"Listening with the Ears of Our Hearts" - Pentecost 10A
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
August 13, 2017 at 11:15 AM
Central Passage
Romans 10:5-17

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Pentecost 10A, August 13, 2017

Romans 10:5-17; Matthew 14:22-33


Listening with the Ears of Our Hearts


            One thousand years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, a man named Benedict wrote a rule for his community of monks at Monte Cassino, 80 miles southeast of Rome. A rule, a set of precepts or guidelines, concerns how one will live each day. Specifically to Benedict’s Rule was the question of how monks live in community together. At the beginning of the Rule, before getting into any specific instruction, Benedict exhorts the reader to “listen with the ear of your heart”. Benedict was not concerned with someone going through the motions of living in Christian community; he wanted the reader to be fully committed and open to hearing instruction in living life together under the lordship of Christ.


            Benedict highlighted a truth for us who claim the name Christian. Hearing is never just a matter of simply listening with our ears; it is a matter that involves our whole being, of listening with our inner selves. Listening to God’s voice in the Gospel requires not just our heads, but our hearts as well.


            Paul talks about this kind of listening in our reading from Romans today. Paul asserts that faith, genuine faith in Christ, comes from what is heard, and that what is heard comes from the word of Christ. Faith, the deepest kind of trust in someone or something, comes through what we hear. And not just through these two organs on the sides of the head. Hearing is just as much a matter of the heart.


            Of course, being sinful human beings, we can be tempted to take the wrong kind of gospel message to heart. Some of our brothers and sisters in Charlottesville, Virginia, did exactly that yesterday, proclaiming the false doctrine that God has made some people – people of European descent – superior to others. Never mind that Paul said, again and again, that Jesus is Lord of all and that we are all one in him, no matter their race, ethnicity, or nationality. Never mind that Peter told Cornelius that “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10). Never mind that Jesus himself told the disciples to go out into all the world to make disciples (Matthew 27). Never mind that John, whose visions were captured in the Book of Revelation, saw a great multitude from every tribe, nation, and tongue before the throne of God (Revelation 7:9). They have distorted texts from other parts of the Bible, notably Genesis 9, which describes the affair of Ham and his father, Noah, to claim that God has destined Ham’s descendants, conveniently peoples of African descent, to be slaves of everyone else. This detestable, satanic doctrine, known as the Curse of Ham, has held a dominant place in American theological thought. And one hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, and fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, it still rears its ugly head from time to time.


            All of this shows that the ear of our hearts can easily, oh so easily be turned to listen to the wrong things. In an age where constant propaganda pours out of our televisions and radios, where we can go on our computers or phones to find the “truth” we want to hear, we can easily isolate ourselves in our own little world. We are easily enticed by messages that tell us that we’re victims of one group or another; that another person’s gain is our loss; that we need to “take our country back”. All this does is make us bitter, angry, and afraid. It kills any faith that we have. Despite what we may claim to believe, we stop trusting in the God of Jesus Christ and begin to trust only in the false god of ourselves.


            No doubt this is a difficult age in which to be faithful to God. The information and propaganda overload we’re bombarded with is like the waves on the choppy, stormy sea in today’s Gospel from Matthew. On every side of our small boat, it seems like the waves and winds of the world will overturn us. Perhaps we might even be tempted to surrender to the waves; to give in to them; to let ourselves be dragged down by them. But Jesus comes to us, walking on the stormy sea as if it were solid ground, discounting the waves and wind as mere “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. He calls to us, as he called to Peter, to get out of the boat, to get out of our little, isolated world, and come out to him. To ignore the storm, and focus our eyes, ears, and hearts on him and his voice. Jesus’ voice is what creates faith in us, and creates faith in the middle of every single conceivable storm that we can experience. And when we doubt, as Peter did, Jesus still rushes to save us, to put us back on our feet.


            Faith comes through the word of Christ. And, I pray you hear that word every time you hear the Word of God preached and receive the sacraments. One thing we can count on is that God is utterly faithful to us, even when we are unfaithful to God. God continues to call to us, exhorting us to listen with the ears of our hearts, and receive that good news which carries us through every single storm of life. God is utterly faithful to all people, and he offers salvation to all people, equally, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter how much money you have, and no matter what you look like. God is God of all. Jesus is Lord of all. Let’s listen to Jesus with the ears of our hearts.


            Let us pray.


            Lord Jesus, the sound and fury of the world screams the false message that we can only trust in ourselves. Open the ears of our hearts to your word, and help us to trust in you as Lord of all. Amen.  


© 2017, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.