Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Do You Want to Hear?

The Day of Pentecost
Sunday, May 11, 2008
John 7:37-39

What do you want to hear? You want to hear what makes you feel good. Something that points within yourself or about yourself that makes you feel good about yourself. Rock stars know this. The lead singer will get the crowd all excited: “San Diego! We love you! You guys are the best audience we’ve played to!” But they’ve said the same thing to a whole bunch of other audiences they play to. At the Comic Con here in San Diego a while back they were promoting several blockbuster movies due out this summer to all the teens that were there. They had Steven Spielberg live on video from the set of the new Indiana Jones movie and he said to the teens, “I’m making this movie largely with you in mind.” There’s no doubt those kids got excited to hear the legendary director Steven Spielberg tell them that he’s performing his movie magic to a large degree for them.

What do you want to hear? You want to hear that the economy is going to rebound. You want to hear that your job is safe even when many are losing their jobs. You want to hear that we’ll one day be talking again about gas for $2.95 rather than $3.95. When there’s so much bad news in the world, you want to hear some good news for your personal world. You want to hear someone tell you that they appreciate you. All you moms want your children to call you and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and tell you how much they love you and are grateful to you for all you’ve done for them.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with telling people what they want to hear. If you go around lying to people because you want them to hear what they want to hear, then you have a problem. We can find things that are true and say them in order to make them feel good.

But is there a place for telling people things they don’t want to hear? I’m sure there are those who revel in telling people things they don’t want to hear, but most of us bristle at the prospect of having to tell people things they don’t want to hear. While we like to hear what we want to hear, if that’s all we hear then ultimately we won’t feel very good. If you withhold from people what they need to hear you are really causing them harm though you may be making them feel good.

Jesus tells us what we need to hear. He doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear. He doesn’t even just tell us the Good News. He tells us, in fact, things we don’t want to hear. He does it in today’s Gospel reading. You may hear Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading and wonder how it is He is telling you what you don’t want to hear. It all sounds pretty good. It all sounds like pure Gospel. And it is good. It is Gospel. We do want to hear these gracious words from our Savior.

But—and it’s always dangerous to follow the Gospel with a “but”—underlying the Gospel is a fact that precedes the Gospel. It is the reason for the Gospel. While the Gospel is good news to hear, what underlies the Gospel, you might say, is what we don’t want to hear.

These are the words of our Lord: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” This is the purest Gospel there is. So how could we possibly find something in here that we wouldn’t want to hear? That which presupposes the Good News He is speaking to us with these words. When He says that “out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water,” it is presupposed that out of our hearts flow filth and muck, something more than wastewater. There are living things in the sewers, but not the kind of animals and organisms we normally want around. To live you need clean refreshing water, not wastewater. It is not what goes into us that defiles us but what flows out of our hearts.

If we drink of our own filth we will die eternally. If we drink of the Living Water of Christ we will live eternally. The Good News is only Good News because the Law has done its work.

On the day we celebrate the Gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day, we learn what we need to hear. The people in Jerusalem that day were from many different places and spoke many different languages, but each of them heard the same thing in their own language.

Maybe they were expecting to hear what they wanted to hear. Isn’t that the way it is with us at times when we come to church? If you’re a mother, what you want to hear is that today is all about you. I know when it’s my birthday, or Father’s Day, I love the day and have the attitude that it’s all about me. And we do need times where our loved ones show us appreciation. But days like Mother’s Day also provide us an opportunity to simply give thanks. Give thanks for the gift of being able to be a mother, or to have a mother. Let others be the ones to decide what you will hear in appreciation, rather than seeking to hear what you want to hear. Our loved ones do sometimes fall short in showing the kind of appreciation God commands in the Fourth Commandment, honor your father and your mother. But compare this with what God wants you to hear. Compare this to the vocation God has given you of mother, of loving your children in a way no one else can. Compare this to the opportunity God gives you to raise your children in the very love and nurture of Jesus.

For the rest of us, today is an opportunity to remind ourselves that every day we are blessed with the gift of a loving mother. As the Fourth Commandment reminds us, we honor our mothers because God has given them to us.

You know what they heard on Pentecost Day? They heard what they needed to hear. They heard the proclamation of Jesus. The Holy Spirit may have been the star of the show that day, but the people weren’t there to hear about Him. They were there to receive the very One the Holy Spirit delivers. Hear what they heard. Hear the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Hear also what you may not want to hear: it was your very sins that put Jesus on the cross. But in hearing this you will see even greater the love Jesus loved you with in dying in your place, with your sins, for your guilt. He, in His death and resurrection, has taken it all away. He has given you new life to live whether it is in the vocation of mother, father, son, or daughter, to hear anew often that Jesus is forever your Lord and Savior. Amen.



Anonymous said...

Nice job, Pastor!

I needed to hear it!

- Steve M.

Peter said...

Powerful sermon, Paul. Thanks for the great preaching!

rev.will said...

Thanks guys--God's continued blessings to you.