Talking Past Each Other


Lectionary Reading: Mark 7:24-37 (NRSV)

I’ve served as a mediator several times in my life for people.  Usually, it is because I am the pastor of both parties but sometimes it has been for ministerial colleagues.

The difficulty of communication that oftentimes calls for a mediator is that when we are emotionally charged, we often talk past one another.  It becomes difficult to hear the other person because we are defensive and feel that what they are saying will somehow be costly for us to acknowledge.  This occurs in family dynamics quite often.
It feels like a win when we can have real communication take place.  One of the functions I perform is to repeat back to the person speaking what I think I hear them saying.  If I got it correct, I ask for a response from the other person.  We try to avoid blaming language with absolutes such as “You always…” or “You never…” because this stirs up the emotions and puts the person on the defensive rather than getting to the heart of the issue.  A good mediator is really a referee that keeps things in check by stating, “These are the rules that we will play by during this conversation.”  Then I sometimes have to call a foul if someone violates the rule and ask them to restate it in another way.

I find out more often than not that when we can get to the heart of the issue, reconciliation is possible.  This doesn’t mean that agreement takes place but it does mean that people feel heard and thus respected.

At first glance, we see two somewhat unrelated stories in today’s lectionary reading of Mark.  But as we look further, we may see how a connection is made.  Jesus and the disciples fail to hear the Gentile woman when she is first encountered.  Yet she seems to redefine the mission to include her sick child as well.  They hear her and Jesus allows her to redefine it by healing the child.

Then we see Jesus heal a man who is deaf and mute.  Now that he can truly hear, he begins to proclaim the good news.  It is a miraculous story but it can also be an allegory for Christian discipleship.  We must really hear (connect) with Jesus before we can really proclaim the message.  And according to the first story, hearing may include leaving our assumptions about others at the door.

This goes along with the old adage that before we open our mouths to speak, we should listen.

I look forward to preaching on this passage on Sunday!
In Christ,

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