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Faith Column: Let anyone with ears listen

When I was a student, first in High School, then University, then Seminary, I found that every teacher had a way of telling students what to expect on tests, the trick was to understand that every teacher had a different method and to pay attention to what they said if I expected to do well on tests. 

As a teacher myself, in the Military Intelligence School, teaching law enforcement classes and teaching Bible studies, I found that I had also developed a system of reinforcing what I wanted my students to understand, while allowing them to discover it on their own. 

I must admit to the occasional foot stomping to make a point, multiple repetitions to ensure understanding of the topic, and the very occasional statement along the lines of, “you may see this again.”

When Jesus taught the crowds during His time walking on earth, He taught by way of using parables.  Parables, by definition, need to be short and to the point, they need to be understood by everyone who hears them, and they MUST teach a moral lesson with a deeper theological/religious principle involved. 

Jesus was not the first to use parables as they had a long- standing tradition of use in the Old Testament, and He did have statements that He used to alert people to pay attention to what He was saying.  Since Jesus invariably referenced the Holy Scripture when He spoke, it should come as no surprise that, when He wanted to make a point, He tended to use Scripture to back up what he was saying.  My favorite expression of Jesus, when He was making a point was that he said to His audience, “He who has ears to hear, listen!”  Jesus was referring to what Isaiah the Prophet said in the eighth century before the time of Christ, putting His own interpretation upon it by stating, “the reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.'”

When teaching the multitudes Jesus always spoke in ways that could be understood by everyone who lived in an agrarian lifestyle.  He spoke about things that they could understand, not in the ways of the scribes and lawyers, but in common, everyday events such as how the Word of the Lord is heard and received by listeners, missing sheep from the flock, a missing coin that must be found, or even what living a profligate lifestyle would have on a child who was raised in the faith. 

Jesus even went so far as to say that people that had a different faith or lifestyle could, in fact, be more righteous than the Jews, which did more than just raise a few eyebrows. 

Jesus reminded His listeners that people had been having ears that were hard of hearing and eyes that they shut for as long as anyone could remember, and He reminded them that if one is to hear the Way they are meant to hear, that they must listen with their ears, must absorb what they heard of the Word and must understand with their heart. 

It sounds simple, but the reason that Jesus kept repeating it was that it may sound simple, but is very difficult to live into on a daily basis.

“Let anyone with ears listen.”  (Matthew 13: 9, NRSV)

The Rev. Bain White is the priest/pastor at St. Mark’s Church of Grace, Craig, Colorado.  He may be reached at office@stmarksepiscopal-lcog.org


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