Sunday Reflection 12th July
Loving God, as we seek to spend some time with You now, we ask that that by Your Spirit You would enable us to draw close to You, wherever we are. Help us, as we listen to and meditate upon Your Word, to discern what You are saying to us today and how we might best serve You at this time, to the glory and honour of Your name…Amen.
Read Matthew 13:1-9
Every day of our lives we speak with other people – at home, at work, in our leisure time. And every day of our lives we hear news stories on our televisions or we read about them in our newspapers. But how many of them make any kind of lasting impression or impact in our lives. How many of them have changed our lives in some way. A headline from a newspaper, perhaps, something said to us by a loved one or someone close to us, a line from a song, book or poem, even some innocuous throw away comment made by someone.
The words we speak or listen to can make a difference in our lives and sometimes help to bring about real change. Think back to the moment you were told that you had passed your driving test, for example, or that your interview for a job had been successful – what impact did those words have in your life at that time. Think back to the first time you told someone you loved them, how did your life change after that. Or when you were told you were expecting your first child. How did your life change then?
A few simple words can change our lives in such a dramatic way – but they can also change us quite fundamentally too. Yet perhaps the words that can impact on our lives most are those that we find contained within the Word of God.
When we hear the voice of God speak to us for the first time – when we are suddenly made aware of His grace and mercy, of His overwhelming love for us – that’s the moment that our lives are changed forever.
However, for this change to come about, we actually need not only to hear the voice of God speaking to us but also to listen to it. What’s the difference between hearing and listening? Hearing is when we are aware of certain sounds, like someone speaking to us. Listening is when we make the conscious effort to understand and pay attention to that sound – in this case to the voice speaking to us. And in many ways our Gospel passage highlights this difference.
Sometimes we might find ourselves in a situation where we simply don’t want to listen to what someone is saying to us. We can hear them, but we don’t want to listen – and that could be for a whole host of reasons. Maybe, we don’t agree with what they are saying, we don’t like what they are saying, what they are saying offends or upsets us, or we are just simply not interested in what is being said.
In this kind of situation, understanding or paying attention is no less difficult than attempting to sow seed on a road or pavement. None of what is being said will ever sink in and will vanish as quickly as the seed being eaten by the birds without any of it ever making any impact on our lives.
And so it is for many with the Gospel message today – they are simply not interested in listening and as a consequence they have no idea what it is to know Jesus in their lives.
Then we have those occasions when after hearing something we do want to listen more attentively and maybe even take some action. What has been said appeals to us, excites us, challenges us in some way and so we endeavour to set out on some new venture or some new course of action.
However, as we proceed we realise that this course of action involves more than we anticipated or expected – in respect of energy, time, commitment or sacrifice and we haven’t made enough preparation or allowances for that. So after a wee while our enthusiasm begins to wane and wither, much like the seed scorched by the sun, until we get to the point where the words we first listened to, no longer have any influence in our lives.
We may have heard and listened to the Word of God, but when we then discover what difference it might make in our lives, we no longer choose to listen or to act upon it.
And finally we have those occasions where we might want to listen, but for some reason seem unable to do so. Theologian Henri Nouwen once confessed to God, ‘ I am so busy with other things that I cannot hear you…’ and maybe this too sometimes applies to us.
Maybe there have been times when someone has been speaking to us, and although we may have been engaged in that conversation we weren’t actually listening to what was being said. Instead we were preoccupied with other things in life – our daily business, our concerns and fears, whatever – the point is that our minds were elsewhere. Now ask yourself, how often has this happened to us when we have been reading or listening to the Word of God.
We may have heard the Word of God, but because our minds and hearts have been on other things we have not been listening and as a consequence it has not taken root and made any lasting impact on our lives.
The lesson for us in all of these examples is clear. Sometimes in life God will speak to us through His Word and we will not listen to that Word as we should. We may hear Him, but we will not listen as we should and consequently not act as we should.
We live in a world today where we are continually bombarded by words telling what we should say and do – how we should live our lives. And the harsh reality is that sometimes we get distracted by them. Voices which call out to us things like, if you want to realise your full potential, do this….If you want to achieve these goals, do that…. If you want to get on in life and be all you can be, listen to us….
And in amongst all of this, suddenly the voice of God is lost to us. Except, of course, it isn’t lost – it is still there, and always will be there……All we need to do is listen – not hear – listen.
Listening for and discerning the Word of God can at times be difficult and if we’re completely honest with ourselves we will all acknowledge those times when we have failed to do so. So it’s important that we set aside time every day – no matter how busy we are – to spend that time in quiet communion with God. Speaking to Him and listening to Him. Only then will we be able to grow and flourish in our own faith.
But more than that, the more we spend time listening to God, speaking to us through His Word, or in a time of devotion, the more we will be able to share that Word with others – and ultimately that is what we are all called to do. To share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Salvation we have through Him. Whether that yield be a hundred-fold, or sixty-fold or even only ten-fold – it doesn’t matter – as long as we share that Word with others.
So as we recall this passage once again, let’s do our best to listen for the Word of God speaking to us, in whatever way that may be. And having listened let’s go and share it with others that they in turn may do likewise. That when the harvest time does come, the yield may be bountiful….Amen
Loving Jesus, You have called us to be Your witnesses, to proclaim Your name and to make Your love known in all that we say and do. Yet we confess that so often whenever we try to respond to that challenge we find it ever so difficult. Sometimes it seems that whenever we speak of You we are met with apathy, indifference and even hostility.
And so in our hearts and souls we sometimes give up, if only for a brief moment, no longer expecting lives to be changed by Your Word. So we ask that You would help us to look beyond what we appear to see and to recognise that, though we may not always see it, the seed we sow may well bear fruit in unexpected ways and places. Help us to put our faith not in our own ability but in your gracious life-giving power, confident that if we play our part, You will play Yours too.
And as we come before You now we pray for those who today have been weighed down the many burdens of life. Those who have been bereaved, those who are ill and suffering in some way, those in most need. Look to them as only You can and lay Your hand upon them. Be with all in our own communities and all within our own families. Draw each one to You and embrace them in Your heart, for we ask all of these things in Jesus name…Amen