Dare To Listen. Dare To Hear.
September 6, 2015
The woman in our Gospel reading from Mark 7 for today needed to have her daughter healed. Being a female Gentile with a daughter possessed by demons put her in the category of being someone that no one wanted to have anything to do with. She was shunned, especially by Jewish people like the disciples. She had “3 strikes” against her, so to speak. Female, Gentile, and in contact with a person possessed by demons. – and eeryone considered her to be “out”. Out of their circle of friends, out of their circle of those they would help. She needed help for her daughter to be healed, and that indeed was a desperate situation for her.
The man in our Gospel reading for today lacked the physical ability to hear and speak well . We might find it difficult to identify with the woman in our passage and her situation, but maybe we can more readily identify with the man. Imagine that you are the deaf mute in this passage. You are not able to hear a sound. Without a doubt one of the most important senses in your life would be the ability to hear. For most people in your village the world was a world of sounds. They knew what to do during the day based on the sounds around them. The rooster crowed when it was time to start the day. The cattle lowed when it was time to milk them. People were called when it was time for a meal. Street venders called out what they were selling at the market. On the Sabbath the worship at the Synagogue was filled with the reading of scripture and the recitation of prayers. Sounds filled the lives of folks in your village, except for you. You are deaf and cannot hear a sound, and since you can not hear you have a hard time speaking. You don’t know the sounds to make to communicate. How would you live? How would you communicate? How would you survive? One day Jesus comes through your town and a large crowd gathers around Him. Someone brings you to Jesus, and Jesus heals you. You can hear! You can live a normal life! You can hear! You can be a part of the community again! You can hear! What a blessing Jesus has given to you! He has not just given you back the ability to communicate, but He has given you back the ability to fully participate in life! Now, you can hear words, learn them, and communicate with others, A world that had always just existed suddenly becomes real for you!
The man and the woman in our Gospel reading for today had definite needs but Jesus certainly blessed them and provided for them. We can easily see what things the man and woman in our Gospel reading needed in their lives, can’t we?
But what about you?
What do you need?
You may have a lot of friends and have folks you can call on if you need help. You may be able to hear and communicate well. But what do you need? You know, Jesus was concerned about those who physically could not hear . He healed the deaf. But Jesus was not only concerned about those who could not hear physically. He was also concerned about those who could physically hear, but did not listen spiritually. His heart broke for those who, as He put it , had ears but could not hear. I believe Jesus’ heart still breaks for those who may be able to physically hear, but refuse to spiritually listen.
Many of us might have what we need, but lack the spiritual ability to truly care for others who are in need and want to help those who are in need. Many of us may be able to hear and speak very well but lack the spiritual ability to truly hear and truly listen to others. While we may have the physical ability to hear, we may suffer a kind of a spiritual deafness. We may suffer from the affliction of not really hearing and truly listening to people, or, to put it another way, we may suffer from the affliction of physically being able to listen to people, but failing to truly hear them. It is possible to listen to a person, yet fail to really hear them.
Do you suffer from this affliction of being able to hear well, yet not being able to listen well?
I wear hearing aids that help me hear better, but sometimes I miss things that are said. I miss what is being said not because I can’t hear but because I don’t listen. Sally will probably tell you that there are times I need listening aids instead of hearing aids! Maybe you are like me, and need listening aids to truly hear, listen to, and understand the needs of those around you.
You know, the ability to truly listen is a skill. It is something that can be acquired. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the greatest gift you can give to those around you is the gift of your listening, and truly listening to them. Just close your lips and open your ears nd you will hear people and understand them in a new way! The old adage that God gave us 2 ears and one mouth is so true! If you can learn to use your ears twice as much as you use your mouth you will really hear people and really listen to in a new way.
The loss of our hearing would be a tragic event, but I am not sure it would be more tragic than having perfect hearing and refusing to listen to those around us. Part of our Gospel text is the story of a man who couldn’t hear. But what about the life of a person who refuses to truly listen? I am convinced that not listening to people, failing to hear what they are really saying, has led to more divorces, more family break-ups, more run away children, more mental illness, and more total despondency than any other behavior. It has also lead to more people feeling totally helpless, simply because those who can hear them refuse to listen to them. Learning to hear and truly listen to those around us is so important for us!
Jesus healed the deaf but I think He also came to heal those who can hear but don’t listen. Too many times we love to hear the sound of our own voices and don’t really listen to others. We may hear them but we may be so intent on how we are going to respond what they are saying that we don’t really listen. Just as it is not God’s will for us to go through life not hearing, it is also not God’s will for us to go through life not listening.
Friends, there is no substitute for listening to God or to each other. Over and over again Jesus exhibited this quality of truly listening to others. One day Jesus was walking out of the town of Jericho and a large crowd was around Him, a lot of people pushing and shoving and yelling at Jesus, when He suddenly heard the shouts of a lonely beggar named Bartimaus. What the crowd heard that day were the rude interruptions of a nobody. What Jesus heard was the cry of a person in need, and He healed Him. Jesus wants us to hear, and truly listen to, the people in our lives. When they share with us, He wants us to listen to what they are saying.
There was a fifth grade teacher who decided that she would use an exercise to help her students be quiet and listen. Every morning for five minutes she required them to be totally quiet. That’s hard for any of us to do, much less a fifth grader. She discovered that a great deal of good came from the experience of silence. After one of these quiet times she asked the students if they had heard anything during the time of silence. One boy said: “Yes, I heard something say that I should be more obedient to my parents.” Another said: “I heard something say that you should always be fair: When you are tagged and nobody sees it you are still out.”
It might be a good idea to carve out time to truly listen to the people in your life – your spouse, your children, your friends, your parents, or even a complete stranger who you meet. You need to truly listen to the people in your life to truly get to know them. It would definitely be a good idea for you to carve out time every day to truly listen to God. You need to truly listen to God to get to know Him and know His will for your life. Your life, and the lives of those around you, can be radically changed when you begin to truly listen to God and those around you.
A young boy who went to a restaurant with his parents. The waitress walked up and, looking at the young boy, said: “What would you like to eat?” The boy eagerly shouted back: “I’ll take a hamburger, French fries, and a milkshake”. The mother immediately interrupted him and told the waitress: “Oh, that’s not what he wants. He’ll take the roast beef, a baked potato, and a glass of milk.” Much to the surprise of both the mother and the boy, the waitress completely ignored her and again asked the boy: “And what do you want on that hamburger?” The boy shouted back: “ketchup, lots of ketchup.” “And what kind of shake?” the waitress asked him. “Make it chocolate” the boy replied. The boy then turned to his parents with a big smile on his face and said: “Say, ain’t she something. She thinks that I’m real.”
If you start really listening to people they are suddenly going to become real to you and they will notice it!
So, can you hear folks but not really listen to them? We all need to start truly listening to leach other and to others around us. The first step is to truly begin listening to God. Spend time listening, really listening, to God. Hear what He wants to tell you, what He wants you to do in your life and how He wants you to live and relate to others. . Then learn to listen to those around you as God listens to them. Learn to see them as people who are loved by God and who God has called you to share His love with. Learn to listen to them when they share their lives with you. Learn to truly hear them as God hears them.
One of my favorite prayers goes like this:
“Lord, give me the eyes to see those around me as You see them.
Give me the ears to hear those around me as You hear them.
Give me a heart that breaks with the things that break Your heart.
Lord, let me share Your love with the world.”
Eyes that see. Ears that hear. A heart that breaks. These are the things we all need if we are going to be God’s people in the world.
We need to dare to listen and dare to hear. Amen.