Hearing is one of those central and recurring themes in the Bible. Jewish tradition still marks this theme’s centrality. In the round of daily prayers in the morning and evening, the ancient practice of reciting a bit of text drawn from the sixth chapter of the book Deuteronomy (6:4-5) continues across centuries and continents. We know it as the Shema. Shema Yisrael, Adonai elohainu, Adonai echod, “Hear,” or, “Listen, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Our own Episcopal strain of Anglicanism in the United States acknowledges this tradition (if you know where to look). When I was a chorister at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, the Sunday Eucharist would always include the singing of number 818 in Wonder, Love, and Praise before the Liturgy of the Word.
The centrality of this theme of hearing or listening to the people of God is at the forefront of my imagination as I hear this scene from the Gospel According to Mark. The psalm we just prayed front-loads our imagination with this theme. There are references to hearing all over the place. (Hear, O my people… O Israel, if you would but listen to me… and yet my people did not hear my voice… O, that my people would listen to me.)
Luke 6: 39 – 42
There’s a lot going on in this sixth chapter of Luke’s gospel. It begins with two different teachings about the sabbath. It includes the calling, and naming of the twelve apostles. We hear Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, here given as a Sermon on the Plain, rather than Matthew’s more popular Sermon on the Mount. And then it ends with a collection of teachings, or sayings, perhaps gathered from a variety of occasions, and put together by Luke, as a sort of catalogue of teachings.
What we have this morning are three of those teachings lumped together. One about the blind leading the blind; another about a disciple and their teacher; and the third about the speck and the log.