How Do You Hear?
By Laurie Mathers
One of the exciting things about being a little Lutheran girl was getting to be an acolyte. I got to wear a white robe, carry a candle, and walk in procession to the altar to the music of the massive pipe organ. Once in front, I carefully lit the candles behind the altar, or at least I think I lit them. (I don’t really remember that part.) What I clearly remember is that after singing hymns, chanting Psalms, and hearing the Scriptures read and taught, at the close of the service I would take a long-handled brass snuffer and carefully snuff out the flames of those candles. After all the people left, I would return the white robe to a hidden room, join my parents outside, and return to life in the real world.
In Luke 8, when Jesus explains the meaning of the Parable of the Sower for his disciples, he adds a statement which I always considered a strange non-sequitur:
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” Lk 8.16-18
If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years of studying the Bible it’s that the Spirit of Christ who inspires it does not communicate in non-sequiturs. Jesus expects his listeners to follow his meaning, to work at understanding him, to hold fast to what they learn, and to let it bear fruit in their lives.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus shows that what we do with God’s word reveals the condition of our heart. Those of us who hear the word but don’t bother to understand, or who understand but don’t patiently hold fast to it, end up with nothing more than those who have never heard.
Jesus builds on this point with a new metaphor. The word is a lamp’s flame. Its whole purpose is to make things visible, to expose our sin, and to reveal Christ’s righteousness. When we don’t like what the word reveals or don’t care, or when we tire of it, when we really want a little time in the darkness, we think we can just hide it for a while under a bushel.
But we all know what happens to a flame when you cover it. If you were a little Lutheran girl, you witnessed it every time you pulled out the snuffer at the end of the church service, snuffed out another Sunday’s flame, and walked out the door into the real world, living another week without considering the word that you have heard.