Reflections of Lent on the Sense of “Hearing”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflection 2018

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.  (1 John 1:1)

            Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will smell the wonderful Easter lilies, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

This year, during Lent, I want to encourage you to think more deeply about how you encounter Jesus in a physical way.  I am writing a Biblical reflection each week that focuses on the 5 senses. This week focuses on the sense of “hearing.”

John 5:25-29

‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

John 10:4

When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Romans 10:14, 17

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

Genesis 1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

There is authority in Jesus’ voice- authority to lead, authority to create, and authority to judge. John 5 shows us that his judgment either results in life or condemnation. But how can his voice be heard even by dead people? The details are a mystery, but what we do know is that the Word of God constantly and consistently accomplishes what it says. The Word of God spoke and the earth was created and light began to shine. The Word of God calls out to Lazarus in his tomb even though he has been dead for four days. (John 11:43). When Jesus talks about judgment in John, he places more emphasis on life than on condemnation. His ministry is centered around calling and inviting people toward life, safety and community, and people respond to the Word of God just as sheep respond to the call of a trustworthy and familiar shepherd (10:4).

My advisor from seminary recently wrote in a blog, “Being roused from sleep is almost always a startling experience. A familiar sound — a regular alarm chime, the bark of the dog, a family member gently speaking your name — makes the experience easier on the body. By contrast, shattered glass or a scream in the night starts the adrenaline flowing. Discipleship involves learning to find familiarity in God’s words, so we respond rightly. Such familiarity creates a kind of harmonious resonance, the result of growing into greater intimacy with God. It does not mean a dismissive attitude toward the divine voice as something tame and predictable.”[1] For me, I find comfort in being able to recall from memory lines from my favorite hymns and personally meaningful Bible verses. When I am feeling overwhelmed, scared, nervous etc. I can rely on these familiar words from God to give me peace, perspective and help me through any obstacle. You can rely on the same God’s Word too.

When Paul draws a connection between hearing and believing, he teaches the congregation in Rome something very important about the Christian faith. He teaches them that it involves relationship and interaction with others. It is not about isolation. Faith means something other than following theological doctrines. Faith comes from listening to another’s report. Faith comes from listening to the Word of God being spoken by someone else and entering your ears and being heard. Faith comes when people hear God addressing them. Faith implies a communion shared with a communicative, expressive God. Christ still speaks today, through the scripture readings, sermons, hymns, and prayers. Guided by the Holy Spirit, these words and messages come from the mouths of all his followers, even you personally.