42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer... 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42, 46-47)
Our 2019-20 Ministry Year Theme is “Everyday Blessings.” This year, we hope to take inspiration from the example of the early followers of Jesus, following the helpful acronym, BLESS, as we seek to be a blessing to others, especially to those who aren’t currently enjoying a relationship with Jesus.
B – Begin with prayer. L – Listen. E – Eat. S – Serve. S – Share.
This month’s focus: L – Listen.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship
On the drive home after church, a young boy suddenly announced to his mother, “Mom, I've decided to become a pastor when I grow up." Curious of the sudden decision, she asked, “Oh, really, why is that?” “Well,” the little boy said, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit down and listen.” This little boy’s observation, while it might bring a smile to our faces, it also brings home a truth to our lives: listening is hard! For something that we often consider a passive activity, listening takes an awful lot of attention, focus, and effort—and not just for sermons.
Reflect with me of the importance of listening, even on the most basic level. How many relationships could be improved or even saved, if one or both parties listened just a little better? How many millions of dollars would businesses across our country save, if employees listened better to one another? How many accidents could be prevented with the “simple” task of listening? Sometimes it is not just physically hearing others that is the problem. Listening is also about making an appropriate response to what we have heard.
Pastor Pete Scazzero points out our problem of “listening” within the life of Peter on the mountain of Christ’s transfiguration. “In Matthew 17, we observe Peter in a hurry to advise Jesus. He attempts to do the right thing for Jesus, instead of waiting and listening to Jesus. . . Following Jesus is not first doing things for Jesus; it is first listening to him speak and then doing what he says.” Peter is so busy pursuing his plans that it takes an all-encompassing fog and the very voice of the Father to call Peter back from doing to listening. And what does that voice of God say to Peter? “This is my beloved son. Listen to him!”
As Christians, we are invited to two very distinct types of listening. We are first and foremost called to listen to the voice of Jesus, as we hear it in His Word. Before we “go and do,” we must first learn to “sit and listen” through prayer, reading, and reflection. We are also called to a second kind of listening—a prayerful listening to the joys and sorrows, fears and worries, needs and wants of others. Someone once quipped, "The world is divided into two types of people: those who love to talk, and those who hate to listen." God’s Word invites us to change that. It invites us to see the importance of loving others by listening to others. We sometimes get so worried about “telling” others about Jesus that we forget that the first step is “listening” to others on behalf of Jesus. Do most people need more people to tell them things for their lives or do most people need more people who will slow down long enough to listen about things in their lives? Listening is the doorway to a relationship. It is the window into their lives as they are experiencing it. Listening is the chance for us to hear a little bit of their story, which is often reciprocated with a little sharing of our story, and as relationships grow and as conversations deepen it leads to opportunities to share a little bit of Jesus’ story. The early disciples devoted themselves both to hearing the apostles’ teaching (“listening to the voice of Jesus”) and to the fellowship (“listening to others who one by one were becoming Jesus followers”).
God’s Peace, Pastor Kurt Ebert