By Rev. Dr. Kimberly Reisman
We’re inclined to activity, to busyness. Quiet contemplation and active listening are challenging endeavors. We may feel that this challenge comes as a by-product of our modern twenty-first century world, but it’s actually the human condition. Peter pursued that inclination as well. In Matthew 17, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him to a mountain top where they have an amazing encounter – Elijah and Moses appear with them and God speaks!
When confronted by this awesome sight – Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, all together in sparkling robes, Peter can’t contain himself. He has to do something. Let me make three shrines! But God has no interest in Peter’s busy work. Before Peter can even finish his sentence, let alone start the building project, God speaks: This is my special son; stop trying to do and listen! God understands that we will never know what we are to do if we don’t first stop to listen. Paul too wanted his listeners to get their priorities straight. What you do is not the reason for the promise: God’s love relationship is the reason for the promise. Faith is the key.
Yet so often our world view emphasizes doing, doing, doing. At the beginning of the pandemic, the many lockdowns and closures gave us the sense that life had slowed down somewhat. As the crisis has continued, however, we’ve discovered that life really hasn’t slowed down at all. It’s just taken on a different shape. We’re still constantly moving and zooming, constantly on the go – even if the “on the go” for some of us now takes place in our own homes.
What a contrast to the biblical witness! Over and over again scripture shows us that the work of God’s transforming power isn’t found in the hustle and rush but in the stillness and quiet. Elijah found God not in the wind, not in the power of an earthquake, not even in the fire. God came to Elijah in the sound of sheer silence.
God instructs us to listen, something we cannot do if we focus on doing rather than hearing. We cannot listen if the noise of our lives is too great. How great is the noise in your life? Do you find yourself doing rather than listening? How might your practice of fasting and prayer dampen the noise and strengthen your listening?
Prayer – Gracious God, you have pronounced Jesus your beloved Son and commanded us to listen to him. Forgive us when we have allowed the noise of our lives and our world to drown out the voice of your Son. As we fast and pray, give us the courage and strength to truly listen.