Sunday, September 5, 2021

Understanding What We Can't Hear


Our spiritual hearing is distorted to the extent that our love is imperfect. 

Jesus's physical healing of him, hearing impaired person, challenges us to receive healing of our spiritual impairments with the same word, be opened. 

And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, "Be opened." (Mark 7:34 KJV)

Our denominational motto is, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors." We unite together with others in a stance of openness around the altar. We believe in an open communion, and so we have an open table and an open ministry of our spiritual gifts amongst all who have received Christ as their savior in order to be in ministry to the world around them. And we have the open and full participation in the faith in life and ministry of the church, the inclusiveness statement that we adopted in our congregation in 2018 is a reflection of the openness that we live out in our relationships with each other and our community.

Listen, again as we reflect on those words: 

We invite everyone to share fully and the worship services, life, ministry, and leadership of Briensburg United Methodist Church, inclusive of age, race, nationality, gender, LGBTQ, theology, politics, and legal status. 
Transcript of sermon preached extemporaneously
on September 5, 2021 at Briensburg UMC | [Audio] | [Video] 

We believe in openness, we profess a belief in openness, and we pray that God will continue to open our hearts, and our minds, and our doors, along with every other aspect of our lives for the love of Christ to flow freely through us and among us.

My audiologist recently demonstrated the importance of correctly hearing consonants in the voice range, for words that may sound similar, but might have completely different means. For example, wife, white, while, wipe, and so forth, they all have different meanings but they sound the same, and with my particular hearing, in addition to my selective hearing problem, is that distinguishing those consonants that make those words mean different things. And so if we hear the words incorrectly, then the message will also be distorted. And the more distortions, the more incorrect our understanding will be. Then if we pass on to others the messages we have heard incorrectly, then they will begin their understanding of what we were saying with the distortions also.

Jesus repeatedly said in the gospels, and in the revelation, "Those who have ears to hear, let them hear." Love is the greatest commandment and the core teaching of the Bible. Wherever our spiritual ears seem to be hearing a different message we need to check our spiritual hearing. Paul instructed Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The Psalm that's in today's reading, it praised God for setting people free and restoring their senses, lifting us up and loving us.

The psalmist praised God for setting people free, restoring their senses, lifting us up and loving us.

The Lord sets prisoners free and gives sight to the blind. He lifts those who have fallen; he loves his righteous people.       (Psalm 146:8 GNT)

He said that in The Good News, "The Lord sets prisoners free and give sight to the blind, he your lifts those who have fallen. He loves his righteous people." Our purpose in coming here together to worship is just this, to praise God collectively, as we do other times individually. For loving us, for healing us, and for as Psalm 23 highlights, restoring our souls. As Charles Spurgeon points out in the Treasure of David on verse six and seven of this Psalm, that God of our hope is creator, truth keeper, vindicator, provider, deliverer. The Bible invites us to join the eternal host of Heaven and all God's people here on Earth. And we end in the sacred refrain. Hallelujah, praise you the Lord.

And we don't praise God because of difficulties, but we praise God through those difficulties. And, because of God's love and presence and strength that he gives us, and the providence that he provides spiritually and temporally to shepherd us through the hazards and difficulties and struggles of life. And this particularly potent thought during this particular season and this week with all of the things that have hit people all around the world so hard, and continue with the pandemic right now that we praise God. Not because of all of those struggles, but in the midst of them, for God's providence in helping us to navigate them. And God's love in helping us to overcome them in God's eternal life that right in the midst of it all, he gives us hope, and assurance, and direction.

Isaiah prophesied all the things we sing about in O For a Thousand Tongues to sing, culminating with “anticipate your heaven below and own that love is heaven:”

The blind will be able to see, and the deaf will hear. The lame will leap and dance, and those who cannot speak will shout for joy.       (Isaiah 35:6 GNT)

Isaiah promised all things that we sang about a while ago in the opening hymn, "Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing." As we culminated that song with the verse that says, "Anticipate your heaven below, and own that love is heaven." In The Good News Isaiah said in today's reading, "The blind will be able to see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and dance, and those who cannot speak will shout for joy." We can't understand clearly what we can't hear clearly. Our spiritual understanding improves as our spiritual hearing improves. We can address the physical hearing issues with technology, but spiritual hearing issues are only resolved through intentional listening to the love God is truly communicating. In a world of mixed and distorted messaging and endless choices hear this message James expressed in The Good News translation. "You will be doing the right thing if you will obey the law of the Kingdom, which is sound in the scripture, love your neighbor as you love yourself."

In a world of mixed and distorted messaging and endless choices, hear this message James expressed in the Good News Translation:

You will be doing the right thing if you obey the law of the Kingdom, which is found in the scripture, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”        (James 2:8 GNT)

I like that because do you ever wonder if you're doing the right thing? You ever wonder which way to go when we have a choice more than one choice? And you ever known what's the right way to interpret something in the Bible? Really, if you can't hear the love in what you're reading in the Bible, then that's a passage you need to revisit later. Because if you're not hearing the love then you're having some... it's not working out, something needs to be checked on later on that because there's not another direction that God is going with anything in the scripture but to teach us about his love, and his presence, and his care for you and for all. And so that's how you know when you're going on the right path with anything, love your neighbor as yourself.

In a world of many voices, enticing us to adopt their greatly differing viewpoints. As The Moody Blues sang, listen to the one who sings of love. In a world of many leaders telling us to follow them in widely diverging directions, hear Jesus calling us, "Follow me." As he gives his glorious commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you." 

Let us attend to our spiritual hearing that we might correctly receive and pass on these divine messages of love. Amen.