Listen Well

As we lead into a time of silent confession tonight, I want to exhort you to listen well. 

Just a few days ago I was able to sit down and grab coffee with a priest in our city who holds very different views on some key theological topics — and they’re views that we’d consider outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy (which means he has forsake the “whirling adventure”). And he’d probably consider us to be “old school.” And he and I knew going into the meeting that we had these differences, but we wanted to sit down together because we agree that there’s value in dialogue, and really, in just getting to know people.

One of the sad realities of our current times is the polarization among people who disagree with one another. Even in just the last couple years, it seems, at the societal level we’ve fallen into this kind of ideological trench warfare, where there’s a lot of tweeting and retreating, but not a lot of conversation. And what happens is that those who band together tend to be those who have a common enemy, and that common enemy is often a caricature of the real thing, and one reason why is because negative stereotypes are very convenient when we don’t want to listen to someone. Disparaging classifications allow us to write others off without having to engage them. 

And in the end, this is dehumanizing, but it’s also a far cry from the kind of ministry we see in Jesus, who was a avid listener. Even in just a cursory reading of Mark’s Gospel, we can see that Jesus is constantly asking questions to the people he meets — and if there’s anyone who could just do the talking, who shouldn’t have to listen, it would be Jesus. But instead he stops; he slows down; and he wants to know: 

  • What do you want me to do for you? (10:36) 
  • How long has this been happening to him? (9:21) 
  • What are you arguing about with them? (9:16) 
  • Why are you so afraid? (4:40)

Brothers and sisters, we have so many things to say; we have the greatest news in the universe to share; Jesus has sent into this world as his witnesses. So say him, share him, speak him — and like him, let’s have compassion and humility; let’s get to know the people to whom we’re sent; let’s listen well.

Prayer of Confession

Father, have mercy on us, for we are sinners. We refuse now to look side to side in our hearts; we refuse to compare ourselves to this or that. But rather, we come to you, and look to you, and feel in our bones how desperate we are for your mercy. O God, be merciful to us, for we are sinners, even now as we come to you in silent confession . . . 

Now, Father, we declare that you are God and there is no other. You are YHWH. You are the Creator of all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Lord of all the earth, and we remember now that all worshipers of idols are put to shame, but that we, by your grace, have turned to you from idols to worship you, the living and true God, and to wait for your Son from heaven who is raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. It is in Jesus alone in whom we live and move and have our being. And it’s in his name we pray, amen.