Sunday 29 August 2021
This week’s service starts at 10:30am in Dumbarton Riverside and is streamed live to the other Dumbarton churches. You can also watch the stream live on YouTube or catch up later.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure; they shall see GodMatthew 5: 8
Hymn 139 Praise the Lord you heavens adore him
You are the creator of the universe and all that is in it
you are greater than our minds can comprehend
and yet you know everything about each one of us
you love us and you care about us
in spite of all the things that we do and don’t do
the times we ignore your guidance and instruction
the times we hurt you and others
we give thanks that you are an approachable God
who does not require gifts, sacrifices
or complex liturgies
but who listens to us where we are
in whatever way we form our prayers
you do not require gifts and sacrifices
but you do require us to live according to you ways
to love and serve you
to love and care for others
we confess that we so often fall short in both
we ask for your forgiveness
and for your help, through the Spirit,
to be the people you want us to be
Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen
All age time (for ages 0-100)
We are all born with five senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. However, how well we can see or hear can vary from person to person, and as we get older most of us find that bits of the senses give up a bit.
Hearing is about the ability of the ears to pick up sounds, to identify where they come from, maybe identify who or what is making the noise, and then interpreting those sounds as words , music or whatever.
Listening is related to hearing, but it isn’t the same thing. Listen means paying attention to what you hear. You can listen to music, or the sound of birds or animals, to crickets, to running water, or concentrate on what someone is saying. If they are speaking, the words that come out of their mouth are just designed as ‘noise’ but are their way of expressing something – maybe something they like, maybe something they are worried about or angry about, maybe something they want us to know. If we listen, we can pick up the message they are saying.
Let’s try a little exercise in listening. I’ll tell a rather boring little story, and I’d like you to clap when you hear certain names mentioned:
- Jeannie 1 clap
- Jessie 2 claps
- Jimmy 3 claps
- Johnnie 4 claps
Let’s have a wee practice….
One day Jimmy announced to his mum, Joyce, that he fancied going to play football in the park. Joyce said that she was busy, but was sure that his pal Johnnie would be happy to go. Jimmy was excited at the idea. He got changed, collected his football out of the cupboard, and then asked his money for some money to buy an ice cream, a drink and a cake from the café in the park.
Joyce said, ‘No’ but you take an apple – it’s better for you. And I’ve asked your big sister Jessie if she’d like to go too to keep an eye on you.’ Jimmy’s face fell. ‘I don’t want to go to the park with Jessie. She’s boring. And she can’t play football.’ ‘No Jessie, no park.’ said Joyce. ‘I could think of a much better way of spending an afternoon than watching a wee brother playing football,’ announced Jessie, ‘but I’ll see if Johnnie’s big sister Jeannie is free to come to the park too. And maybe we could collect Gemma, Jill and Johnnie’s cousin Judy on the way. Maybe Judy’s wee brother Jeff and his next door neighbour Jack could go too.’
James 1: 19-27
Hymn 598 Come Holy Ghost our hearts inspire
Reflection Listening and putting into practice
Listening involves time and effort. It can mean stopping what we are doing in order to concentrate on what the other person is saying. Sometimes that is a nuisance, we would rather be watching a television programme, reading, playing a game on the computer or whatever. I suspect that we could all admit to doing something else while listening to someone on the phone.
It can mean that we have to put our own tongue on pause, hold back what we want to say, and pay attention to what they are saying, rather than just waiting desperately to be able to say what we want to say. Sometimes listening can be really hard work. We may have had the experience of having to listen for perhaps an hour or more while someone offloads their problems, worries, past, anger or whatever. It can be exhausting. It can be draining.
People quickly pick up when someone is not listening, or they think the other person is not listening. It can be tone of voice, it can be lack of eye contact, it can be other non-verbal body language. We know from our own experiences how frustrating it can be when we are maybe trying to register a complaint, and the person at the other end of the phone, or across the desk exudes a couldn’t-care-less attitude. There are other occasions when accusations of ‘not listening’ arise:
- as parents or teachers, when we have slightly raised our voice and said, ‘you’re not listening to me. I told you…’
- or maybe the disgruntled teenager in a clash with parent or teacher accusing them ‘the trouble is, you don’t listen to me, you don’t understand…’
- or in communities in this country and abroad, where they feel that the political elite ignore them, their requests and their pleas, there is a despairing, ‘they just don’t listen to us’
- and sometimes God stands accused of the same thing, of having put a glass ceiling between himself and those who desperately need his help.
When things reach the stage of raised voices and accusations of ‘you’re not listening’, or ‘they’re not listening’ it isn’t easy to bring things back. It emphasises the need constantly to work at good communication. It is easy to talk past each other, both (or all) parties saying what they want to say, and taking no notice of what the person or people are saying. It is harder to engage with and interact with each other, to give each party the chance to put their case, and then work together to find a solution.
We don’t know who wrote the Letter of James, why they wrote it, or who the intended audience was (though it may have had its origins in a Jewish Christian community in the Holy Land in the early years of the church). It often uses graphic images to make very practical points about applying God’s teaching to everyday living and community life – and it is still very pertinent to both two thousand years later.
One of the topics it tackles is listening, and in particular what we might call ‘in one ear and out the other.’ It is something we can relate to at home, at school, at work, in church, in public life, in every other area of life. We have seen it at all stages of the pandemic – whether it was advice, or guidance, or definite rules, ‘it went in one ear and out the other’. It happens with God’s message to us too, about how to live our lives, treat other people, and honour him. Some people have understandable reasons for having difficulty in taking on board his message, if they have cognitive impairment or mental incapacity. But for most of us it is simply a case of not trying hard enough, not listening properly, not acknowledging that we have to work at applying his guidance to every part of our lives, not working through what its implications are for everyday living. The writer reminds us that we need to listen much harder to what God is saying, check our understanding, and recognise that his guidance applies in every aspect of life.
Prayers for others
Thank you that you listen to us
you know what we are thinking
the things that worry us or annoy us
we don’t need to wrap our prayers up in fancy language
you accept muddled words
you accept straight talking
you aren’t put off if the language is a bit colourful
help us to be better at listening:
listening to you –
instead of letting it go ‘in one ear and out the other’ –
and applying your words in our everyday lives
listening to others –
giving them time and our full concentration
t be able to open up and express themselves
help us too in communication with others
to ensure that we don’t talk past each other
but listen and share together
we pray for all who are ill,
those who look after them
and those who worry about them
those waiting for or receiving treatment
and those for whom there is no treatment
those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one
those who are worried about home, work or money
a friend or a relative
those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters
those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home
those who long to live in peace and safety
those who have fled from their homes seeking safety
We pray for the Queen, the Government
all in positions of leadership in this and every land
We pray for you church
the worldwide church
the wider church in Dumbarton
our own congregation
help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord
We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us
And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us
Hymn 622 We sing a love that sets all people free
Blessing (3-fold Amen)
And the blessing of God Almighty.