2-21-16 Consequences for Not Listening

“Closing our Ears/The Cost of Not Listening”   2/21/16

For a video of this sermon, click here.

There is a cost of not listening.  It is often broken relationships.  Sometimes it is in a divisiveness.  We see it in the political process where different people seem to be speaking on different levels- missing each other.  Some just do not seem to be able to even understand a different point of view.  Some Republicans cannot even stay in the same room as a Democrat and some Democrats walk away from a Republican.  But I see it in almost every institution- including the church.  If we cannot listen to each other here, is it any wonder that some just cannot listen to what God says?  Our passages speak of not paying attention to God, and not listening with the consequence being trapping ourselves, and imprisoning ourselves. If we can listen- crises can be averted, stress can be relieved.  Listening is the way of peace.  Without listening there will not be peace.  This is true with God too.  I remember going to a meeting with the plant manager of our plant in Westminster.  All the salaried workers were there and the plant manager was reading a statement that said we need to listen to the hourly employees in order to meet their needs, decrease turnover and increase production.  Afterwards some of the salaried workers spoke.  My friend asked the plant manager what he thought about what they said, and he said in all seriousness, “I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention.”   How can you talk about listening and not listen?  In contrast to him, the president of the company was just a tremendous listener.  I like that show Undercover Boss- where the company CEO disguises him/herself and works with the hourly employees for a week or so and they learn their problems and learn about the weakness of their company.   One of the things that we cannot say as Christians is that God does not care.  God cared enough to come down- to listen- to understand.  The scriptures say that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness.  But Christ was made like us in every way- but without sin.  (Hebrews 4:15).  Christ came in part to understand, to listen, to sympathize.  He wants to love us- and wants us to love Him in return by listening to Him.  If we cannot listen to the Lord, how can we know Him?  If we do not care to listen- but we have shut Him off- then how can we follow Him?   When Jesus came along people discounted Him.  The said he was a carpenter’s son.  They said they knew where he was from- from Nazareth.  I really appreciated what Richard Burnett said at our last Learning on Lent- that in our day we tend to identify people by their background, gender , race, or time and say that is why they said what they said.  But doing this we have hardened our ears to their words. There are some who wish to be Tellers.  Tellers tend to interrupt, jump to conclusions, make assumptions, judge others without knowing all the facts, shut down communication, disrupt honest dialogue, try to fix things before trying to listen to the directions. Better Listening benefits everyone.  If we listen to each other- helps us understand, and brings peace.  Listening to God helps us get peace with God.  It is very important to listen to the Gospel so that we can respond.  It is also important that we seek to follow in God’s way.

We listen four times faster on average than a person speaks.  We can read ourselves on average 3x faster than we can listen to an audio book.  We process the information differently when we read the symbols on a page versus have someone read to us or see it in a movie.        Years ago someone spoke of the hand illustration of listening.  This especially applies to how we listen to the scripture- or to the Lord   There are basically five ways to listen: Hear, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate.  We remember about 5% of what we hear.  Preachers do not like to hear this, but it is true.  We remember far less when we listen to an audiobook than when we read. We remember about 15% of what we read.  There is speed reading and slow reading.  I am talking about somewhere in between.  Reading the scriptures is important.  The more you have to read, the more material covered, but the less you will remember.  Studying- will again double the amount you remember- about 30%.  The Bible says, “Study to show yourself approved a workman rightly dividing the word of God.”  Studying means asking questions of the text.  Trying to get at the meaning.  Memorizing- When you memorize you will allow yourself to listen not just once, but over and over again.  The Bible encourages memorization of scripture.  The greatest example of memorization is Jesus who quoted scripture from Deuteronomy each time he was tempted in the desert.  David said, “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When you memorize scripture- you can take it with you wherever you go and bring it up when you need it.  So in confirmation we encourage memorization.  Meditation- Meditation is thinking about what you have heard, read, study or memorized.  It is going back over it again and again.  Joshua 1:8 says, “Have this Book of the Law always on your lips- meditate on it day and night- then you will have success.”  To meditate means to apply it to your life.  Not just know what it says, but ask how can I make this real in my life.  Some ways of meditating involve emptying your brain of stuff.  But Christian meditation means to focus- zero in on what the Bible says and apply it to your lives.       So how are you at listening?  There are many who do not want to hear- and they are most likely not in church today.   They want to go their own way.  But you are here- and I encourage you to listen.  Listen like a trapped miner listens to equipment being used to rescue you.  This is what Jesus did.  He came.  I thought about the folks at Columbiana last night who heard there was an active shooter (which turned out to be shots fired in the air).   If I was there I would be listening for someone saying, “This is the way out, follow me!”  I would be listening for the sirens- those coming to help- and I would love to hear them.  Jesus came down as a Word to us- to say, “There is a way out of death- follow me- hold onto me- trust in me.”  Jesus came to listen and we need to listen for Him.   Listening is important.  There are consequences to not listening.  I want to tell you a few stories about the consequences of not listening.      On April 20, 2010 the oil well Deep Horizons in the Gulf of Mexico exploded killing 11 workers and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in history.  Many say rig operator Jimmy Harrell told the BP Officials earlier that morning that they should use a thick lubricant to hold the gas in place instead of the cheaper and lighter seawater.   Two tests confirmed what Harrell said, but Harrell used the water anyway and the rig blew.   Every safety mechanism on the rig failed too.  But it began when BP Officials wouldn’t listen to Harrell and Harrell wouldn’t listen to his own tests.  In 2006 Katsuhiko Ishibashi warned the Japanese government of damage to its nuclear plants from earthquakes.  The Japanese government refused to listen because of cost concerns.  March 11, 2011 a severe earthquake and resulting tsunami caused one of the worst nuclear plant disasters in history. John O’Neil was an FBI agent who investigated Al Qaeda in the early 1990s.  He basically predicted the attack on the USS Cole.  He was trying to tell anyone then that Al Qaeda was a major threat, but because of personality differences he was let go of the FBI in August 2001.  He took on the job as head of security for the World Trade Center.  He was told that the buildings there were safe from Al Qaeda because they had already attacked in 1993, but he was convinced they would attack again.  On 9/11 2001 he was right. He ended up dying in the attack.  In April 12, 1912 Cyril Evans telegraphed a warning of icebergs to the Titanic- who did not listen.  In Private George Elliot warned Pearl Harbor Navy Headquarters 30 minutes ahead of time that a large number of planes were showing up on his radar.  He was told that was just a US Bomber squadron.  There are always consequences of not listening to warnings and rebuke.  The scriptures are not just there to make us feel good.  They are there also to help us get on the right path to eternal life and to honor and glorify God.  They are a Word- an eternal word for us beckoning us to listen.