You’re not listening to me

So says the parent to the child, spouse to spouse, and pastor to people.  It can be said in anger but more often than not it’s in heartbreak.

I can’t tell you how many sermons I have written with one individual in mind only not to have the individual in service that day.  Of course, it is heard by those present and it is for them no less than for the one who was not there to hear it. But what about the One who sends His Word in Flesh, in Water, in Words?

We must get only a smidgen of the heartbreak He has when His Word is unheard, not listened to, echoed without ears to hear.  Yet He continues to speak them.  I suspect we’re crypto-contemporary worshipers when we get discouraged because our word of Law and Gospel, of Sin and Grace, of condemnation and salvation are not apparently heard.

I often feel like Cassandra doomed to know what is to happen – divorce, heartbreak, apostasy – only to have my words unheeded, or I feel like the nymph Echo apparently only repeating what everyone else has already heard and feels free to ignore.

Why should I a fallen, thick-tongued sinner be so discouraged?  If anyone has reason to be discouraged it is the Word.  Yet when only 8 heeded His Word of judgment and salvation prior to the Flood, He kept on speaking.  When only 4 heeded His Word of destruction and safety in Sodom, He kept on speaking.  When most left the Word in John 6, He kept speaking His Words of eternal life.

Probably, as with most times that I am discouraged by what others are doing or not doing, it is with me I should be disappointed.  It is I who am not listening to the Word.  I have been convicted many times of not listening to what I myself am saying.  Admittedly this is hard to do.  It’s hard to say the “for you” of Gospel proclamation and hear it as “for me.”  But it is.  Perhaps that’s why Luther wrote the Word on tables and walls.

Still I stand convicted, and should not be so surprised to find others not listening to what I say when I’m not listening either.  Neither should I be surprised that others don’t hear the Word from me when they didn’t hear the Word when He spoke.  Thankfully for us both He goes right on speaking.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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