The joy of listening

Pastoral Messages | June 25, 2015

A few months ago, I found myself sitting in an O’Hare airport terminal, waiting several hours for a delayed flight. I’d already exhausted most of my entertainment options—taking several laps up & down the long corridor of numbered gates, finishing a crossword puzzle, staring blankly at the CNN news briefs on the nearby TV.

So I decided to simply sit quietly, watching the whir of countless people walking by, carting their wheeled luggage behind them. Before long, I found myself listening to the conversation of a young couple sitting in the next row back. I couldn’t see their faces, but could hear the enthusiasm in their voices as they talked with their two children. They described the beach adventure that awaited them—once their flight finally took off—swimming in the ocean, building sandcastles, and visiting grandma & grandpa.

The kids—maybe around ages 4 and 6—asked endless questions about how long the flight would take or if there were TVs on the plane. And mom & dad continued to offer encouragement & excitement as the waiting seemed to drag on endlessly.

While, yes, this might fall under the category of “eavesdropping,” the longer I listened, the more I enjoyed the charming exchange happening behind me. I was not there to fix their problems. There was no advice to offer or wisdom to impart. I had no goal in re-directing the conversation towards my own interests. My only task was to listen & delight in their joy.

This is a rare endeavor for many of us. We so often listen to others with our own objectives in mind. We listen just long enough until we can figure out how to insert our own ideas or opinions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with such an approach—after all, if everyone only listened, no one would be talking. But perhaps there’s another kind of listening we could stand to incorporate a bit more into our daily lives.

A friend once shared with me a saying I continue to think of often: “There are two types of people in this world: those who walk into a room and say, ‘Here I am!’ and those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are!’”

Likely all of our lives could benefit from a bit more of that curious, quiet kind of listening. The kind of hearing that moves towards “There you are! Tell me more!” and away from “Here I am! Listen to me!” Or in the words of the New Testament book of James: “Let everyone be quick to listen and slow to speak.”

Whether you find yourself in an airport terminal or an office waiting room, sitting across the table from an old friend or eating donuts with a crowd on Sunday morning, take some time to listen a bit more curiously. You might be surprised at what you hear.

– Katy Warren, associate pastor

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.