given on Sunday, October 25, 3012
Theology in action
Listen, then follow & let the light shine
Scripture connections: Psalm 34 & Mark 10:45-52
Have you ever heard an autumn leaf fall? How about a snowflake? One might think that such sounds are really not heard, but I have heard them. I listen to nature.
I hear the wind coming as it blows through the trees down the street and races in closer and closer. I hear the cry of the coyotes and the hoot of the owls from the woods that surround our subdivision. I listen to the night sounds when I step outside with my pup.
The sounds of our world surround us and we get in such a hurry to take care of our families, homes, and jobs that we do not hear a thing. How in the world, in the midst of all this busyness do we hear God?
No doubt just living our lives demands so much from us, yet as Christians the priority should be to hear God first, and then hear the demands of the world around us. But do we?
Psalm 34 reminds us that God is always listening to us. He hears everything from our cries for help to our evil words uttered in anger. He hears the inner most thoughts we think are buried deep in our hearts where no one can hear. But God listens. God is omnipotent, all knowing, so we cannot hide our thoughts.
As practicing Christians, we train ourselves to talk with God in a regular fashion—prayer. We learn the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we develop breath prayers, and we know the power of supplication prayer. Prayer is our conversation with God, but do we ever think about listening for God during our conversation?
Many of the most rewarding moments, in my opinion, are those when I am sitting outdoors feeling the wind blow, the sun shining upon me, and the scent of the flowers waft pass me. In the quiet of God’s world, my mind hears new ideas, new solutions to old problems, and answers to questions I simply could not find. I have learned that these are the times I hear God.
Imagine Bartimaeus’s life from Mark’s scripture. Born blind, this man heard about Jesus’ healing power. He listened and waited to hear that Jesus was in the area, and he listened for his voice. This blind man’s hearing served as his eyes, and he desperately believed that when Jesus heard his plea, he would be healed. He believed that he would finally see, even though his blindness was since birth.
Expecting God to hear and to perform a miracle in answer to our prayer removes a key ingredient to solving any problem we share with God. Thinking that only God’s miracle will be the answer removes us from any responsibility. How can we expect God to listen to us and to do whatever it takes if we fail to do our share?
We must listen for God’s direction and accept our responsibility. We must participate in the solution whether for ourselves or whether for others. We are to serve one another in love.
Jesus listened. When Bartimaeus sat and listened for Jesus to draw near, he called out. Jesus heard his cry. Because he heard the cry, Jesus provided a solution. Bartimaeus was given the ability to see. His faith was honored, but if he had not called out, Jesus would not have heard him.
Do we listen? There are two ways we can listen: (1) we listen to the world around us to hear what is needed; and (2) we listen to God guide us in how to provide a solution.
First, as Christians, we are to live our faith out loud. Others should hear how we believe in God and how faith makes a difference in our lives. As we listen to the world around us, we discover needs that we might be able to help. Think of all the medical conditions that walks and fundraisers spring up to help. On a smaller scale, consider a child’s cry for help when it stumbles and scrapes a knee. We hear the cry and answer.
All of us have passions and special interests we know so personally that we come up with ideas for improvement and change. We listen to our hearts. God listens, and he speaks to our hearts; do we hear him? Do we listen to God and respond to the need or do we ignore God’s message?
This is the second form of listening. Granted God’s answer or solution probably is not stated in actual words spoken aloud directly to our face. Listening to God means accepting that a new idea or a new approach may be an answer to a problem. Listening to God means we feel a strong compulsion to donate our time or resources to fix something. Listening to God may be as simple as supporting someone else’s ideas and offering to help.
Listening carefully does lead to some problems. For one thing, listening means that you may have to accept your role in making something happen. You may have to share the idea with others or you may have to lead the effort to make it all work.
Hearing God can also keep you very busy. Maybe you do not think you have the time, so you try to put it off. But God does not give up. He will keep nagging you and speaking to you until you answer.
When God speaks to us, at first we may not hear him; and sometimes we hear him, but we try to ignore him. We may not see a way to do what we hear him tell us. We may think we are not qualified, or we may not think we have the resources necessary. But that constant pull to do something will not disappear until you invest in God’s call.
Therefore, the next step when listening to God is following God’s instructions to the best of your ability. God will give us the strength, the supplies, and the ability to see his work completed. We simply must “just say yes”* when he speaks.
In Bishop Schnase’s acknowledges a problem churches have had in acting on God’s requests. In his latest book, Just Say Yes, the traditional committee-format for church governing has stopped many ministry ideas. Why? The committee structure cannot respond quickly. The timeline often takes three months just to get an idea introduced.
Therefore, after listening and hearing God, then follow the idea as far as you can independently. When you reach a time that additional manpower or resources are needed, then develop a plan and seek others to join in or if necessary take it to the church council for further assistance.
The council may discuss it and turn it down, but if the project fulfills the church’s mission, is having positive results and the resources are available, it can be quickly approved and allowed to move forward. There will not be a three or more month delay in the work. This is listening, following and finally letting God’s light shine.
Listening to God is not easy especially when it calls us to action, but as Christians we are asked to share the Good News or through a different metaphor, let God’s light shine. First listen, then follow, and let the light shine. We may not understand God’s full plan or know what to expect, yet when God is in charge surprising results occur.
You have granted us many gifts, skills and talents.
Sometimes we do not hear what you ask us to do.
Sometimes we ignore that inner message you send.
We ask your patience, Lord, as we learn to listen.
Speak loudly making sure we hear what you ask.
Yell at us until we accept our Christian responsibility.
Guide us to follow Jesus’ example who heard Bartimaeus.
Let us hear the cry of the lonely, the hurting, and the fearful.
Then speak to us so we may find a way to let your light shine.
As we listen, guide us in learning to follow.
As we follow, guide us in finding ways to share the light.
As we see the light shine, may others find the way.
–Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen