This week we talked about listening. That before any of the celebrated miracles or healings of Jesus, he listened. He listened to the woman who was hemorraghing, the leper, to the man with a dying daughter or a sick son. Over and over he revealed the presence of God drawn near in listening. Tell us that those who have ears should listen. We were astounded as we anticipated maybe 16 and had 25. Including newcomers who brought newcomers!
My personal prayer each week is that those whom the Spirit knows need to be drawn near are. And ironically one of those who came was a woman I saw on Christmas Eve. A woman who used to worship here but who felt that as a single woman she was not listened to.
I try to provide something to help those gathered engage in conversation related to my message. And on this night of thinking about the meaning of listening as Christ-centered community, I asked people to use the paper and pen on the table to reverse brainstorm.
Instead of listing ways to be a listener, list ways you would show someone you are NOT listening.
The conversation was lively as people had no difficulty identifying those things- the ones that have hurt us.
As I collected the sheets, one sheet had 17 entries!
But as I read them I asked people to raise their hands if they had experienced this.
Then I asked them to keep hands up if they had ever done this.
We all had much to share.
How rich then to realize that not only was Jesus listening to those whose stories are recounted in the gospels, but that God is listening to us. And that when we who bear Christ listen to each other, we are carrying out what Jesus offered to those desperate and in need.
I shared my own time as one who developed better listening by working as a chaplain- where I learned to listen in hard places, and in emotionally overwhelming places and where I saw how hungry we all are to be heard for who we really are.
I invited people to contemplate not only times when they have longed for a listening ear. To imagine that God offers to us what we need- to offer this presence without judgment to others. And to see how we are gifted by what others can share.
As always we wrap up with prayer- and this night there was an abundance of prayer requests and thanksgivings. And I delighted in how this week people who were here last week were humming the songs before we sang them. How they helped each other listen to the tune. And how the presence of Christ in our midst blessed us and gave us peace.
My focus has been to use what we bring and what we have. As we continue to gather in a reclaimed space, we are lighting half burned but forgotten candles that can be used to give us light, and praying prayers to our God who listens and redeems. And in this there is life and there is a peace. It is holy.
This coming week, we will focus on praying our prayers together as we continue to deepen our bond around the table where we trust in what God provides and in the sustaining presence of Christ