Sermon: Listen - the Good Shepherd is calling.
The beautiful 12-century Church in the small village of Ringive, where I served as a pastor for 14 years, you would be greeted with an inscription on the pulpit, when you were seated in the old hard wooden pews: it says: “ Den, der har ører at høre med, skal høre” ” He who has ears, let him hear.”
With this quote from the Gospel of Matthew, every congregant and confirmand was reminded: wake up, listen as you are blessed with these two ears. So use them, listen and be enlighten, entertained or provoked or bored. As long as you listen!
We probably all know the old and wise saying that is credited Thomas Edison: “We have but two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak.” The human ear is a remarkable construction. It contains of 3 parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The middle ear is a little space between that leads to all the channel of the inner ear. The earis not only the capacity to hear but also to find balance and the sense and registration of movements. Our human ear is constructed and made to help us hear, keep our balance and decide the direction of the sounds. In our Bible the word “ear” is used to describe not just the physical ear, but the hearing sense and ability. The Hebrew word for ear can be translated as “to listen” and “ to bend your ear”. So to listen is not just to hear, but it is actively to listen, to make and effort to understand. To bend and to be open….
Another of those inspirational quotes inserted in the bulletin today is:” Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. And if we combined that we yet another beautiful quote about listening: The word “listen” contains the same letter as the word “silent Then it is stated and truly true that to listen it also to be quite, not just to wait to get your reply in… but be quite and listen to the other one and maybe you will understand more.
Because when we talk, we are only repeating what we already know, But when we listen, we may learn something new. To listen and to use our ears are a very important part about being human and being a human being with respect and interest in other people and opinions then your own.
“Listen! Be quite and listen!” is probably one of the lines that children of all ages and times have heard again and again. At home, in school, in church, whenever grownup wants the talkative or maybe complaining kids to stop talking, whining, pleading and begging.
Sometimes we might think that our children and our spouses have selective hearing, as they only seem to hear what they want to hear. There is a story about a man was having difficulty communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of hearing.
So he decided to conduct a test..... without her knowing about it.
One evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room. Her back was to him and she could not see him. Very quietly he whispered, "Can you hear me?"
There was no response.
Moving a little closer, he asked again, "Can you hear me now?"
Still no reply; quietly he edged closer and whispered the same words, but still no answer.
Finally, he moved right in behind her chair and said, "Can you hear me now?"
To his surprise and chagrin, she responded with irritation in her voice, "For the fourth time, yes!" (Pause)
Maybe the true problem is that most of us have selective hearing…. We hear but we really do not listen.
“ We hear what we listen for!” Maybe that is our problem with the voice of Jesus as he is trying to get out attention and trying to get us to follow him, we hear everything else but him because we aren’t willing to be quite and truly listen. We don’t want to hear his voice; we tune it out instead of focusing our attention on it. There are so many many different voices that blend in. When congregants attended church services in the really good old days in 12-14 century in Denmark, there were not that many voices to distract! Today we have a constant stream of News, Postings, Updates, Articles etc etc. An essential part of listening is also to focus, to select, to block out and to make choices. Coming here to church on a Sunday morning and choosing to be confirmed here in this church next Sunday is a choice to be made, and a choice to select to listen to one voice among all the tempting and diverse voices of the world.
So if we claim that we cannot hear God’s word or God’s calling, then the problem is probably not with God,… it is with us and our hearing. The hearing problem has been a problem since the time of Adam and Eve as the fall was due the fact of bad choices to listen to voices that you shouldn’t have listened to: Eve listened to the tempting serpent, and poor Adam listened to the tempting voice of his beloved Eve and the punishment was clear: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree which I commanded you, saying “ you shall not eat from it”, cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life….”
The wonderful images that unfold before our eyes and ears today in the readings, - are also about listening. The Good Shepherd is calling his herd, the flock knows his voice and react to it. The Sheep feel safe and secure when he calls them and when he guides them. The sheep trust the shepherd to lead them, protect them and guide them.
That is what we believe in. That God is the source behind everhthing living and breathing. That God did love this world so much that he send his son not to condem us but to save us… to make us listen. We believe that God – through the image of the Good Shepherd and the Lamb at the center of the throne, - is the one who unites and gathers us, and even more He is the one who calls upon us when we think we are the center of the universe and can do better without him and better without depending on others.
The question really is if we are able to listen. To be silent and listen. To believe that we are found by him, called upon by him and thuas are place in a history and a grace.
We are seated here in a church that is not just a voice of today. It is a voice of time and eternity that connects us and unites us with time past, history told and a future to be seen.
“ Den, der har ører at høre med, skal høre”
” He who has ears, let him hear.
There is a story that has been passed down concerning President Franklin D. Rooseveltand the ability to listen.
Apparently President Roosevelt was so tired of smiling the expected presidential smile .... and saying the usual expected words at the myriad of White House receptions......That, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was really listening to what he was saying.
As each person came up to him with an extended hand, .... he flashed that big smile and said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning."
People would automatically respond with comments like "How lovely!" or "It is nice to meet you mister President!" Nobody listened to what he was actually saying.... except for one foreign diplomat.
When the president said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," the diplomat responded softly, ..... "I’m sure she had it coming.