Using the “Mute” Button

Perhaps we use it more than we realize.

The Scripture

Mark 6:1-6
told by Deborah

After healing the woman who had been ill for twelve years and restoring the little girl to life, Jesus returned to his hometown, along with his disciples.

On the Sabbath he started teaching in the synagogue, which disturbed a lot of the people.

“What right does this guy have to teach us?” they asked one another. “I haven’t seen any miracles, have you?” “He’s only a carpenter; his family lives right here in town.” “I know his mother, Mary, and his brothers.” “And his sisters are sitting here with us!” “Who does he think he is, anyway?” And they were scandalized.

As Jesus explained to his disciples, prophets get no respect from those who know them, or within their own families.

He wasn’t able to do anything there in Nazareth, except cure a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

So he left that place and went out into the countryside and taught among the villages there.

Photo of a flower

~ Reflection ~ by Deborah Beach Giordano
July 9, 2018

Late Night Television

The other night I was watching an old movie on television, it was called Experiment in Terror. I’d never seen it before and found it fascinating; the plot kept me engaged, the acting was excellent, and the scenes of San Francisco, circa 1960, were great fun to see.

And then [minor spoiler alert] ….

As the fiendish Ross Martin had outwitted the cops once again, the film was interrupted, and I found myself subjected to one of those extra-long commercials that are a feature of late-night television. You know the ones; those five- to seven-minute mini-epics featuring various speakers, diagrams, testimonials, and before-and-after shots, dedicated to convincing us that we desperately need whatever it is that they are offering to us — at greatly discounted prices!

This one began by informing me that my “growth hormone” is in abysmal condition; basically it gave up the ghost many years ago. But there is no cause for despair, for A Cure is At Hand!

tight fitI pushed the Mute button and went off to make a cup of tea, pondering the product they were advertising. I’m not a medical professional, but how can a renewed surge of “growth hormone” be a good thing? If mine suddenly kicked in, I’d have to let down the hems on all of my skirts. And what if my feet started to grow? None of my shoes would fit! The mind boggles.

By the time I returned, that commercial was over and a new one had begun. This one was directed at gentlemen of a certain age who yearn to, once again, ‹ahem» dance the night away. Apparently that had something to do with growth hormone, too. I left the television on Mute and picked up the book I’m reading.

I have no business complaining; it’s what we expect from late-night commercials. There’s no point in listening; you know before it starts that the products are …. suspect, to say the least. Their promises are too grandiose, their prices too low — and who are those people, anyway; how can we believe them?

Closed Ears

Something like that was at work in the minds of his hearers when Jesus began to teach in the synagogue. Convinced that there was nothing worthwhile that he could tell them, they simply didn’t listen.

Jesus teaching in the synagogue The people of Nazareth were shocked that Jesus would stand up and talk like that — with authority, as though what he said could be trusted and relied upon, which seemed impossible. After all, he was just a carpenter, born of a woman; they’d known him since he was a child, his family lived in the neighborhood: how could he get so smart all of a sudden?

The idea that this fellow would presume to teach in the synagogue was a scandal; he had no qualifications, and no credibility. The people believed there was no reason to listen to him, and so they didn’t. Most simply ignored what Jesus said, considering his message to be of no account; as insignificant as a late-night television commercial.

Imagine that! Those poor, foolish people missed out on hearing the Gospel — from the mouth of the Lord himself! They closed their ears and shut their minds to what he had to say because, for one reason or another, they had decided that Jesus’ words weren’t worth listening to.

That really was a scandal.

Unthinking

Maybe it would have been different if the people had heard that the Lord had raised a little girl from the dead — but then again, they might have refused to believe it happened. After all, they hadn’t seen any miracles; to them Jesus was just another guy, unimpressive in manner and appearance. They had already made up their minds, and so the Lord was rejected by those who ought to have welcomed him.

lots of informationIt’s sad, but not surprising. We are creatures of habit in our sitting down and our arising — and in our thinking. That’s especially true, I think, these days, when we are awash in an endless stream of data from all directions. It feels overwhelming, and so we sort and shift and categorize the information we receive, making our decisions based on what we already know. Or what we think we know.

Generally, we seek the broad and easy path, relying on the ideas and opinions that make us comfortable; the ones that don’t disrupt our patterns of behavior and belief. Just as I was annoyed by the commercial that interrupted the story line of the movie, it’s equally annoying to have our personal story lines interrupted. Even more so, in fact.

Life is stressful enough; we don’t need complications. And so we try to avoid them. That often translates into avoiding or ignoring those who think differently, who worship differently, whose lives and primary concerns are unlike ours. We discount their ideas out of hand, without a hearing or due consideration; and before we know it, we also discount the people themselves; denying their dignity and very humanity; “She’s a stupid cow.” “That guy is scum.” “They’re despicable,” “She’s nobody!” “He should be dead.” ….. “He’s just a carpenter.”

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did to Me”   ~ Matthew 25:34-45.

Getting Away from Ourselves

While our charitable visions are often directed far afield, we would do well to look closer to home, as well; to take note of those in our own neighborhoods whose voices and concerns we ignore, and perhaps deride and demean. Of late it has become the fashion to choose those with whom we will — and will not — communicate; many people deciding that they are able to judge and condemn others, having determined that what those particular children of God say is not worth listening to.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did to Me”   ~ Matthew 25:34-45.

Hatred is not a virtue; scorning and denigrating others doesn’t make us noble (and certainly not Christian!). Being compassionate long-distance doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility to be charitable to our nearer neighbors.

Think about it: would you “offer a cup of cold water, in Jesus’ name” to those you consider “enemies”? And why do you consider them your enemies? Have you listened to what they have to say — with empathy and concern, rather than suspicion and scorn?

angel

“But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”   ~ Luke 6:27-28 (Mt 5:44-45).

for you may entertain angels, thereby.

It is possible that we may learn and grow — in wisdom as well as grace — by listening to what is said by those we consider to be of no account. Who knows: perhaps we may even hear the Gospel from the lips of people whom we believe have nothing worthwhile to say. Otherwise it may be for us as it was for those in the synagogue who closed their ears .…

And the Lord went away from that place,

taking His gifts of healing and hope with Him.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah 

Suggested Spiritual Excercise

Listen.