Going and Growing with Jesus – Vital Listening in a Virtual World

O, you can plainly see. I got this thing (mic extension) on my ear so you can hear every word outta my mouth. ‘Not exactly my real voice, more a virtual voice, amplified, mixed, delivered to your ear for the easiest of hearing. Some of you ‘got something similar in your car so you can hear and talk on the phone, hands free. Others, especially the youngest of us, have got those ear buds in our ears lots o’ the day long. Almost every kid’s got a cell phone, an Iphone, an Ipad, a text capability and a flock o’ friends on Facebook you never actually have to see, or touch, or stand with. You just stay plugged in, synched up, clicked on. We live in an increasingly VIRTUAL world. So here’s my question: how, when, where do we practice VITAL LISTENING in this virtual age? And what would it matter, anyhow? May I suggest… PRAYER? PRAYER… As Vital Listening in and for a virtual world. And, at the risk of speaking, or maybe being a cliché, may I say that Jesus himself is our most helpful teacher and example?!

What Jesus knows, we need to understand. Sometimes (maybe lots of them), you gotta get lost in prayer to get found in this life. This real life. Not the pretend one of microchips and megabits. The real one, of mayhem in the high school hallway and medicine bottles on the kitchen counter. O, our Jesus lived in a mighty real world. His country invaded and occupied by a foreign army. No medicine as we know it, from antibiotics to aspirin; no jobs, by and large as we know them; no cash in hand or social safety net standing by. But plenty of hunger, anger; sickness, suffering; bigotry, suspicion; religion, rules. Into all of this (which should sound so familiar to us) steps Jesus. According to Mark, in chapter 1 alone, after his baptism, Jesus wrestles with Satan, he calls disciples, casts out demons in the synagogue, heals his best bud’s mother-in-law (…and they’re still friends!), and has both the creepy sick and curiously crazed at his doorstep lookin’ for a hand out and a lift up! Now that’s real life, real world, vital need, not just virtual reality (which is rarely real at all). Well, come sundown, Jesus beds down for the night, but come sun-up, he ain’t nowhere to be found. Holy Simole, we done’ lost us our Savior. No wonder, says Mark, every

one’s out lookin’ for him. Well, we’re told, “a great while before day, Jesus rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” Whenever I read this, I personally am cut to the heart! Jesus doesn’t get up and get away so God can hear what Jesus has to say. O no, Jesus is out there alone and apart, so he can hear what God has to say! In the first place and case, prayer for Jesus (and… may it be so with us) is all about listening. But is it? Me, I’m so often about stating my case, citing my needs… and yours… makin’ my complaints, askin’ why and askin’ please and insistin’ on soon. (‘Course that’s just me, couldn’t be you… or could it… honestly?)

Well. Jesus has another way. He goes out early in the morning. Translation: Christ makes listening for God the first thing. That way, serving, pleasing God becomes the primary thing! (Can you say that about your days?) Second. Jesus is more a listener than a speaker on his early morning walk with God. And how is it we know? Because of what he reports to Simon Peter and his own. “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” We know the fruit of Jesus’ prayer. It can be ours too, if only we will listen. Here’s the first fruit. God will speak to us strength for our weakness and courage for our challenges. Next, God will give us the will to do that which we otherwise would not. Remember: Jesus has already and repeatedly, even in these opening verses of Mark, sought rest and relief from the needs around him. Look where he looked. Some: the same places as we. In his baptism. In his church (the synagogue). Among friends. All well and good. But in the end, there is nothing like a first hand, personal, even intimate relationship with Heaven. ‘Nothing quite like Holy conversation. God the speaker. We the listener. Notice I did not say we the hearer. [We often hear what we want: especially in prayer. That’s because of how we ask and what we speak. But when we simply listen, God’s words come to us unconditioned and unshaped by our will versus his. Often, what we receive is contrary to what we desire. And when it merely confirms our desires, we should wonder if we have it right. (E.g.s)] O, and don’t miss this, when Jesus listens, eagerly, fully, God answers his “Why” questions. Jesus is confirmed in his purpose. “‘On to the next towns, that I may preach… this is why I came out!” Tell the truth. Don’t you wonder why sometimes? I do. Why me? Why do I have to do this, bear this, be this, think this, feel this, go this way or that? I’m not always happy when God answers. But I have a better shot at hearing when I’ve made a better time for listening. I believe that by example, that is Jesus’ discovery too.

We began with a nod to the virtual in our lives. In Jesus’ name we can only conclude with the vital. Here is what Jesus shows and tells:

Prayer is vital.

‘Best done by listening. Use words only when you can’t

listen anymore, and then, as few as possible. Give God the

airtime and God will give you the time of your life!

Pray to begin with. (It’s not enough to make it your last resort.)

Pray regularly. Make it a habit. Jesus needed to and did. You?

Prayer gives strength, courage, will and purpose.

When you feel you must use words, use them first and best for others. Jesus did. “Simon, Simon. Look! Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Jesus to Peter only hours from the cross.)

When you pray, remember…

“Haven’t you heard? [Have you listened?] The Lord is the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint; to the weak, strength. Even the youth shall faint and be weary, and fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint!      Isa. 40: 28-31.

Prayer is vital. And the virtual will never be its substitute.

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