Recapturing the Art of Listening

Saturday, September 18, 2010

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42-NIV)

Mary and Martha were both engaged in the act of worshiping Jesus in two different ways. Martha threw a dinner party and was busy waiting on Jesus, making sure everything was perfect and just right. She wanted to honor him by giving him her absolute best and being the best hostess she possibly could. Mary simply sat at his feet doing one thing - listening. Jesus commended Mary for choosing what was better. I really do not think this was a rebuke to Martha or that Jesus was criticizing her method of worship. He was simply pointing out that she had missed the bigger picture that Mary understood. One was busy doing, the other was listening.

The Lord has been speaking to me about corporate worship. There is a dynamic in our modern day worship services that we have forgotten and it is grieving his heart. We have lost the art of listening to him. We have become like Martha. Our services are packed with so much of us doing the talking that the Holy Spirit gets very little opportunity to say anything. I'm not suggesting that we spend thirty minutes of silence every Sunday. We tend to get nervous when there is thirty seconds of quiet contemplation during the worship set. This is referred to as "dead space" which we avoid so that we don't "lose" people. But in our attempt to keep the audience's attention we risk "losing" the real audience worship is intended for - God. He never gets a chance to say anything because we never stop long enough to see what he has to say to us. A friend of mine who has been married longer than I have been alive (I'm 48) was on a long drive with his wife one day. Not long into the 3-hour drive she sarcastically said, "Why don't you talk much when we are in the car? You are always so quiet!" He answered, "I figured since you talk so much, you manage to say enough for both of us." Probably not a wise answer, but very astute. His wife is prone to talk nonstop.

I really believe the Holy Spirit is issuing a challenge to his bride to recapture the art of listening in our corporate settings. He loves our worship and I am convinced that his heart is deeply moved when we gather together to lift up his name. However, he has much to say to us in those times and we are missing the real point of why we come together each week - to hear his voice. He wants to express his love to us, to encourage us and reassure us, to speak words of healing. He has so much to say but we have to make room for him. We have to retool our worship services so that he takes center stage and gets more face time than any of us. That's the better way. We need to be more like Mary and learn to sit at his feet and simply listen.
YouTube - "Stillness, Speak to Me" by Aaron Shust


Beverly said...

Amen! I love this thought David. "Be still and KNOW...," a way to rid one's self of doubt.

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