September 30, 2007
"A Chance To Hear"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Three retirees, each with hearing loss, were taking a walk one fine March day. One of them remarked to the other, "Windy, ain't it?"
"No," the second man replied, "It's Thursday."
And the third man chimed in, "So am I, let's stop and get a Coke."
Hearing loss is really no laughing matter, I know. For the past couple of years my family has been making fun of the things I thought I'd heard. Well, about five months ago I finally had my hearing tested and now I wear hearing aids. The difference for me was remarkable. The only problem is, when Mary asks me to do something I don't want to do, I can no longer tell her: "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you."
In the passage for today Jesus has a chance encounter with a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment and to everyone's astonishment, Jesus heals him. Jesus gave this man a chance to hear. Let's look at the passage from Mark 7:31-37 (NRSV)
 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.
 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."
 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
A. A number of years a go I heard a story about a Native American, a Cherokee, who was in downtown New York walking with a friend who lived in New York City. As they were walking along all of a sudden the native American stopped and said, "I hear a cricket."
His friend replied, "Oh, you're crazy."
"No, I hear a cricket. I do! I'm sure of it," he said.
The New Yorker said "It's noon. There are people everywhere headed to lunch, cars are honking, taxis squealing, there's all the noise from the city. Surely you can't hear a cricket above all that."
The Native America said, "Well, I'm sure I hear a cricket." So he listened attentively and then walked about 10 feet to the corner where there was a shrub in a large cement planter. He dug beneath the leaves and found a cricket.
His friend was astounded. But the Cherokee said, "My ears are no different from yours. It simply depends on what you are listening to. Here, let me show you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, a few quarters, some dimes, nickels, and pennies. And he dropped it on the concrete. Every head within half a block turned. "You see what I mean?" as he began picking up all the coins. "It all depends on what you are listening for." (1)
B. I wonder what the deaf man in the passage today started listening for? The birds chirping? A baby's laugh? Children at play and giggling? The sound of water trickling in a stream or rain falling on the road? There are a million sounds to listen to. But I wander what caught his attention the most? I think it was probably the voice of Jesus.
What are you listening for? Of course, Jesus wants us to listen to His voice over the noise of the crowds and the hustle and bustle of every day life. That's why He came. That's why God sent His only Son. God wants us to listen to His Son's voice over everything else in the world. And sometimes that's very difficult to do because the world gets so loud.
There's a legend that says after the fall, after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, they had a hard time believing God still loved them. They had disappointed God something fierce. And they realized they'd been duped by the serpent who, although he was punished and forced to crawl on his belly for all of eternity, still left laughing at the plight of Adam and Eve.
It's said that God saw the torture and anguish that was taking place in the hearts and souls of Adam and Eve and it broke God's heart. God grieved for the lost innocence of His children. And God feared for the love and faith of each of His future children. If they didn't know the love of God and have it alive in their hearts, they would perish. And so eventually would all of creation.
One day during a regular staff meeting with God's leading angels, they noticed that God seemed distracted. So, the Angel of Love, the Angel of Mercy and the Angel of Grace asked God what was wrong. God let out a sigh of despair so deep it brought tears to the eyes of every Angel in the heavens.
The minute those tears began to fall God looked at the Angels of Love, Mercy and Grace and devised a plan. A plan so wonderful that the tears of the Angels never made it to earth. They froze in the darkness of space and like diamonds they hang there to this day. We call them stars and at night they reflect the light and the love of the One who sits upon the throne of heaven.
But that's not the end of the story, for God and the Angels carried out God's plan. At the birth of every child, a Guardian Angel was assigned. The job of the Guardian Angels was quite simple, all they had to do was whisper in the baby's ear every moment of every day: "God loves you. God loves you."
And so it was from that moment on that Guardian Angels began whispering in our ears, "God loves you. God loves you." Sometimes when a baby is alone with no parents or other children around, you can hear them giggle and coo for no apparent reason, that's because their Guardian Angel has been whispering God's love in their ear.
This worked for a long, long time. People listened and knew God's love. But there came a time when the world began to get noisier and noisier. At first it was just the noise of every day work, hammering, sawing, the noise of the butter churn, the clatter of pots and pans, the sound of the hoe in the garden, and the lowing of cattle and sheep. The whispering of the Guardian Angels could still be heard. But then as humans and technology developed, the noise of the world got louder and louder.
Factories and foundries, mills and manufacturing plants began to flourish. Their noise filled the air. And as more noise filled the air, people began to get distracted and unfocused. And many of them were not hearing the words of the Guardian Angels: "God loves you. God loves you."
Then came radio, television, cell phones, satellite radio and the Internet. And pretty soon the air waves were filled with all kinds of noise. Fewer and fewer people were listening to the words of the Guardian Angels: "God loves you. God loves you."
Although the noise level continued to grow, still the Guardian Angels whispered God's love in our ears so our hearts would know: "God loves you. God loves you." They never failed in their duty. Though they get discouraged because we don't listen or the noise of the world is too loud for us to hear, still they whisper : "God loves you. God loves you."
But the Good News is that we can sill hear the whisper of our Guardian Angels: "God loves you. God loves you." We can still hear the healing words that we are not alone nor do we face life and the problems of life alone. God has not abandoned us. We have someone who loves us.
All we have to do is stop and listen. "God loves you. God loves you."
Over the last few weeks we've talked about the chance encounters we have with God through Christ and the Chance Encounters others have had. We've been challenged Sing the Lord's Song and Dance the Lord's Dance. We've been challenged to help, to see, to start over, to drink deep from God's well in Christ. Last week we were challenged to Reform by writing those words our hearts and souls have longed to hear from God onto a piece of paper and placing them on the table that sat here.
In response to that, I want to give you "A Chance To Hear." Today I want to take a couple of minutes to take you through a guided prayer exercise. It doesn't require you to move or get up or write anything down. All you have to do is bow your head and enter into the exercise in a Spirit of Prayer and of course, listen. Imagine, these are the Words you've longed to hear God speak to you and listen. Get comfortable, close your eyes and listen. "God loves you. God loves you."
Hear the voice of God say, I love you, I AM listening.
I love you, your sins are forgiven.
I love you for you are my precious son or my precious daughter.
I love you and bless both you and your family.
I love you, everything is going to be OK because you are mine.
I love you, your loved ones are fine, you WILL see them again. Don't forget I rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Because you are mine, you will too.
I love you, I can't say this often enough, your sins are forgiven
I love you and my love in your life will make you a better husband, a better wife, a better child, a better daughter, a better son, a better parent, a better grandparent, a better worker, a better friend, a better leader
I love you and my love in your life will give you more patience and compassion.
I love you and I am with you every moment of every day. You are not alone.
I love you, your sins ARE forgiven. Because your sins are forgiven, now you can forgive yourself. Let go of that guilt, it's weighing down your life.
I love you, I know your faults and your shortcomings and I love you in spite of them.
I love you and there is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you.
I love you and I feel the pain you are in. My love will get your through that pain.
I love you and I am with your children. Wherever they go, I go.
I love you I can help turn your sadness into joy, joy in me.
I love you, your sins ARE forgiven. Because your sins are forgiven, now you can forgive those who have hurt you. Let go of that anger it's building a wall between us.
I love you and I have great plans for you, don't give up, we're not through yet.
I love you, you can trust me, I will carry all your burdens if you will just lay them down and give them to me.
I love you and I am in the midst of your suffering. It is me who is holding you up. It's me who is holding you together. Don't let go. Hang on.
I love you. Your sins are forgiven. Welcome home. Amen.
You've had a Chance To Hear, but one more time I want you to listen and listen closely:
"God loves you. God loves you."
1. Leadership-Vol. 4, #1.
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