Learning to Listen ~ Learning to Hear

Sermon from 07222012 on Matthew 13
My 8th grade science teacher Mr. Calloway always said,
    “Clllaaaassssss….. To hear me is to understand me.”
What did he mean by that? Isn’t hearing just hearing? Well, actually no.
In the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha at Bethany, both women could hear the sound of Jesus’ voice. Only Mary was listening to his voice, so only Mary had an opportunity to really hear what he had to say.
“Most of us at one time or another have both heard and said, “You’re not listening to me.”
What does that mean? Generally that someone is not paying attention. It could also mean that the listener is attentive, but not open – they have already decided what the message will be and what it will mean, so they are “not really listening.”
How can there be a difference between listening and really listening?
If we have ever lived in a place for a long time, we may have become numb and deaf to the constant background sounds there. Church bells and trains in the distance. The hum of highway traffic. Insects and birds. Running water, creaking floors, squeaking doors. A newcomer will say, “Listen. Do you hear that?” and we will say, “Hear what?” because we truly do not hear it any more.
What about the people around us? Do we become numb and deaf to the voices of those in our lives? Our parents, our children, our spouses and significant others? Our coworkers, friends and fellow church folk? Yes, we may hear the noise of their voices, but do we really listen and hear? Have we perhaps decided that there is nothing really to hear, so we tune out? How many of us are guilty of choosing not to listen and hear? The other person always complains, always argues, always criticizes, always debates, always sees it differently, and so we tune out.
That’s actually an interesting phrase – “tune out.” It has to do with tuning a radio to receive a certain signal and convert it into intelligible sound. The signal is always being broadcast – actually many different signals are. We have to make a choice to tune in to a particular signal, and then the radio has to do its magnetic conversion of radio waves to sound waves so that we can hear it. And then we have to listen intentionally to the sound being emitted. And then do we have the capacity to really hear it?
How many background noises are there in your normal day? Every electronic device in your environment produces a hum, many of them even when they are turned off – which is why they
One article from the Washington Post describes studies conducted near airports in several large cities. Apparently the effect of noise pollution is present even during sleep when we are supposedly not attentive to the sounds around us.

In a Scientific American article… a NIOSH study is referenced indicating that continual exposure to excessive background noise can aggrivate “stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, peptic ulcers and migraine headaches.”
What might help us is to reflect on the following three notions:

We hear sounds around us even without trying.
We listen with intentionality of focus – we have to tune other things out.
We hear with new intentionality when we set aside our assumptions.

1 thought on “Learning to Listen ~ Learning to Hear

  1. Pingback: Update on My DMin Program « Ken G Crawford

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