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While Pastor Ted is gone, he asked me to share some thoughts in this week’s blog post.
One of the quietest places in the world can be found at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis. The “anechoic chamber,” located inside the facility, absorbs 99.99% of sound, meaning there is no echo in the room. While that makes the space ideal for manufacturers testing the sound quality or volume of their products, it is an unsettling environment for humans to experience. With every other noise silenced, in the overwhelming quiet, a person’s body, their heartbeat, their breathing are the only sounds you can hear.
This past Sunday’s Gospel reading from John is a story of healing, but it is also one of listening …and of hearing. A man, a beggar who had been blind since birth, listens, hears and faithfully follows Jesus’ instructions. As a result, after many years in darkness, he is finally able to see. His sight is a miracle, but the man’s community and the religious leaders only respond to his new condition with question after question. They just can’t wrap their heads around the man’s account of who he really is and what had really happened. They were stuck in an echo-like chamber of their own, only hearing what they were able to and that which they were willing to believe.
Before he was healed, Jesus said of the man, “He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Now as a walking and talking miracle, what more might his neighbors have learned about the man and what God had done in his life, had they only listened?
In a recent survey, 96% of people considered themselves to be good listeners. Yet another survey reported 1 in 4 people don’t feel like their voices are being heard by anyone at all. In a world today that is filled with so many distractions, assumptions and lines being drawn, how can each of us better listen to the voices of others? What can we learn from those who are like us and how might we see what God has done and continues to do in the lives of those we appear to have little in common with? How, as children of God, can we remove that which often covers our eyes, step out in faith in our schools, at work, in our community and the world and help the excluded feel more included? How might we better understand the lives and struggles of those facing the kinds of hardship and injustice we will likely never experience?
Author Michael Haymes wrote, “’Every heart has got a story. Listen for the ones nobody wants to hear.”
It is only through listening and hearing the stories of others that we too will be better able to see.