A voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” This is the second time we have heard this voice…Remember at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” These proclamations from God don’t happen often, but they sure sound important. God wants us to know that Jesus is His Son; God is pleased with Him; and we are supposed to pay attention to what He says. “Listen to Him!”
LISTEN…What does that mean? Listen: (verb) to give something thoughtful attention…Hear: (verb) to apprehend by the ear. The difference between listening and hearing is significant…Hearing is a passive activity that requires no effort…If your ears are working properly, you simply hear what’s going on around you…You don’t have to do anything – the sounds just rush into your head by way of those ingeniously designed ears that scoop it all in. “Listening,” on the other hand, requires effort…Maybe that’s why many of us seem to be so bad at it – it’s too hard to actually turn the focus off of our self and pay attention to what someone else is saying…That really is what sets listening apart from simple hearing…It forces us to pay attention to another person…It requires us to admit that ours is not the only significant voice in the room. That fact is never truer than when the other voice comes from God.
Let’s listen now for the voice of Jesus…
At the Pool of Bethsaida, Jesus encountered a man who could not walk. The man waited everyday to get into the pool at the right time for healing. Jesus asked him: “Do you want to get well?” The man complained that he could not make it to the water on his own and nobody would help him. Jesus told him to get up and walk. Is this the voice of challenge that calls us to stop whining and do something about our own circumstances? Is this the voice of encouragement that says if you try to reach for what God wants for you, you will get there? When you hear this story, what voice do you hear and what difference does it make?
Mark tells the story about a woman who had been very sick for twelve years…She had suffered a great deal and sought the care of many doctors who could not help her…As she continued to get worse she heard about this man Jesus and went looking for him…She came up behind him in a large crowd and touched his clothing…Immediately, her bleeding stopped and she felt that she had been healed. Jesus sensed what had happened and asked the crowd: “Who touched me?” Though his disciples could not believe that he could have noticed this in such a large crowd, the woman stepped forward…In spite of her fear and awe, she knelt in front of Jesus and told him her story…He simply said: “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace.” Do you hear a voice of compassion and mercy that speaks to your own need for healing? What is hanging around in your life that needs to be healed or washed away? Do you hear a voice calling you to step forward and reach out to Jesus in spite of the crowd of things holding you back? Does this voice help you to realize that, no matter what might seem to be in the way of your getting God’s attention; Jesus can sense your need and your desire to let your faith guide you to Him? As you listen to this voice, what do you hear and what difference does it make?
Jesus told his disciples: “Have faith in God! I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’ – and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen – it will happen. Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you. And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings.” Do you hear a voice of encouragement saying that no obstacle is too big for God to conquer? Or do you hear a voice of entitlement telling you that you can have whatever you want if you pray hard enough? Is this a voice reminding you that the efficacy of prayer is built on faith in God and what God has in mind for you? Can you hear a voice saying God is not a wishing well? It is not our desire that moves mountains…it is our faith that “moving the mountain” is what God wants. What do you hear and what difference does it make?
Finally, Jesus told a crowd gathered on a mountainside: “Ask and you will receive. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.” I hear a voice of love and welcome that says: all I need to do is have a little faith and make the effort…Jesus is standing there waiting. Do you hear a voice saying: “Just ask, I promise to answer?” Can you hear that same voice assuring you that you will not be ignored? Do you hear a voice now that welcomes you simply because you stretched out your hand and knocked to be let in? What voices do you hear and what difference do they make?
Listening is hard; listening for God’s voice is even harder…We are challenged to block out some voices and let other voices in…We are pressed to know which one is the voice of God.
I am reminded of this story about the prophet Elijah: The Lord told Elijah that he would pass by him on the mountain, so Elijah waited for God there. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And, after the fire, came a still, small voice…a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he knew this was the voice of God and he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave so that the Lord might pass by him. (1 Kings 19)
And so we come back to the question: What does it mean to really listen? How can we move from simply scooping up all the noise that surrounds us to giving our undivided and thoughtful attention to Jesus? Are you really listening for the still, small voice gently calling you to…?
What voices must you block out in order to listen? What voices do you allow in? In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.