It may be the most important question in this age of media overload, “alternative facts,” “fake news,” partisan political propaganda, and competing religious voices. To whom do we listen in determining our own perspectives and our responses to current realities?
Make no mistake about it; we are shaped by the voices we listen to. Words matter! They shape how we feel and act. Hateful words provoke hatred. Divisive words divide people. Angry words spark angry action. Arrogant words generate haughty actions. Violent words incite violence. Lies distort reality. Falsehoods inflame prejudices.
On the other hand, loving words sow seeds of compassion. Reconciling words open doors for reconciliation. Gentle words soften hard hearts. Humble words invite dialogue. Peaceful words promote peace. Truthful words foster understanding.
For followers of Jesus, the Transfiguration story provides the answer to the question, “To whom shall we listen?” Jesus and his disciples were at a crossroads, on their way to Jerusalem, the center of religious, political, and economic power.
Ahead loomed confrontation and conflict as the values of the reign of God clashed with the values and practices of established religion and the Roman Empire.
The disciples are in for a test of their loyalty and the source of their authority. To whom will they listen to shape their actions and loyalties? Their lives and destiny depend on their choice. Will they listen to the one who had called them to “come follow me;” or will their actions be determined by the voices of expediency, safety, hatred, bigotry, and violence?
Mysteriously, Peter, James, and John experienced Jesus as the fulfillment of the authority of Moses and Elijah, the liberator and prophet. The authoritative voice from the heavens declared, “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!”(Mark 9:7)
It’s time for us to decide to whom we will listen in these uncertain, polarizing, hate-filled, violent times. What voices are shaping our actions and relationships? FOX News? MSNBC? Talk radio? Politicians and their spokespersons? Religious celebrities and power seekers?
What would it mean to listen to the One who is the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ?
For the last three years, I have begun each day of Lent reading from the Sermon on the Mount. They are the first words I read in the morning. Before email, Facebook, and news articles. The words of Jesus thereby become the filter through which I read and hear everything else.
The contrast of the voice of Jesus and voices of much of social media, talk radio, television, and the internet is stark. Here are a few of the radical words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted . . .
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Turn the other cheek, go the second mile.
Practice forgiveness if you expect to be forgiven.
Don’t make a show of your piety.
Judge not that you be not judged.
Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.
You cannot serve God and wealth.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
As the disciples faced an uncertain and tumultuous future while on the Mount of Transfiguration, we live in a world of competing voices. We would do well to heed the voice the disciples heard from the heavens:
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)