Pay attention to how you listen (and look)

For while they live among his works, they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. (Wisdom 13:7)

The writer of the book of Wisdom expresses a theme common to our discussion of science and faith.

Either the amazing beauty of millions of galaxies testifies to the creative power of God, or the distant stars bear mute witness to the emptiness and loneliness of our plight.

It matters how you look.

For the Wisdom writer, those who “live among his works” but who are “still searching” haven’t looked closely enough or carefully enough.

They’ve seen the beauty of creation, but haven’t recognized the Creator.

They’ve clicked on the image in this post, the most detailed image ever compiled of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Perhaps they’ve noticed that it contains 1.5 billion pixels, but they haven’t comprehended “the bright immensities” (Hymn 459) that span what little we can see of the universe — more than 14 billion light years back into time.

The Wisdom writer goes on to wonder, “If they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?” (Wisdom 13:9).

In the Gospel passage appointed for this morning, Jesus has just gotten through explaining the parable of the sower to his disciples (spoiler alert: they didn’t get it) and is trying another example on them, the parable of the lamp under a jar.

Jesus interrupts himself — I picture him rolling his eyes at a bewildered James and John (the “dunderheads” as John the evangelist calls them) — and says “Pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, much more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away” (Luke 8:18).

Pay attention to how you listen.

When they come to him and say, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside” and he replies “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it,” then pay attention to hearing the word of God.

When you are in trouble and cry out that everything is hopeless, and Jesus replies “Where is your faith?” — then pay attention to the Word of God himself!

It matters how you listen, and it matters to whom you listen.

In the middle of a swirling storm, in the howling wind and the snap and strain of the lines, in the cries of the disciples pulling at the oars, Jesus speaks softly and the storm responds in kind.

In the tug and pull of relationships Jesus says “notice,” and the lines of the family are redrawn. And in the real anxieties and worries of your life, Jesus says “just a little faith is enough.”

Even in the rendering of starlight that you’re looking at on your smartphone, God the “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen,” says “Here I am.”

So pay attention to how you listen (and look).

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