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Listening and Loving

February 20, 2012

The following is adapted from an upcoming article from the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church newsletter.

One of our favorite current television commercials centers on a romantic dinner.  Well, it’s supposed to be a romantic dinner.  The problem is that while the woman is talking, the man is doing something else and she knows it: “Did you just check the game on your phone?”  The man tries to squirm his way out of it: “What?  No!  What am I, like, some kind of summoner who can just summon footage to his phone like that?”  What’s good for the sports fan (being able to stay in the loop almost anywhere) can be bad for relationships.  As any good marriage counselor will tell you, nothing is more important than listening.  As any parent can tell you, few things are more frustrating that someone you love failing to listen.  What you’re listening to – whether it’s your spouse, parent, or a football game – is where your attention is.  And where your attention is says a lot about where your heart is.

So to who or what are you listening?  Who or what are you loving?  During Lent our Wednesday worship opportunities at St. Peter’s will be centered on listening to the One who has the words of eternal life and loving that One in response.  When asked what the greatest commandment is (Mark 12:28-30), Jesus responds by quoting Israel’s central confession of faith, the Shema, which Jesus adapts from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  Note Israel’s confessional order: the first thing you do is listen; the second thing you do is love.

Listening and loving.  After all, the two go hand in hand.  Listening itself is an act of love.  When you listen to someone you give them your attention to the exclusion of other voices.  Jesus is reasserting Israel’s ancient claim the Lord God is the One (and only) who deserves our unwavering attention, the One who has words worth hearing.  With such attention comes the natural response: love.  We love God with all that we are – hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  We dedicate our lives to this One who has brought us forth from our exile in the wilderness of sin and death.

For Jesus, this brings a correlate (from Leviticus 19:18): “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  When we listen to God and learn to love the One who has given himself for us, we learn to show such love by listening for the needs of those around us and loving them in and through these needs.

Of course, part of the purpose of Lent is to recognize our utter failure to live into these two greatest commandments.  We begin this season with ashes, remembering both our physical origin and future and the sum total of our moral achievements.  But it is for this very reason that the call to listen and love resounds.  God in Christ has loved us as neighbors and granted us new life.  May we listen eagerly, really listen, to this gracious Word that comforts us with unmerited love.  And may we love in return the God who first loved us, expressing this love in worship toward God and loving service to our neighbors.

And yes, Erika.  I’ll try not to check the scores so often!

From → Odds and Ends

  1. Is it fine to put a portion of this on my personal website if perhaps I publish a reference point to this webpage?

  2. Of course! Use it as you see fit. Please do reference this blog or link to it. Thanks!

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