Monday in Lent 5
When I was in the third grade I can remember doing a lot of hands on projects. We would have a short lesson and then get to work related activities. My third grade teacher (a wonderful woman) would often continue teaching and talking to us as we worked. I can remember being amazed because she was always able to know who was engaged and who wasn’t even though we were all working away at the same time. If she sensed that someone wasn’t working she would say, “Ashley, you can hear me, but are you listening?” (I’ve often told this story and gotten into debates about which one is more meaningful, hearing or listening, but that’s not the point of today’s Lenten devotional). For my sweet teacher, hearing meant that we literally heard the words she was saying, but listening meant that we heard, ingested and processed her words. Listening meant that we took her words in and were able to understand their meaning and apply them to the task at hand. This always stuck with me because I remember recognizing, even then, that there was such a difference between hearing and listening, and that I would learn more and enjoy the task more if I really listened.
In John’s gospel for today we hear a story that I think has a similar take away. It’s another miracle story. Jesus heals a blind man, it is a miracle yes, but it’s really a story about revelation. The point of this story is not the miracle of sight. The point is about recognizing the revelation of God in the works of Jesus Christ. The man, who lived in literal darkness, is renewed to spiritual and literal light when Jesus heals his blindness. When the Pharisees question the man for the first time he refers to Jesus as “the man called Jesus.” This is the surface level understanding, this is what my old teacher would call hearing. But later in the story the Pharisees question the man again and he calls Jesus a prophet, this is what my teacher would call listening. The man experienced the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, he recognized it, internalized it and then testified to it.
If we simply hear these stories, if we simply take Jesus and his life and works at face value, then we are missing out and we are living in the dark. If we truly listen, if we look beyond the miracle and into the great healing prophet, we can see God, we can see light. Luckily the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is not limited to these Gospel stories, it’s all around. If we have our heads down and we are only hearing, then we are missing out, we are living in the dark. So as we anticipate the coming of Christ in the Resurrection, let’s look up, open up and live in the light—maybe even testify. I can start right now. As I write this devotional, I hear rain pouring through my open window causing cool air, frizzy hair and and wet leaves all over my freshly washed car. But what if I listen? If I listen I am aware of the miracle of God’s creation. God’s creation that needs the rain to grow and flourish, God’s creation that intricately depends on itself to thrive, God’s creation that we must cherish and respect, God’s creation that brings a bit of light to a dark and rainy day. It’s remarkable, are you listening?