I may be younger than a lot of you and I realize I have a lot of learning yet to do in my life but one thing I know for sure: I am smarter than to give a sermon about seeds and growing seeds to a group of people that knows way more than I ever will about seed growing and seed sowing. I don’t even to pretend to know a lot. So, you can rest easy knowing that pastor is not going to try and stumble her way through a lecture or sermon on how to grow things. I also refuse to give a sermon about this text and say “see that, you should be good soil…why aren’t you good soil?” I refuse to make this into a how-to or into a guilt ridden session of shouldda/couldda/wouldda. So if I’m not going to preach on how to sew seeds and I am not going to give you a bunch of guilt about what kind of soil you are, what in the world are we going to talk about today, pastor? Good questions, friends…all good questions.
I had a professor in college, his name was Dr. Bob Bohlken and Dr. Bob was passionate about the way that humans listen and hear things. I have often said that we may hear things but we don’t listen. I am guilty of this. I have often agreed to things I don’t remember agreeing to because I wasn’t really listening. I heard whatever the person said, but I didn’t engage in what is called “active listening.” It is an easy habit to get into, honestly. I find myself doing this with people I am in conversation with a lot. So, sadly, Chris is usually my biggest victim. And it’s not his fault, right? I totally own this not being present in the conversation attitude that grips me all too often.
And I know I had my moments as a teenager where my parents probably said something important and I replied with the standard “okay mom” or “okay dad.” I don’t think I very often responded with “whatever” because if I did, I’m sure it was only once–if you know what I mean. And now there are like 9 things at once that try and take my attention so that I am (sadly) becoming all too accustomed to hearing but not really listening. In fact, if you tell me something on a Sunday morning, most likely you will see me write it down right away or I will ask you “will you call me on Monday or email me that information later?” The main reason is not because I’m not listening to you but because on Sunday morning I always have about a dozen things running through my head at once. “Don’t forget to pray for this person. Did you remember the offering plates? Who is accolyting? Keep the fly out of the communion wine. Do we have ushers?” All of this is going on in my head. It’s what keeps me going and I’ve gotten used to it over the years. It’s actually quite comforting as someone with ADHD for my brain to function this way. One of the things that I am nervous about on vacation is that my brain is going to get a rest and won’t know what to do with itself.
And in today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, almost plead, “let anyone with ears listen!” Exclamation mark. Not period. This was a serious and emphatic Jesus. Not necessarily the laid back Jesus we might hear from in other stories. I think if this story were to be re-written in our time, this is what Jesus would say “okay people, turn off the televisions, power down your cell phones, put down those electronic gadgets, get rid of any outside distractions and listen to me. No I mean REALLY LISTEN!” I don’t want to imply that Jesus would be angry but I think he probably would have done whatever needed to be done to gain our attention so that we would really be listening to him and not just hearing him.
I think it is important for us to remember that those who were gathered around Jesus were hearing these parables. They weren’t reading them like we do now. The stories of Jesus, the Gospel, was first spread orally. These stories of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, the healings and teachings of Jesus were spread from person to person by word of mouth like a wonderful rumor. But the habit of not engaging in active listening isn’t new, friends. There was a reason that Jesus said “let anyone with ears listen!” Considering that I have never met anyone without ears, what Jesus was saying was pretty important. And if we’re going to be honest with ourselves and with Jesus, we need to be reminded to listen and listen closely every once in a while.
It’s so important that we are able to hear God’s Word, right? Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of things you listen to in a given day? Even as I was writing this sermon, I had music playing in the background. Just stop a moment to think about the things you listen to in a day: the radio, your spouse, your children, your co-workers and your boss (if you have those things), the television, voicemail, and on and on and on. In fact, when I started thinking about it, the only time I really am in complete silence is when I finally lay down at night and by then, I’m just too tired to listen.
God’s word is the seeds that want to be sown in all of us. And there are things that get in the way of this happening. And you know what? It’s alright. I bet you didn’t expect me to say that, did you? Did pastor really just say that it’s okay when things get in the way of us hearing the Word of God? Yes. Yes I did. Because I get it. I really do. Life gets busy. We don’t wake up in the morning and say to ourselves “you know what, I think I am going to avoid listening to the Word of God at all costs.”
Now I know that there are those of you who make time for reading your daily devotionals or maybe you read your Bible every day and I tip my hat to you. But for the majority of people–not just our members here, but my guess is for most Americans, the idea of making time for one more thing in their already busy schedule is overwhelming. Can you imagine though, how crazy you might become if you forgot to eat, if you forgot to drink, if you forgot to sleep, if you forgot to engage in regular bathing habits. Let’s just start at the basic. If you forgot or more accurately, if you didn’t make time to eat or drink what would happen? You die, right? If you don’t make time to sleep, eventually your body would force you to sleep–to shut down. So guess what happens when we don’t make time to listen to the Word of God or don’t make time to listen to God speaking to us.
I don’t expect you to leave here and think “Thanks to Pastor’s sermon, I am now going to get up before the sun rises and read 5 chapters from the Bible every morning.” Nope. I don’t expect that of you. But what I am doing is inviting you into more purposeful listening. Next time you are in the car alone, turn off the radio. Next time you go see what show is on the television next, maybe turn it off instead. Take a sabbath from your cell phone. Yes, that’s right. I said it. Turn off your cell phone. Even if it’s just for one hour. You have voice mail for a reason.
What Jesus was saying to the disciples was important, crucial even. That hasn’t stopped. Jesus is speaking to us and it is to us to listen. Give yourself that opportunity.