Jesus Do?" Those bracelets are a wonderful idea.  When faced with a difficult decision, it is always appropriate to ask, "What would Jesus do?"  In some situations, we might not be able to figure out what Jesus would do -- but asking the question will get our compass needle pointing in the right direction -- will remind us that we belong to the Lord -- that the Lord is our first allegiance.  If we will pray and listen for Christ's guidance, we will begin to see our tangled lives become less complicated.  We will begin to see the light begin to dawn.  God says:

  "This is my Son, the Beloved;
  with him I am well pleased;
  LISTEN to him!"

Most of us experience God in small ways day by day -- in the beauty of a sunset -- in a verse from scripture -- in a kindness that someone else shows us -- or that we show someone else.

But we would do well to prepare ourselves for the possibility that God will break through to us in more dramatic ways -- as he did with Peter, James and John on that mountain.

TRUE STORY:     

Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants.  In 1988, doctors diagnosed cancer in his pitching arm, necessitating surgery to remove the cancer and a good deal of muscle tissue.  Undeterred, Dave made an improbable comeback the following season, pitching a 4-3 win over Cincinnati in his first game.  In his next game, his arm broke with a deafening crack, leaving him writhing in pain.  Various attempts at treatment eventually led to the amputation of his pitching arm.  Reflecting on that experience in his book, When You Can't Come Back, Dravecky says:

  "Looking back, (my wife) Jan and I have learned
  that the wilderness is part of the landscape of faith,
  and every bit as essential as the mountaintop. 
  On the mountaintop we are overwhelmed by God's presence. 
  In the wilderness we are overwhelmed by his absence. 
  Both places should bring us to our knees;
  the one, in utter awe;
  the other, in utter dependence."

If we will LISTEN to the voice of Christ, he will enrich our lives. Where is Christ live in your life?


A BIT OF HUMOR:

A Sunday school teacher asked the children where God lives.  One boy said that God lives in heaven.  A girl said that God lives in our hearts.  Then Tommy said, "God lives in our bathroom."

That answer surprised the teacher, who asked Tommy why he thought that God lived in his bathroom.

Tommy explained, "Every morning, dad stands at the bathroom door and shouts, "My God, are you still in there?"

The point is, Christ is with you every day in every place.  He wants to love you -- to guide you -- to help you.  LISTEN to him.


 
 



 



Majesty, Worship His Majesty (BH #215; UMH #176)

Open My Eyes (BH #502; CH #586; JS #448; PH #324; UMH #454; VU #371)
JS #448 is a different hymn, but is appropriate for the same reasons as the other hymn.

Surely the Presence of the Lord (CH #263; UMH #328)



CHILDREN'S SERMON:  Listen

   Picture of elephants available at:
   http://encarta.msn.com/media_461514645/African_Elephants.html
   Picture of rabbit available at:
   http://www.mybunnies.com/teenoke.htm

Let's talk about ears. 

An elephant's ears are very large and are used to help keep the elephant cool. 
A rabbit's ears are long.  Some rabbit's ears stand up straight and others flop over.

Owls have short pointed ears.

Dogs have ears that allow them to hear things we can't hear. Can you describe your dog's ears?

Bats have interesting ears. Bats make high pitched sounds that they bounce off objects and then catch the sound waves in their ears. They are then able to form a picture in their mind of what is in front of them. You could say that a bat uses its ears to help it see.

A cricket's ears are located on its front legs, just below its knees.

Can you think of other interesting examples of ears?

Our human ears are wonderful.  Sound waves enter our ears and cause tiny bones and hairs in our ears to move, sending a signal to our brain that lets us hear many types of sound.

Why are we talking about ears?  In the Bible there is a story in which God asks us to use our ears and listen.  The story describes Jesus going up a high mountain with Peter, James and John.  While they were there the face of Jesus "shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white." 

"..suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"

On this occasion, God spoke from heaven and asked one thing: "Listen to him."  God is asking us to listen to the words of Jesus. Those words are recorded in the Bible and are there for us to read and hear.  We can learn how to make our lives and the lives of others better by listening to the advice and lessons we find there.  Let's use our wonderful ears and listen.


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