We were leading a mission in Windsor Ontario during the Anglican Church’s “Decade of Evangelism” (which instead turned out to be the decade of discussing sexuality). I spoke the first night and just before I stepped into the pulpit my good friend Bruce Smith, who is now Threshold’s Ambassador, came up to me with words of encouragement and prayer. This is totally in keeping with his character; Bruce is a prayerful and encouraging gentleman. The next night it was Bruce’s turn to speak and I felt the pressure to reciprocate, at least publicly. It is important at this juncture to remind people that we all have different gifts. I stepped up to Bruce during the last verse of the song before his message and quietly said, “Remember Balaam’s ass! If God could speak through an ass he can certainly speak through you!” With these encouraging words ringing in his ears Bruce stepped into the pulpit stifling the laugh which was trying to bubble out.
This week at one of Street Hope gatherings we were reading Mark 6 when the folks in Jesus’ hometown did not have “ears to hear” from Jesus. Familiarity had bred contempt. They did not expect that a hometown boy from a carpenter’s shop could have an important message. The initial focus of our discussion was that we are often not respected in our wider community when we share the importance of Jesus to our lives, but after our mini-pity-party we turned our attention to the idea that we miss God’s voice sometimes. God speaks to us through the homeless, the handicapped, the schizophrenic and the simple, and we do not take time to listen. Like the Church of Laodicea we think we are pretty cool but are really only lukewarm. Revelation 3:22 encourages “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
I am convinced that the Spirit is speaking to each of us in the voices of those around us and especially those who are unlike us. Now not everything said is a message from God so we need to exercise care in discerning, asking God to show us truth in what we hear. This week I heard the prayer of a young woman who is tormented by a variety of psychiatric disorders. She named them all (at least I hope that was all!) and then sweetly offered herself wholly to her dear Heavenly Father. Listening to this innocent caused me to realize that I can use my little problems as an excuse to rail at God when this woman was taking the opportunity to draw close to God. In her prayer I heard God calling me to a greater innocent trust! I’m grateful for these voices in my life.
Circling back to our mission in Windsor; Bruce and I often reminisce about my word of encouragement but most of all we recall the gentleman who had been tortured by guilt for many years who found freedom and forgiveness during that mission. He had ears to hear even from a couple of guys in hokie gray suits.
May we continue to speak truth and have big ears for truth. Amen