St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-03-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-03-2019

Speaking To With God

Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.

Why is it, that when we speak to God it’s called prayer; and when God speaks to us it’s called schizophrenia?

Yes, that was a joke as its originator, Lily Tomlin, intended it to be. But I don’t repeat it with the intent of belittling those who suffer with the mental illness. I have friends, near and dear to me, who struggle with this very confusing, debilitating disease of the mind. Rather, I bring it into this conversation for us to look at it from another angle, a more serious angle; to view it in the reality of the teachings of our faith.

Of the four readings for today, this Transfiguration Sunday, three of them make direct reference to God speaking to people.

The reading from Exodus occurs after God and Moses had a lengthy conversation and, as we read, “Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai”.

In the Psalm we heard in verse six, Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

And, of course, from the Gospel reading Moses and Elijah are speaking with Jesus, and God speaks directly to the three Disciples saying “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

And, even in the fourth reading, that from 2 Corinthians, we don’t hear the voice of the divine but we can recall the day of Paul’s converting experience when he heard the words “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”?

Many are the examples of Bible characters that heard God speak to them, so I guess the coincidence of finding references in all of today’s readings shouldn’t be surprising. What we might find surprising is that we don’t hear of many happening since those recorded in the Bible; at least not many that aren’t regarded as the result of mental illness.

I often wonder why this is so; has God stopped talking to us? Or is there a sort of spiritual illness that, in the reverse of the schizophrenic symptom of “hearing” the voice of God, has left us unable or even unwilling to hear that voice.

It does seem that we often have problems with hearing the messages coming to us in the physical realm. This past week as I was driving to and from a meeting, my radio was allowing me the displeasure of hearing live coverage of Michael Cohen testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Many on the panel asked their questions, and then spoke over his attempt at answering, constantly interrupting him with more question, or more accurately spoke their statements in the form of questions. It was obvious they didn’t want to hear his answers. They wanted their constituents to hear their toughness in what they asked but, out of fear I guess, didn’t want to take the chance of them hearing anything enlightening from the witness. Their goal was to have their voice heard asking bold questions but to keep silent the voice of their perceived nemesis.

In contrast, just one day after that uncomfortable experience I had the opportunity to meet with a friend and engage in some more meaningful conversation with him. While giving me some background information on what was on his mind he spoke of how he was recently reminded of a common flaw in our prayer habits, where we so often spend the entirety of our prayer time speaking to God and not taking time to listen for God’s response.

Having corrected this in his personal prayer life, my friend now finds himself being called into specialized ministry. The rest of our conversation was about how to make this new ministry happen mixed with admissions of fear and anxiety. (Does that sound a bit like Moses?)

Perhaps my friend had his moments of wishing he hadn’t paused to listen for God to speak to him. Yet, as Moses learned and as my friend is now learning, when God calls there’s no turning away. And, also as Moses learned, and where my friend now places his faith, God doesn’t call the equipped; God equips the called.


As I’m sure you all know, one of the mantras of the United Church of Christ is “God is still speaking”.

I’ve been challenged on this by members of other denominations who don’t believe it is true. Their grounds for such resistance are rooted in the belief that the next time God speaks to us will be in the midst of the apocalypse when Christ returns and God himself comes to dwell on earth on a throne in the New Jerusalem.

But I tell you with certainty that God is indeed still speaking. God is still calling prophets and ministers; God is still shedding new light into the world, opening new doors and offering greater understanding of his master plan. And many of the problems in this world are the result of humanities resistance to listening. We pray that God will bring peace to this earth, but we don’t want to hear him tell us how we can make it happen. We ask God to lift the poor out of their suffering but we don’t want to hear anything about sharing our wealth with others. We ask God one question after another without pausing to give him a chance to answer the first. We ask God for help with our troubles… but how often do we ask God how we can be of help?

Why?… Are we afraid of what we’ll hear? Are we afraid God will call us out of our comfort zone into places of anxiety? Are we afraid God will correct us or ask us to give up our long held beliefs? Are we afraid that God will ask us to change and to be the instrument of change? Or, are we afraid that if we do listen we won’t be able to resist the call we hear and, when responding to that call with action, we’ll be labeled as mentally ill, crazy, a nut case.

These are questions we must ask ourselves with willingness to hear the answers; a task made easier when we, in faith, rely on the power of the one speaking to us, being mindful of the glory already revealed and how much that glory needs to be revealed again.

God is still speaking, and we must listen and respond to his words, following in confidence that God is leading us into even greater things than we’ve already experienced.



Exodus 34:29-35
34:29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
34:30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.
34:31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.
34:32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.
34:33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face;
34:34 but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded,
34:35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm 99   

99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.
99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!
99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!
99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.
99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.
99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,
3:13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.
3:14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.
3:15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;
3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
4:2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.
9:29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
9:30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.
9:31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
9:32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
9:33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.
9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
9:35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
9:36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.
9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.
9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.
9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”
9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”
9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.