Listening to new sounds by Fr. Steve White

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go there-fore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ – Matthew 28:16-20

So, I’ve finally got my furniture in, and I know everyone is glad because y’all are tired of hearing me complain about it. I sure know I’m glad. For the first time in a long time, I was able to sleep in a fairly familiar space. But the one strange thing, a thing I’m going to have to get used to are the new sounds. You see, where I’m from, night time means sleeping with the windows shut and the air conditioner running full tilt. Unless an ambulance or police car runs nearby, you really don’t hear a lot of sound around you.

But here it’s different for me. I’m not used to sleeping with the windows open. Don’t get me wrong – I dig it. It’s just taking some getting used to. And that’s because of all the noise of the night that I’ve never heard before. Cars slowly going up and down Main Street; people talking and laughing across the way at some party; critters buzzing and barking and moving around. I can remember early the other morning hearing my first Amish buggy clop-clopping down the road. What a new and exciting sound that was for this Southern boy.

This Summer we are going to spend a lot of time in Matthew’s church when the Gospel lessons are read out. And Matthew is big on sound. . . on making sound and in hearing it. It’s Matthew’s gospel that gives us the Great Commission – go out and proclaim the good news and baptize others.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Ok, folks, I’ll go out and proclaim the good news, and you follow along and help out here and there.” He tells US that WE are to do this. We are the ones who actually have to go up to other people, look them in the eye, and proclaim the Gospel.

And that’s scary stuff.

It’s hard telling people what’s on your heart. It makes you vulnerable to people laughing at your or ridiculing you. Sometimes, depending what part of the world  you live in, it can even be dangerous. But that’s what Our Lord tells us to do.

So how can we get over the scary part and get to the Great Commission part? Look, the Great Commission is not a command to annoy others, but it is a command to love others. We follow Jesus because we love Jesus, and that love has made our lives complete. And there are millions of people out there, living among us, that believe that nobody – no person and no God – could ever love them.

So part of our job under the Great Commission is to listen to them. Engage others in simple conversation. Listen to their fears, their worries, those things that keep them awake at night. Listen with new ears to the sounds of the world around you. And sometimes – and it may be frequently, but it may be very rarely – the sounds you hear, the words they speak, the pain they share, will be all the opening you need to say, “I know what it’s like to be loved, and because of that, I want to share it with you.”

Listening can be the greatest evangelism there is, so this season, as we gather in Matthew’s church, let’s give that a try.


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