Field Stone Cottage Blog

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good Listeners

We went to Emily's church with her when we were recently in Ann Arbor, MI for the weekend and I've been thinking about the sermon we heard ever since. I wish it was online because, believe me, I'd be linking to it! As it is, you'll just have to put up with me telling you about the aspect of it that particularly interested me.

The pastor, Del Belcher, is working his way through Genesis on Sunday mornings and this sermon focused on Genesis 16:7-16. The passage follows the mistreatment of Hagar by Sarah (Sarai) after Hagar becomes pregnant by Abraham (Abram) at the instigation of Sarah. Here it is:
7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?"
"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.

9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." 10 The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."

11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.

12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers."

13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Five points were made in this sermon about this particular passage but it was the second one that really intrigued me. The pastor pointed out that God gave Hagar an opportunity to tell her story in verse 8 when He asked "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" Certainly God already knew the answers to those questions just as He also knew the answers to the questions He asked of Adam and Eve following the Fall (Genesis 3:9,11, 13). And God asked the same sort of leading question of Saul in Acts 9:4; "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Furthermore, God gives each one of us the opportunity to come to Him and tell our story, tell our deepest thoughts and feelings to Him in prayer and confession. As if that isn't encouraging enough, there is more.

To be a good listener, to ask leading questions and be willing to really listen, to give someone an opportunity to pour out where they are coming from and where they are going is to behave in a manner that emulates God and honors Him. It demonstrates caring and love to others. This pastor put it even more strongly. He said that this sort of behaviour, this willingness to really listen, is an act of worship. But, he cautioned, you must be very patient if you ask these sort of open-ended questions of another. Be prepared to give generously of your time, your attention...and your love. So don't ask if you really don't want to know!

Note: My personal reflections to follow in another post.

1 comment:

Willow said...

Good thoughts here. How important it is to be a good listener!