In pm's words
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March 2, 2016, 7:00 PM

Open My Ears, Lord


From our Mid-Week Lenten Series theme of "Open my life, Lord."

 

Grace and peace to y’all this evening on our third Lenten Wednesday Worship Service.

We have gathered to lift up prayers to our Lord in hope that God might open our eyes and open our hands. We’ve called upon God to open our eyes so that we might see the needs of our fellow sisters and brothers – all of our neighbors – before us. We’ve lifted up to God the desire to open our hands so that God’s work might and will be done through us for the world.

This evening, we again call to God to open us to ministry and it might be the most difficult one so far.

When I was in high school and running cross-country I happened to be good enough to run in the state championships at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC. My coach and I had a goal – I was going to break 18 minutes in the 5k (3.1 miles) because I hadn’t done it before, but also because that seemed at the time to be the magic number for colleges to at least start taking notice of you.

So, in the midst of the race I could tell that I was pushing myself harder than ever before, but there’s this thing about pushing yourself harder – you get tired more quickly. You become drained. The things that you used to be able to ‘push’ yourself through things become more difficult and ever more out of your grasp. When you feel like you’re pushing yourself to the limit it seems like a lot of your senses start shutting down and you get into that tunnel vision of sorts as you still attempt to propel yourself forward. Anyways, I was in the midst of that coming around the last 600-800 meters in the race. I was drained, I didn’t think I was going to accomplish my goal and I felt like I was just going to fallout right there and embarrass myself.

All I could here was the pounding of my heart and my own feet. Things were becoming a blur. But, then I heard a voice. It was my coach yelling from off in the distance – at the finish line – and I heard her clearly say – Matt, if you want this. You’ve gotta move. Now. You’re doing great.

That’s all I needed. I heard her voice over the sound and roar of the crowds around me and the other runners. I picked it up and was able to finish in 17:37 – even better than I had hoped for.

I share that story, because I think a lot of life is a sort of cross country race. Running through the course on different types of ground, through difference sceneries, among different people and places. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not so great. When we’re in the midst of that life we can close ourselves off and we cease to hear the voices around us. We become so transfixed on what we are hoping to do that we close off the voices and sound around us.

We close off ourselves to God’s voice, the voices of those encouraging us, and especially the voices of those crying out for help.

We can be really good at not listening.

We can be really good at only listening to the loudest voices around us.

We can be extremely good at only listening to those things that benefit ‘us’ even when those things might hinder or hurt the one next to us.

This evening we ask to God to – Open my ears, Lord.

Open our ears so that we might hear the cries of those in need. To open our ears so that we might hear the Gospel. Open our ears so that we might see where God is leading us. Open our ears so that we might see the wolf among the sheep who leads us away from God’s Word and love.

And having our ears opened isn’t so much about hearing, as it is about listening.

Hearing is easy to do. Listening is what takes practice. Listening requires being attentive and caring and understanding. Listening requires us to open ourselves to the one who is speaking – giving our attention to the one before us.

When I am able to have premarital conversations with couples who are moving towards marriage one of the first things we do is to practice listening. Listening to the one before us so that we understand what they are saying.

It’s always an awkward exercise because we are accustomed to adding our own interpretation to what others say. We hear them up until they say something we want to respond to, and then we cease listening as we form in our minds how we are going to respond.

Just look at all the political debates and stumps speeches this year. Nobody is listening to one another – or even listening to those who are voting – instead they are most concerned with getting a soundbite in, a zinger there, some press here. No one is listening to the words and thoughts and beliefs that are forming the basis of those words.

They just hear something that sounds good or bad without listening to why this might not be a bad or good thing to implement.

So, we come this evening asking God to open our ears. To open our ears so that we not only hear those around us, but that we also listen. That we listen to God. We listen to our neighbors. We listen to those in need.

Listen – God is calling. Open our ears, O Lord. Amen!

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