Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lent - The Awakened Ear

Preached on the Wednesday Lenten Service, March 2, 2016

Scripture readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Matthew 13:10-17

I had a friend in seminary whose name was Roger. Roger couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. If you were beside him in chapel, while we were singing, you would hear the music go up and Roger would go down. The music would go down and Roger’s voice would go up.
Walking along Lower Crab Creek
North of Desert Aire/Mattawa
February 2016
Roger honestly confessed that he really didn’t think that he heard notes at all. At least he was sure that he didn’t hear them the way other people hear them.
The interesting thing was that Roger loved music and he loved to sing. Music, he said, was something he felt inside him.
I think that’s a very good observation of what music is and does. It’s a very good observation of what hearing is and what our ears do for us. I sometimes think that seeing goes inside us to our brains, and that hearing goes somewhere deeper, to what we call our heart.
What would you miss, if you had no ears, or no hearing at all? What are the things of the heart that you would miss?
What about the ears and the hearing of other people? What would you miss if they couldn’t hear you? What would they miss, if they couldn’t hear you?
(I love you. I need you. You are wonderful. I hurt inside. I am so very sorry. I am grieving. I am afraid. I love you too. I feel happy. God be praised and thanked!)
We walk in the sight of beauty, but we don’t see it. We walk in the sound of love, but we don’t hear it.
What would you miss, if you couldn’t hear? What would others miss, if they couldn’t hear you?
There is a form of deafness that comes from stubbornness and the refusal to hear or listen. There is a form of deafness that comes from pride. There is a form of deafness that comes from our own sufferings, our own injuries, and our own burdens and (in this deafness) we will not hear because we have not shared our suffering, and injuries, and burdens with others. We have not learned to say, “Help me!” Or else we have said, “Help me,” and no help seemed to come.
Jesus gave the treasure of his kingdom, and his healing, and his help in the form of stories called parables. Some people heard Jesus, and they knew exactly what he meant, and his treasure gave them joy and hope. They wanted to follow Jesus. For other people, the stories were no better than their own deafness; no better than the silence they lived in.
Jesus didn’t tell stories in order to shut some people out, or punish them, or keep them trapped within their own silence. I believe that Jesus preserved and prolonged their silence in the hope that their silence would heal them.
Sometimes we need quiet in order to heal. When we have had enough quiet, we become strong enough and willing enough to ask for help.
I believe that if we learn to ask for help, help will come. Somehow we will be heard. If no human help comes, God will hear us, and come. Jesus will come.
I have prayed long, exhausting prayers in a vast silence, and Jesus came to me in that silence. He was also absolutely quiet. He didn’t say a word, but his silence surrounded me with love.
God’s listening silence became his arms around me. It became his presence with me. In such hours and moments as those, I didn’t need anything more. It was enough.
It’s a hard thing to put silence into words. Think about that. And it’s hard to put God’s listening and healing silence into words. You have to be there.
In Isaiah there is a voice that says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear, to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:4-6
Do you realize that the prophet Isaiah is giving us the voice of Jesus, here? God came into our world, in Jesus, to be a baby who learned to hear. Jesus was taught (as we all are) by what he heard. He was a baby crying and silent.
God came into our world, in Jesus, to be a man, speaking and silent. He came to be a man tortured and killed on a cross for us; crying, and praying, and as silent as his final sigh.
God came, in Jesus, to a world full of crying and silence to be the one who could hear you and come to you. He learned, as a human being, what he knew from the beginning, as God: how to be present, and how to listen.
Our first break-through in the art of hearing comes when we learn the way that Jesus listens to us in silence. Then we will know how to listen to him.
Then we will know how to simply be in the presence of others who need us to be lovingly silent. We will find other people who need us to be that person who can be present, and quiet, and hear them, and listen.

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