Then there is reality!
On the phone: Hello - no son, I haven’t seen your chrome book charger….
The last time I saw your favorite sweatshirt, it was on your floor…
Next Thursday? I don’t know, I barely know what we are doing today…
No, I don’t need a free estimate to replace the vinyl siding on my brick house.
At the door: Hey there, do you have just a minute, I’ll be short.
Yes mam, it is about dinner time, but we were just in the area offering free window inspections.
Hello Pastor, hey this won’t take long I just need to tell you something.
In traffic: Did they really just honk at me?
Please, we ALL need to hear your music while waiting in the drive-thru lane!
At home: STOP YELLING AND COME IN HERE TO TALK TO ME.
Turn down that noise you call music.
I don’t care who started it, who left it out, or who’s turn it is…
The noise of life.
The noise of living.
The noise of being.
How can we hear any one thing when it seems everything and everyone is making some kind of noise around us? How can we listen along the path of life and faith when it seems there are way more and way louder distractions and disruptions in our world than ever before. How can we hear the voice / voices we need to hear when we can’t even hear our own?
We have walked through a lot of noise this past year and four months - locally, nationally, and internationally. As families, as classmates, friends, and colleagues. Personally - in our relationships, at work, and through change or disappointment. As organizations, school districts, and businesses. We did not ask for all the noise and disruption. We did not expect the interruptions we have endured. We did not anticipate just how loud some voices, issues, causes, groups, or organizations would become and how silent or silenced others became. It has been a journey on multiple levels, including what some would call a spiritual pilgrimage - a walk that takes us deeper into the heart of God by way of struggle, pain, loss, discomfort, and tension.
Learning to listen is tough yet is is critical for our faith walk. We can learn a great deal when we listen and listen well. When we listen to understand and not judge. When we listen as an act of mercy and not criticism. When we listen for truth and not just what we want to hear. Listening takes practice - a lifetime some would say. It takes patience - to listen to their story, their need, their side and just our own. It takes presence - you have to show up ready and willing to listen.
In John 12, Jesus enters Jerusalem and begins final days on earth. John records a fascinating and powerful account of Jesus speaking to the Jewish believers and a few interested Greeks. Like so many before and after them, they heard his words but did not listen. They listened but did not hear - could not hear, because they were listening for the wrong reasons, wrong motives. They listened and heard what they wanted to hear, not what Jesus was truly saying. They made it fit their narrative, not God’s.
Church, we will never understand Jesus nor the attitude of the Jews, or even those first believers until we understand how Jesus turned their ideas upside down, replacing a dream of conquest with a vision of mercy on the Cross; a dream of vengeance, paybacks, and a we’re better than them kind of community, with a vision of sacrifice, pay it forward and no one is better than any kind of community.. Some say the tragedy is that they refused to try to listen - refused to try to hear what Jesus was really saying. Maybe they did refuse, but if they did then so do we.
This passage of scripture is one of the few in the New Testament where we are told that there was an actual, audible voice from heaven. Some who heard, thought it was a loud noise - thunder, distant rumbling, or perhaps a loud, nearby storm rolling in, or even the growing crowds and commotion of the festival. Others knew that Jesus had just prayed so they thought what they heard was an angel answering him. With our vantage point to the story, and with John’s account, we know it wasn’t thunder, the roaring crowd, or an angel. It was God.
Even with our vantage point, I can’t help but ask, how often do we miss the voice of God because we are not listening with our whole heart, soul, strength, and mind? How many times do we miss what God is doing because we don’t want to hear it, don’t want to see it because it doesn’t fit our narrative for God?
People of God, our entire life on earth is a long walk in the same direction and that direction is toward the God who created us. Toward the others of this world. Toward the folks walking through the same mess as we are. Toward our truest self. We cannot walk that pilgrim path successfully without listening to and for God; without deciphering all the noise around us.
As we walk the last leg of this Lenten journey, I want to encourage, invite, and challenge you to commit yourself to listening. Give ear (and heart and mind) to Jesus and remember, he likes to turn things upside down. You might be surprised what you hear...and what you don’t. You might be surprised at what he is saying and what he is not. AMEN.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine