Sunday, 27 September 2015

Hearing, Listening & Acting

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:19-21

I’m very blessed to be married to a wonderful woman called Beata.  But if you were to ask her about what irritates her most about me, I suspect she would tell you it’s my poor listening skills.  The trouble is when she talks to me, I hear her, but I don’t always listen. 

There is a big difference between hearing someone and listening to them.  As God complains to the people of Israel in Isaiah “You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen." (Is. 42.20)

I imagine we have all had the experience of talking to someone whose attention has not been on us, but on someone or something else, or who is more interested in getting their point of view over than listening to what we have to say. 

In contrast think to a time when you have felt as though you have been properly listened to.  That person would have given you their undivided attention.  You will feel as though you have been understood, and that the person listening to you has responded in some way to what you have said. 

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus makes the point that his true family are those who not only hear God’s word, but also respond to it, by putting it into practice

Jesus was in Capernaum at the time, 30 miles from his home town of Nazareth.  Luke tells us that Jesus’ mother and brothers came looking for him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crush of people in the house where he was speaking. It has been suggested that the purpose of Jesus’ families visit was to take him away.  On the one hand, they may have thought he was mad or an embarrassment to the family.  Or they might have been concerned that Jesus would get himself or them into trouble with the authorities because of the provocative things he was saying and doing, such as questioning traditional interpretations of the Law.

When the message that Jesus’ family are looking for him reaches Jesus, he responds “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” 

Luke sets this incident with Jesus and his family just after the parable of the sower.  In that parable he talks about how a sower went out to sow seed in a field, and that some of this seed feel on the path and was trampled on, and the birds ate it. Some fell on the rock, and as it grew it withered in the sun.  Some seed fell among thorns and as it grew the thorns choked it.  And some seed fell on good soil, which when it grew produced a crop 100 times more than was sown.  At the end of this parable Jesus says that the seed that falls on good soil represents those who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” 

There is a link therefore between this parable, and the incident with Jesus and his family.  Because both times, Jesus talks about hearing the word of God and responding to it.

There is a challenge here for us.  How do we respond to the word of God?  Do we allow God’s word to challenge us, and to change us?   Or do we hear, but not listen?  Are we people “who hear God’s word and put it into practice”?

Jesus was talking to Jews, people who regarded themselves as God’s chosen people merely by birth and circumcision.  But Jesus makes a radical statement that belonging to God has little to do with blood or race, it has to do with the relationship we establish with God, through faithful obedience. 

Our discipleship too, is just not determined by our being by being baptised, or attending church, or by observing the external requirements of our religion but by our total commitment to the Gospel and to an unconditional following of Jesus. Only then can we truly be said to be his brother or sister.

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