“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.” (Mark 4:23-24, NRSV)
Multiple times Jesus told his disciples, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” This admonition is found most often in the Gospels of Mark and Luke and is usually said at the end of a parable, for example, the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8). Jesus was imploring his followers to do more than hear the words he had spoken. He wanted them to listen for understanding. He wanted them to “get” what he was saying and to act on it.
I have been thinking a lot about listening. It’s an underrated skill. Caring, thoughtful listening is essential to developing relationships, breaking down barriers that separate us from others, and building the beloved community to which God calls us.
One of the privileges of being a pastor is hearing another person’s story. Whether it’s hearing them recount joy-filled moments or describe the depth of their grief, it is a gift to enter into others’ lives by listening to their stories. My understanding deepens and our relationships grow. In leading small groups of people, I’ve also been touched by hearing from others how much it meant to them to listen to someone else in the group, sometimes a person they did not know before. Relationships are planted, grow, and blossom when individuals listen to each other with their hearts.
The Clergy Team is in the middle of its discussion of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, part of the series of Sacred Conversations about Race and Privilege. I believe I speak for all of us when I say our reading and discussions have been an act of listening. We know there is much that we do not know, much we want to learn. That will not end when we have finished the book. The only way to understand and promote reconciliation with those whose lives are different from our own is to listen. We will continue to seek ways to listen and learn.
God loves us and calls—indeed, commands—us to love one another. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described the community that God wants for us the “beloved community.” Creating the beloved community will take more than our lifetimes, but it grows just a little every time we listen to one another with mutual respect based on the image of God within each of us and hearts full of the unconditional love that God has shown for all of us.
Let anyone with ears to hear listen.
Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing
For ears to hear:
God of all, You gave us ears. Help us to use them to listen with love, to understand one another, and to build bridges across all that divides us. Help us to create a community filled with your loving spirit. Amen.