Summary: Former President Bill Clinton once said, "Being president is like running a cemetery; you've got a lot of people uner you...and nobody's listening." I think that God often feels like no one listens to Him.
“The Art of Listening”
Former President Bill Clinton once said, “Being President is like running a cemetery: you’ve got a lot of people under you . . . and nobody’s listening.” I have a hunch that it’s not only presidents who feel this way.
A man was watching television. His wife was trying to engage him in conversation: “Dear, the plumber didn’t come to fix the leak behind the water heater today.” Husband: “Uh-huh.” Wife: “The pipe burst today and flooded the basement.” Husband: “Quiet. It’s third down and goal to go.” Wife: “Some of the wiring got wet and almost electrocuted Fluffy.” Husband: “Nuts! Touchdown.” Wife: “The vet says he’ll be better in a week.” Husband: “Can you get me a Coke?” Wife: “The plumber told me that he was happy that our pipe broke because now he can afford to go on vacation.” Husband: “Aren’t you listening? I said I could use a Coke!” Wife: “And Stanley, I’m leaving you. The plumber and I are flying to Acapulco in the morning.” Husband: “Can’t you please stop all that yakking and get me a Coke? The trouble around here is that nobody ever listens to me.” (1)
I have another hunch – I think that God often feels like no one ever listens to Him. In fact, our scenes from today’s Scripture passages confirm it. God wanted the disciples to know that they needed to learn the art of listening. So God said “LISTEN UP!” “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” God knew that OUR EARS HEAR WHAT THEY ARE TRAINED TO HEAR. Let me illustrate. I’m going to ask a series of questions – feel free to call out the answers. A tree that has acorns is called an ________? (Oak) Michigan’s football coach is Brady ______? (Hoke) If you have no money you are ______? (Broke) A funny story told by a comedian is a ______? (Joke) The cloud that rises from a fire is ________? (Smoke) What do we call the style of music sung by Peter, Paul & Mary and the Kingston Trio? (Folk) What do we call the sound made by a frog? (Croak)What do we call the white of an egg?... How many of you said, “yolk”? The correct answer, of course, is “the white.” (2) But we’ve become accustomed to words ending in the “oke” sound, and so we answer, “The yolk.” Our ears hear what they are trained to hear.
So we need to learn from Jesus because He had learned to listen up. Of the three Gospel writers who record this scene, Luke alone mentions that Jesus went up the mountain to pray. That’s because one of Luke’s main themes is Jesus’ prayer life. Seven times he alone records the fact that Jesus prayed prior to some major decision or event. Luke is driving home the point that the way Jesus stayed in touch with His Father was through prayer, through spending time with Him. Jesus did not want to make a single move without the guidance
strength, power, and permission of His Father.
So Jesus went up the mountain not to hear His Father’s opinion but to receive His marching orders. That’s how WE MUST LEARN TO LISTEN. It’s a known fact that just over half of Americans say they believe the Bible is God’s authoritative Word. However, only about a third say they believe people should live by Scripture, while less then 50% say they operate by a mixture of God’s commands and their own inclination, and less than 20% ignore God’s Word is if it conflicts with their own plans. We must learn how to listen.
In fact, there is a rather obscure but meaningful definition of sin in the Bible It comes from a Hebrew word that means “a failure to listen.” (3) When we fail to listen to someone, we cut ourselves off from them. So when we fail to listen to God, we cut ourselves off from Him. That’s sin. We must learn how to listen – to listen like Jesus did.
Like Jesus, we must SPEND TIME IN OUR FATHER’S PRESENCE. We sang it a few minutes ago – take time to be holy. We hear what our ears are trained to hear. In George Bernard Shaw’s play St. Joan, which is about Joan of Arc, Joan tells of hearing God’s messages. She is talking to King Charles, who doesn’t appreciate this crazy lady in armor who insists on leading armies. He’s threatened by her. He says, “Oh, your voices, your voices, always your voices. Why don’t the voices come to me? I am king, not you.” Joan replies, “They do come to you, but you do not hear them. You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the Angelus rings . . . you cross yourself and have done with it. But, if you prayed from your heart and listened to the trilling of the bells in the air after they stop ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.” (4) Joan was listening for that voice. We hear what our ears are trained to hear. Take time to be holy. Listen up!