Thursday, April 10, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear?

 Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Listening is assuredly the most important human device God has given us.
It is also the least exploited for spiritual gain.

We need to listen to what others are saying. Even more, we need to understand what they are saying.

Jesus dealt much with people who did not listen. Interestingly, as we approach this Sunday of Palms and as we remember Jesus' triumphant entry to Jerusalem, two lines of scripture came in front of my eyes. To say the least, they caught me off guard. However, they seem to fit right in with our lessons on discipleship as well as this Lenten season.

John 8:37

New International Version (NIV)
37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.

John 8:47

New International Version (NIV)
47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Jesus would chide the religious leaders of they day more than anyone else. There were times where he would say things about people not listening. The general public had their own woes that led them astray. The basic human desires to be fed and taken care of can be enough to cap a person ears and lead them down the wrong road. In the parable of the Sower, Jesus tells his disciples that the people had ears to hear with, but could not understand what it was that God had to say to them. This passage reflected back to Isaiah where the Lord gives the prophet his calling into ministry and immediately tells him that no one would listen to the message that God intended for him to deliver.

What a distressing and unsettling notion that is, sending a person out and immediately telling them that they will be unsuccessful. Heartbreaking. Even the person with the message needs to have ears to hear with in order to understand God has called them to do.

How about the viewpoint from the audience? Isaiah would have gotten his call to speak for the Lord early on, recorded for us in Chapter 6. Has anything changed by the time we get to the end of his book?

Isaiah 58:9-12

New International Version (NIV)
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Notice the "if" statements in that passage.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk
 if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed
There are conditions that need to be met in this spiritual life. We are not here to just do whatever we want to do however we want to do it. The condition that God people on his people is that they listen. God's people need to hear, and more than just heard some words spoken and give the clunking sound of nodding the head. Did you/do you understand what it is that God is saying to you?

Do you want to be free of oppression and grief? Do you want to walk away from your depression and doubt? Do you want to rebuild the broken down ruins around you and see something new rise from the ashes? Many people say that's what they want, for their church to grow, to see themselves conquer personal issues in their lives. So, why don't we see those things happening?

See the fear in the passage that is normally is read on this Palm Sunday.

Luke 19:28-40

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Hmm. Everything is going fine in this passage until we get to the last two verses.
Why is it that the Pharisees want Jesus to rebuke the disciples?
Well, we don't really know for sure. We could speculate and we probably wouldn't be far from the truth if we did. Look at the Pharisees historically throughout the concourse of the gospels. Who is always there, ready to shoot down or throw a bucket of cold water on the fire being stoked by Jesus?

Yep, the religious leaders.

Those who feel they are in charge or have some sort of responsibility to govern the religious system in this body of people called "Israel" are the ones who shun any possibility of being free. Why is that? From the time of Isaiah and again in the time of Jesus, the so called "leaders" in the Hebrew community are the ones who end up leading their downfall. Maybe there is a disconnect with the issue of hearing what it is the Lord has to say.

Take any teacher in any school system and ask them what the biggest problem is in their classroom and most assuredly the issue will be listening. In an article from Education Week, Larry Ferlazzo writes about the need for hands on instruction with the teacher setting the example for expectations in the learning environment. "Teacher modeling" is an important facet to the learning experience. If the students can see the teacher actually doing a math problem or some part of a social studies experiment, then the students have a much higher chance of repeating the process they see worked out in front of them.

Jesus didn't just tell his disciples or the crowds or the religious leaders what to do. He actually did it.
He didn't just tell people to listen to God. He actually followed his Father's words.
He didn't tell the sick to go to the Temple and find healing. He touched people, on the spot most times, and sent them home rejoicing and praising God.
He didn't just suggest that people forgive one another, but on a cross with spikes in his hands and feet he actually says, "Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they are doing."
There was no better moment of "teacher modeling" than on that day of triumphal entry.

Jesus doesn't come in expecting accolades. He doesn't ride in with an army.
See the message that Jesus wants his people to hear. The message that he has been preaching all along.

"The last shall be first and the first shall be last."

It's a donkey, not a tall, proud horse.
The praises of the common people, not the stately organizations or the religious leaders in the temple.
The cloaks and palm branches, not the riches of an empire or a kingly throne.
It's a very simple entry. Maybe that's what sets of the religious leaders off the most.
There are people who will remember what a church or a family or even a place of employment used to look like. You go changing that environment, even if its for the better, for the good of the organization or family, and you'll find people resistant to change. Jesus found them in the midst of a great celebration. 

Set aside, for a moment, the truth that these people have the wrong notion about why Jesus has come. The common folks think that Jesus has come as king to set them free. They think he will cast off the Roman rule over their heads. Ok, they have it wrong. Still, they can sense something great is about to happen. And, they feel like praising God about it. Why should they be stopped? Is there something wrong with praising God, even if the particulars about the "why" is off a bit? God still likes to be praised. That's why human beings were put here in the first place, to bring glory and praise to the Creator. 

Always has to be a sour puss in the group.
“Teacher, get your disciples under control!” (MSG)
We don't like all this carrying on. It's not what were used to. It's not how we do things. And, more importantly, we aren't stupid. We can read the writing on the wall. If things progress in this manner, we won't be the ones in power anymore. If people feel the freedom to praise God and seek him the way they want too, then what need will they have for us?

Seriously? Why would anyone want to shoot down the possibility for growth and expansion in the kingdom of heaven? Why would anybody want to shoot down growth in their local church? It amazes me how some folks talk about how they want their church to grow, about how they want things to happen, but when it actually starts happening...then the griping ensues.

All these people want is to be free from the vice grip of rule that the Romans have had on them. Jesus comes and shows them exactly why they are in the mess they are in and actually shows them, through his own example, how to loosen that vice grip. The truth in their hearts rears it's ugly head.

They don't want it.

These people praising God and carrying on, get em out of here.
All this celebration and music and singing, get it out of here. 
It's not what we remember. It's not what we're used to. We don't want it. 

It has to be heartbreaking for a teacher when they have given instruction to a child and they have done all they can do to help a child learn, and the child still doesn't get it. 

How much more agonizing it must be when a teacher has done all he/she can do to help a child see how to do a thing, grasp a concept, complete an assignment, and the student, who is bright and capable of understanding, simply looks the teacher in the face and says "NO". 

"I don't want to learn"

OH buddy. You will learn. And, you will listen. And, you will understand.
And, the harder the student makes the process, the harder the lesson becomes.

Do you hear what I hear?
Some might hear praising, and joy, and happiness, and life.
Some might hear nonsense, and ridiculousness, and death.

What we hear and understand will determine what we experience.
Hearing is only part of the lesson. Understanding requires that we use our hearts. 

Jesus rode in on a donkey. Jesus stands at the door and knocks.
He doesn't demand praise. He doesn't demand to enter.
And, if we shun him away, he'll leave. He'll go away and leave us to our own devices.

And, the silence will be deafening.

No comments:

Post a Comment