Trusting God (Part 3) – Are They Listening? Am I?
June 19, 2024 Creekwood United Methodist Church

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Trusting God (Part 3)

“Are They Listening? Am I?”

Am I Listening

There is a common refrain in the Old Testament that sounds something like this each time:

“My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all day long, though their number is past my knowledge.”

-Psalm 71:15 NRSV

Sometimes it is a historical narrative, such as Joshua 4:5-7 where they set up landmarks to tell their children of their miraculous experience with God.

Sometimes it is Deuteronomy 6:20, where Israel is commanded to answer their children’s questions about the law by sharing of their miraculous experience with God.

Often, the refrain is more emotional, such as Psalm 71 or a variety of other Psalms, where those who have experienced the salvation and goodness of God pledge to sing extravagantly about it to all who will listen.

What I’m not sure they took into account is the question: “Is anyone listening?”

Listening and Hearing

Actually, perhaps the question should be “Who Hears Me?”

There was a movie in the 90’s called “White Men Can’t Jump” that took on some of the challenges of racism in a comedic, yet serious way. The movie starts with Woody Harrelson’s character receiving the brunt of the humiliation on the basketball courts, as he looks like a goofy white guy that doesn’t quite fit the mold of a successful street baller. Come to find out, he can actually play, and we might think the movie centers around not underestimating the goofy white guy.

Harrelson’s character becomes a little closer with Wesley Snipes’ character and we think some understanding is occurring, until Snipes’ apartment gets robbed. Something Harrelson’s white neighborhood doesn’t experience near as often. Arguments go back and forth all movie long about their different experiences, and how they’ll never understand each other. One specific reference is to Jimi Hendrix, whom both agree is a great musician, but Snipes insists that Harrelson can’t “hear” Jimi truly. Harrelson responds, “I listen to Jimi Hendrix all the time,” to which he reasserts, “But can you hear Jimi.”

Part of Jimi Hendrix’s music is wrapped up in his experience as a black man in America during the 1960’s, something Woody Harrelson’s character, nor myself, could ever fully grasp given our limited experience with that experience. What we gather is that there is a big difference between listening to what someone is saying and truly hearing them for what they have to say.

Can Anyone Hear Me?

Back to the Psalmist, or anyone trying to tell their story of God’s awesome works. Can anyone fully grasp the spiritual experience of another?

Surely we can. I extol the virtues of Camp Bridgeport and Mission Trip experiences all the time and am joined by others who have encountered God in similar situations. Those who have joined Creekwood have largely done so because they experienced something similar to those who have invited them.

But what about someone completely different?

Are we capable of truly hearing someone who has a completely different experience of God?

Or are we quick to discredit their testimony and dismiss what we can learn from them?

Trusting and Testing

If scripture is full of people who can’t wait to tell their story, then we should assume that God is active and all around. We should assume that a variety of people from across history, nations, races, genders, etc. have some good news to share. And we should assume that just because it’s not our experience doesn’t mean it’s false.

We should always try to “hear” them clearly, and trust that God is at work.

I think part of our problem with trusting God is that we don’t trust each other, when what they hold as true doesn’t match what I hold as true. 99.9% of the time, God works through others in scripture, and commands people to continue telling the story of salvation trusting that we we will trust those who are telling us.

In an environment where distrust is being sown at every corner, no wonder we aren’t hearing God. We aren’t listening to – or hearing – how God is at work.

Does this mean everyone is telling the truth? By no means. Many places in the New Testament we are told to test the prophets and hold to the rubric of faith – and by that I mean Jesus and the orthodox beliefs about Jesus. However, we are quick to believe those who seek power and use religion to gain it – usually when their statements match our experience.

We are equally quick to disown anyone’s experience that doesn’t match our own.

I trust God is bigger than that.

I trust that part of trusting God is trusting those whom God has inspired from each corner of the globe.

I trust that part of trusting God is recognizing I don’t know it all.

I trust that part of trusting God is trusting those that I need to hear…not just those whom I want to hear.


David Lessner