Here is a radical idea: What if instead of all the people who seek to speak for God we listened to God himself. Listen to what God says in the Gospel of Luke 9:28-36.
Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.
I hear and read a lot of people who purport to speak for God. They rail on this thing and that thing, pulling bits and pieces from the Old Testament and even from parts of the New Testament. But often they fail to back it up with the words of God himself, in the voice of His Son, Jesus the Christ.
In this reading, Peter awakens from a deep sleep to see Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah, who are about to depart. And failing to notice that they are about to depart, Peter wants to honor them along with Jesus by setting up tents. But God the Father surrounds Peter, John, and James with a cloud, encompassing the scene, and says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Listen to him.
We can’t tell in this written form of the text the inflections in God’s voice. Does He say, “Listen to him” or “Listen to him“? But I have the feeling that the Father was telling the disciples – and us – to now listen to His Son. Listen to him. The time has passed from listening to fear and hatred and division. It’s time to love one another.
Many who say they speak for God want you to loathe your fellow human. They want you to fear them. They want you to judge them. They want you to stone them or kill them or otherwise punish them. They quote old scripture or short, isolated sound bites of new scripture that support their points of view. “Fear God,” they demand. But what does Jesus say? Does He address any of these peoples’ fears or intolerances or angers? Does Jesus speak of judging others or stoning them or killing them?
Jesus speaks of love. He tells us that the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul, and that the second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Furthermore, Jesus says not to judge others lest you be judged, and He says to remove the plank from your own eye before you try to remove the splinter from anothers’. And Jesus says let he who is not a sinner cast the first stone; we are reminded that Jesus was like us in every way but sin, and he never cast a single stone in any story of the Gospels.
Where do these people come off speaking for God, when they fail to actually quote God? In today’s reading from the Gospel, we hear from God. And He says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Be wary of the preacher who doesn’t heed those words.