God Is Now Here

Zephaniah 3: 14-20

14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.

So, here we are in this short book of Zephaniah, which sets itself in about the seventh century BCE during the reign of King Josiah of Judah.  Josiah is many times characterized as the last great king, whose only equal would have been King David.  The identity of this prophet is not really very clear.  His father’s name is Cushi, which could mean that he was of Ethiopian heritage (Cush being the name for what we call Ethiopia).  This short book is primarily a book of judgment oracles that proclaim and invoke the coming Day of the Lord.  The prophet announces what is essentially cosmic destruction and demise and then at the end, the part that we read, unfolds a ninth oracle of salvation and renewal, a promise of some sort of final resolution of judgment and an assurance that the world will finally stop shaking and moving in what oftentimes seems to be an unnatural and even unbearable way.  And the Lord, no longer a seemingly inaccessible and unapproachable mover of Creation, is actually with us.  The Scripture, using the present tense (rather than the future), says, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst.”  In other words, in the midst of all your worrying, all your bemoaning of lost opportunities of the past, all your despair, is God.  God is there, right there with you.

In this Season of Advent, we spend a lot of time looking forward to God’s coming, both to the “big day” when we remember Jesus’ birth as well as the final culmination of Creation, whatever and whenever that will be.  But then this…God is in our midst.  God is here, now.  There is no waiting for God’s Presence.  God is in our midst.  Yes, it is true that we live in what could be described as an “in-between” time.  The world is now but it is not yet what it should be.  There is still poverty, homelessness, and war.  There is still a veritable shaking of the earth as it groans toward its completeness.  But God is here—right here with us, in the midst of the poverty, in the midst of the homelessness, in the midst of the war, in the midst of the shaking.  God is in our midst.

So what does that mean?  When I was little I used to lay in bed and try to imagine God looking at me. I didn’t really understand what that meant, but I had been told in Sunday School that God was with us. It was odd to me. So I shut my eyes tight and opened them really fast to try to actually catch God peeking from behind some cotton-candy cloud, I suppose. (Apparently God was faster than I was!)  I wondered, though, did God have time to watch me sleep? Did God watch me take a bath? I mean, really, doesn’t God have better things to do than to watch me all the time? So somewhere along the way, we convince ourselves that God is out there or up there or somewhere down that road on which we’re traveling and that our mission is to “find God” (as if God is the one that is lost!). After all, why would God spend a bunch of time in the muck of this messed-up world?  But then we read that “the Lord is in our midst.”—not out there away from us, not up there over us, not down that road patiently waiting for us to catch up. God is in our midst. God is here…among us….with us.

Well, here we were desperately searching for God in our life and this little unsung hero of a book wedged in between all those Minor Prophets had it there all along. God is with US. No wonder we couldn’t find God! We weren’t looking in the right place! So all this time that we’ve been waiting for the Lord, God’s been here, waiting for US to notice. All this time that we’ve spent trying to figure God out and figure out what God wants and figure out how we can get to God when we should have been rejoicing. And the passage says that the Lord has taken away our judgments, just smoothed them right over, I suppose. (Actually, I think that’s called forgiveness.) The Hebrew Tanakh translation talks about it as God “soothing us with love”.   I love that, the thought of being soothed with love.  I mean, I guess it would be uncomfortable for God to hang around with us and continue to pick us apart at the same time and why would God hang around at all if it wasn’t for love?

So, try something with me.  Look at these letters:  G-O-D-I-S-N-O-W-H-E-R-E…What do they say?  Well, it depends on your perspective.  If one is cynical, mired down with despair, buried in what “was” or what “might have been”, one might read these letters as “God is Nowhere.”  Sadly, so many in the world do read it that way!  But if one is open to faith, open to the promise of new life to come, open to the assurance that things ARE going to change, one might alternatively read the letters as “God is Now Here.”  This season of Advent is one that shows us how to relate to the notion that God is indeed now here, that God is not only with us, but has been with us all along, that God is walking with us through the darkness and leading us to the Light.

So, in the midst of a world that sometimes makes no sense, in the midst of a life that is sometimes riddled with questions and heartache, in the midst of the way we hurt each other and judge each other and divide ourselves into camps, in this time straddled between a pandemic that carries death and despair and the hope-filled sight of planes being loaded with a vaccine, God comes.  God comes right there into our midst. You see, God didn’t wait for the world to be right. God didn’t wait for us to stop fighting with each other or arguing over who belongs here with us. God didn’t wait for terrorists to quit attacking innocents. God didn’t wait for us so-called innocents to quit attacking those who we think MIGHT be terrorists. God didn’t wait for us to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless. God didn’t wait for us to figure out what it means to be made in the image of God. God just came. God just showed up, really sort of uninvited because frankly sometimes we forget to do that. I don’t think that matters to God. God is not waiting for us to invite God to show up. God is waiting for us to notice that God is already here.

That’s what Christ was trying to show us.  No, things are not the way they should be and they are not the way they will be.  But God is in our midst.  The Season of Advent is not just for us to prepare for God’s coming.  It is to prepare ourselves to see with new eyes the Kingdom of God that is everywhere.  The Kingdom of God is here, already spilled into our midst and as we wait for the coming of its full completion, as we wait and “look for that day when justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”, as we wait we are called to become the people that God envisions we can be.  And “at that time I will bring you home, at that time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among [and with] all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.”  Look!  God is in our midst.  God is now here.    

Bidden or unbidden, God is present. (Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536; also attributed to Carl Jung, who supposedly posted these words above the door at his house in Switzerland)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Memories and Dreams

Advent 3B Lectionary Psalter:  Psalm 126

1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. 4Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. 5May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. 6Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

This Psalm is one of fifteen Psalms known as the Songs of Ascent or, literally, “Songs of Going Up”.  In The Mishnah, the “Oral Torah”, the first major work of rabbinic literature, these fifteen Psalms coincide with the fifteen steps to the Temple.  They are, literally, songs of going up to meet God. It is a psalm of both preparation and anticipation.  It is a reminder of what the Lord has done and a promise that God will do it yet again. This Psalm came from people that had no voice.  They lived in an empire that was not theirs and whose leaders barely knew they existed. And they knew that they needed to be restored, that they needed to go home.  It is a calling to wait with hopeful expectation. It is a calling to dare to dream of what will be.

We’ve said it over and over but we have to admit that we do not wait well.  We are accustomed to instant gratification for the most part.  We’re used to doing pretty much what we want when we want.  That’s why the world of today that has seemed to slow to a crawl because of the Covid pandemic is so hard for us.  We miss what we used to do.  We miss where we used to go.  We miss who we used to be.  We’ll miss that full, bustling sanctuary on Christmas Eve.  Some of us will miss holiday family get-togethers.  We even miss the crowded, joyous shopping trip.  But we can remember…and we can dream of next year.

Have you thought, though, that maybe this “new” way of living into which we’ve been forced is a way of slowing us down? Think about it.  When the Israelites to whom this song was sung found themselves in these low times, those times filled with despair, those times when hopelessness could have run rampant if not checked, they drew on their memories, their institutional memories.   They remembered what God had done.  It wasn’t things that happened in their personal lives; it was the memories of a people, those stories that were so much a part of them.  And they remembered that God had restored them.  And, through that memory, they had faith that God would do it again.

Advent calls us, too, to remember.  It’s hard for us.  We normally move so fast through life, always stretching toward the next moment, always focused on our present and our future.  But it’s our past, our memory, that holds the foundations for our faith.  The Greek word for it is anamnesis.  Interestingly, it’s used in the medical discipline to talk about medical history, that history that stretches back into blood relatives that came before us, perhaps those that we have never met.  We Christians use it to talk about the Eucharist, when we remember what God has done—not to us as individuals but to us as children of God.  We remember God’s never-ending presence over thousands of years of human history.  It is OUR history; those are OUR memories. And, then, like the Psalm, we look forward to the promise of life ahead.  But that life would make no sense standing alone.  Our understanding of it comes from our institutional memory.  

Memories and dreams go hand in hand.  Memories provide our pathway, our innate knowledge of where to travel, much like a river does.  Like the Negeb in the Psalm, each season it is filled after the winter rains and, rejuvenated, it knows where to go.  It knows where to flow.  It knows the direction to move.  Seeds, too, have a memory, a sort of “code” that was implanted in them from the beginning of time, that tells them what to do, tells them what they will become.  We are not that different.  Our memory reminds us who we are; our dreams show us who we will be.  They are interconnected, inseparable.  So in this somewhat strange Advent season we’re in, remember the songs, those “songs of going up” and pay attention to your dreams. Our faith is made of memories and dreams, past and future, that teaches us to walk and gives us the notes to sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.   Next year…always next year…but it would mean nothing if we didn’t remember.

A dreamer is one who can find [his or her] way in the moonlight, and [whose] punishment is that [he or she] sees the dawn before the rest of the world.  (Oscar Wilde)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli       

Sorry, There is No Snooze Button

Matthew 24: 36-44

36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

You know that moment in the darkness of the early morning when the first light begins to peak in over the horizon and make its way through your bedroom window?  You know better than to look at it, knowing it will surely sting your eyes that are groggy from hours of being closed off to the world.  So you look away, trying to let your eyes get used to it.  And slowly, very slowly the new morning begins to come into focus.  At that point you don’t know what the day holds-you don’t know what will go as planned and what will not.  You do not know what you will learn or what you will lose or what you will gain.  But, no matter what, you have to get up.  WAKE UP!

Today we find ourselves about halfway through this Advent season, halfway through our waiting, our preparing, our looking at ourselves in a new way, our listening, our remembering, our looking forward….zzzzzzz…..WAKE UP!  It’s time to wake up. And sorry, there is no snooze button.

Theologian William Long equates Advent to an “echo chamber” that heightens our senses, that makes us realize that those small sounds of salvation that we hear are all around us.  I think it holds the sounds of the past and the future that reverberate in our present and reminds us that salvation is not something “out there” or, even worse, “up there”.  Whatever you may think that heaven or whatever is next is, it is not way up ahead.  It is not shielded from view.  It is all around us.  The air is thick with God’s presence.  Barbara Brown Taylor says that “Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.” The only reason it is veiled is that we have too much clouding our view and we’re not yet prepared to see.

The vision is ever and ever closer.  We cannot be lulled into a comfortable, sleepy complacency.  Think about this.  Years ago, a Lutheran preacher, Edmund Steimle, preached a Christmas Eve sermon entitled “The Eye of the Storm”.  He compared that serene view of Christmas Eve, the stuff that is depicted as we sing “Silent Night” and light our candles, to the eye of a hurricane.  We’re familiar with that.  The winds swirl and the rains come until we almost cannot bear it.  And then they stop.  And the calm descends upon us.  But, lest we get too comfortable, we are reminded that they will come again, seemingly unwinding themselves from where they were before.  We just have to stay awake because God is in it all, both darkness and light.  Robert Benson has a book entitled “Punching Holes in the Dark”.  In it, he speaks of our faith journey as being one where we are called to continually punch holes in the darkness so that more and more of the light will be able to enter.  But we have to be awake to do that.  And being awake, being ready, is not something to be feared.  It is a gift.  It is us at our fullest self.

A legend tells how, at the beginning of time, God resolved to hide within the Creation that God had made.  As God was wondering how best to do this, the angels gathered around.  “I want to hide myself somewhere in Creation,” God told them.  “I need to find a place that is not too easily discovered, for it is in their search for me that my creations will grow in spirit and in understanding.”  “Why don’t you hide yourself deep in their earth?” the first angel suggested.  God pondered this idea for a while, then replied, “No, it will not be long before they mine the earth and discover the treasures that it contains.  They will discover me too quickly, and they will not have had enough time to do their growing.”  “Why don’t you hide yourself in their moon?” a second angel suggested.  God thought about this idea for a while, and then replied, “No, it will take a little longer, but before long they will learn to fly through space and will find their way there and know its secrets.  They will discover me too soon, before they have grown enough.”  The angels were at a loss to know what hiding places to suggest.  There was a long silence.  “I know,” piped up one angel, finally.  “Why don’t you hide yourself within their own hearts?  They will never think of looking there!”  “That’s it!”, said God, delighted to have found the perfect hiding place.  And so it is that God hides secretly deep within the heart and soul of every one of God’s creatures, until that creature has grown enough in spirit and in understanding to risk the great journey into the secret core of its own being.  And there, awakened, the creature discovers its creator, and is rejoined to God for all eternity.” (From “One Hundred Wisdom Stories From Around the World,” by Margaret Silf, p. 32-33)

So, Advent comes and disrupts our comfortable lives.  And we are called to wake up to God breaking through the darkness into our lives—2,000 years ago, in the promised future, and even today if we will only awaken to the dawn.   Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “people only see what they are prepared to see.”  That’s what we’ve been doing—preparing to see.

The curtain is rising.  Jesus is not waiting in the wings somewhere until the play is done; rather, Jesus is standing on the stage itself, inviting us in. “Come, awaken, wait with me.  You do not know when the Glory will come but this waiting is a holy place.  Stay awake so that you won’t miss the inbreaking of the Divine itself, the dawn of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.”  The reason we read this passage that begins at the end is because it is the same as the beginning.  God is the Alpha and the Omega.  Birth and death are all wrapped up together, needing each other to give life.  Awaken now so that you do not miss one thing.  Open your eyes.  We’re halfway there!  The baby is coming!  The extraordinary miracle of what is about to happen is matched only by the moment before it does—this moment, this time.  The world awaits!  Awaken that you do not miss the story!

So, are you awake?  When God is ready, God will come.  Watch…for you know not when or where God comes.  Watch, that you might be found whenever, wherever God comes. WAKE UP! so you don’t miss one glorious thing.

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with [God]. God walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate. The real labor is to remember to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more to remain awake. (C.S. Lewis)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Shoots and Branches

“Peaceable Kingdom”, John Swanson, 1994

Isaiah 11: 1-6 (7-8) 9-10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them… 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

So, once again we read yet another passage about that future vision that God holds for us—you know, the one that we’re walking toward, the one that we are supposed to be a part of bringing to be, the one that God promised us.  We are given a vision of a shoot, a new shoot that will come out of the dead and decaying stump of the past, a branch that will come out of the original roots of our faith and our lives. It doesn’t replace the old; it just continues growing.

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, Israel

I have a picture of an olive tree that I took in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Olive trees will actually live for centuries, sprouting new life over and over again.  If you look at this picture, the thing on the left side that looks like a dead and decaying stump (because, well, that’s essentially what it is) is what is left of a tree that was probably in that place 2,000 years ago.  Imagine…that is what is left of a tree that might have been there that night before the Crucifixion as Jesus prayed and submitted his own life to God.  And from that stump came another shoot, that grew into a tree that is probably about 1,000 years old.  And to the right of it is yet another stump that may be 200 years old or so.  And from that is a newer shoot, a live, growing tree that is just a few years old.  It is a picture of new shoots, new creations that God is always creating and always nurturing into being.  But they exist together, sprouting from each other’s strengths into new life.

So, how do we live as new shoots?  How do we embrace that vision we’ve been given and make it part of us?  The message that Advent brings is that God loves us enough to keep showing up—in a vision laid out for us to embrace, in Emmanuel, God-With-Us, and over and over again as God walks with us through our own becoming a new creation.  Maybe the question is whether or not we are holding on to what we know or are we new shoots, giving the old new life?  This is not just a rehash of the same old thing.  William Sloane Coffin once said that “believers know that while our values are embodied in tradition, our hopes are always located in change.”  But change is often uncomfortable.  Change is unpredictable.  Change is hard.  Maybe we can just get through this busy season and then change. 

A couple of years ago, the Today Show had a feature story about some young Panda bears who had been brought up in captivity.  But the plan was to eventually return them to their natural habitat.  So, in order to prepare them for what was to come, their caretakers thought that it would be better if they had no human contact.  So to care for them, the people dressed up like panda bears.  In order to show them how to be pandas, they became them.

I think that’s been done before!  In its simplest form, the Incarnation is God’s mingling of God with humanity.  It is God becoming human and breathing a piece of the Divine into humanity.  It is the mystery of life that always was coming into all life yet to be.  God became human and lived here.  God became us that we might change the world.   God became like us to show us what it meant for us to be like God envisioned (not to be God, not even to be “Godly”, but to be just like God envisioned we could be) in the world.  God didn’t walk this earth to teach us to be divine; God came to show us what it means to be human–caring, loving humans that envision that the world could be different.  The miracle of the birth of the Christ child is that God now comes through us.  We ARE the new shoots of transformation.

So perhaps the reason that the earth is not yet filled with the knowledge of the Lord, that the Reign of God has not come into its fullness, that poverty and homelessness and injustice and war still exists is because we do not dare to imagine it any other way.  This is not some vision of an inaccessible utopian paradise; this is the vision of God.  The passage says that a shoot shall come out of the stump and a branch shall grow out of the roots.  In other words, life shall spring from that which is dead and discarded.  Because in God’s eyes, even death has the foundation, the roots of life.  Even death will not have the last word.  We just have to imagine it into being.  So, imagine beyond all your imaginings; envision a world beyond all you dare to see; and hope for a life greater than anything that is possible.  Imagine what it means to become a new shoot and prepare yourself to be just that. And then you’ll start to be.

Only those who live beyond themselves ever become fully themselves. (Joan Chittister)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Preparing for What Is Next

Malachi 3: 1-3

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

We all know that Advent is the Season of Preparation.  And each of us is all too aware how much preparation that really entails and what we have to do over the next 19 days (Ahem…19 days!).  But, sadly, most of us are kind of missing the point.  Advent is not just meant to be a 4-week lead up to the big day.  It’s really it’s own thing.  And in this time, we are called to prepare ourselves by allowing God to guide us down a new pathway so we really will be ready for what is next.  But we have to be open to change.  We have to be open to BEING changed.  It’s not easy.  It was never promised that it would be easy.  This season is about more than preparing or getting ready for Jesus’ coming.  It is also about preparing ourselves, opening our hearts to the change that comes with that.

The passage from Malachi echoes that same thing.  Malachi literally means “messenger”.  We don’t know if that was someone’s name or what.  But the messenger carries a promise of God’s coming, a promise we’ve heard before.  But this time it is compared to a refiner’s fire or fuller’s soap that will reform the society in preparation for the day of the Lord’s coming. 

But we’re probably a bit uncomfortable with the whole fire thing.  Fire is destructive.  Fire burns.  But it also purifies.  It purifies by burning away the ore so that the precious metal inside is revealed.  It is intense.  But the point is that one has to get close enough to the fire to work with the metal for that to happen.  It is risky.  It might even be painful.  But it is the only way for all the impurities to be gone.  We have to endure our own impurities, our own shortcomings, being burned away until we are made new.  Part of it is up to us.

I’ve used this before but there is a wonderful illustration from an unknown author that tells the story of a woman watching a silversmith at work.  “But Sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes madam, “replied the silversmith, “I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.” So as the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith  called her back, and said he had still further to mention, that he only knows when the process of purifying was complete, by seeing his own image reflected in the silver.

That’s what God is doing for us—refining our lives, preparing them, burning away the impurities until God’s own image in which we are made is finally revealed.  John Wesley would have called the journey of sanctification, or going onto perfection in Christ.  And then this image of the fuller’s soap may be lost on us who are more accustomed to throwing Tide pods in a washing machine.  When the weaving of a fabric is complete, it is sent to a fuller, who cleans it and gets rid of the loose threads and makes it more tightly bound together.  The process means that the fabric becomes “full”, just as our lives do on this journey toward the Divine.

But we tend to concentrate on the easy and enjoyable part of God’s coming, focusing solely on a God who will make our lives better.  In that way, we are no different than those that looked for the Messiah the first time.  The truth is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a 1928 Advent sermon, “We [become] indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”  Lays claim…asks us to change…asks us to become something new…asks us to let go of all those things that we hold, of all that we are so trying to control in our lives and travel down the pathway that God has laid.  Prepare the way?  Yeah…it’s not talking about your Christmas decorations; It’s talking about YOU.  It’s talking about preparing yourself for what is next.

Make many acts of love, for they set the soul on fire and make it gentle.  (Mother Teresa)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Shhh…You’re Supposed to Be Listening

There were some problems with this post, so I apologize if you’re getting this a second time!

Psalm 29: 3-9

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. 8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The voice of the Lord…God’s voice…listen…

Most humans don’t listen that well.  We like talking, filling our lives with our own thoughts and our own opinions and, at times, our own bloviations.  And think what we miss!  Is it possible that in our call to wait during this season, we are also being reminded to listen, to listen for God’s voice?  You know, when you read the Old Testament, there are lots of places where people are convinced that they hear God’s voice, that they hear God calling to them.  And God tells them to go from where they are or follow a star or climb a mountain or cross a sea or listen to a burning bush. So, did God quit talking?  Or did we quit listening?

God’s voice comes to us in a myriad of ways—nature, animals, others, our own conscience, our own thoughts (if we listen to them rather than feeling like we need to spit them out into the world before they’re fully formed), and music of all kinds.  I often hear God in music.  I think it’s because music breaks in and seeps into us.  It quiets us.  It teaches us to LISTEN, to listen to something other than our own voice.  Joan Chittister said that “music is the only sound of heaven we’ve ever been given…music is where the soul goes to put into notes what cannot be said in words.”  That’s why music crosses languages.  I listen to lots of music for which I can’t understand the words and, yet, I do understand them. 

That’s the way we need to learn to listen—not to know what words are being used but to learn to let what we hear penetrate deep into our souls.  We will hear God’s voice but it may not be in the words or the language to which we are accustomed.  It may be a song we’ve never heard.   This is the season when we stop and learn to listen for God’s voice.  It’s there.  But we have to listen. 

So, I found this video.  It’s a little different but I think it says a lot.  It teaches us to listen…and to sing.  It teaches us to respond to the music we hear.  (I WOULD turn the sound down a bit if you’re next to your dog.)

Down in the forest 
We'll sing a chorus  
One that everybody knows 
Hands held higher  
We'll be on fire  
Singing songs that nobody wrote (Wolf Conservation Center)

But ask the animals, and they will teach you… (Job 12:7)

In this our Season of Waiting, we are learning to listen, to listen to God’s voice.  It’s there.  It’s everywhere. It surrounds us, goes before us, follows us, and seeps into us. It’s leading us to that for which we are waiting.  But we have to stop.  And we have to listen.  It happens in the silence, the holy silence, the spaces between our words.  It happens in OUR silence.  See, Creation is full of songs of all types.  It never stops.  It never sleeps.  It is always there.  We don’t have to know the words.  We just have to listen.  When we are silent, we will hear the music around us.  And it will become a part of us.  And we will recognize it when it does.  Because we’ve heard it before.  It is God’s gift.  It is God’s voice.  Shhhhh….You’re supposed to be listening.

I just couldn’t help myself. The gates were open and the hills were beckoning…I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am. (Maria, from…”The Sound of Music”)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Shhh…You’re Supposed to Be Listening

Psalm 29: 3-9

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. 8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The voice of the Lord…God’s voice…listen…

Most humans don’t listen that well.  We like talking, filling our lives with our own thoughts and our own opinions and, at times, our own bloviations.  And think what we miss!  Is it possible that in our call to wait during this season, we are also being reminded to listen, to listen for God’s voice?  You know, when you read the Old Testament, there are lots of places where people are convinced that they hear God’s voice, that they hear God calling to them.  And God tells them to go from where they are or follow a star or climb a mountain or cross a sea or listen to a burning bush. So, did God quit talking?  Or did we quit listening?

God’s voice comes to us in a myriad of ways—nature, animals, others, our own conscience, our own thoughts (if we listen to them rather than feeling like we need to spit them out into the world before they’re fully formed), and music of all kinds.  I often hear God in music.  I think it’s because music breaks in and seeps into us.  It quiets us.  It teaches us to LISTEN, to listen to something other than our own voice.  Joan Chittister said that “music is the only sound of heaven we’ve ever been given…music is where the soul goes to put into notes what cannot be said in words.”  That’s why music crosses languages.  I listen to lots of music for which I can’t understand the words and, yet, I do understand them. 

That’s the way we need to learn to listen—not to know what words are being used but to learn to let what we hear penetrate deep into our souls.  We will hear God’s voice but it may not be in the words or the language to which we are accustomed.  It may be a song we’ve never heard.   This is the season when we stop and learn to listen for God’s voice.  It’s there.  But we have to listen. 

So, I found this video.  It’s a little different but I think it says a lot.  It teaches us to listen…and to sing.  It teaches us to respond to the music we hear.  (I WOULD turn the sound down a bit if you’re next to your dog.)

Down in the forest 
We'll sing a chorus  
One that everybody knows 
Hands held higher  
We'll be on fire  
Singing songs that nobody wrote (Wolf Conservation Center)

But ask the animals, and they will teach you… (Job 12:7)

In this our Season of Waiting, we are learning to listen, to listen to God’s voice.  It’s there.  It’s everywhere. It surrounds us, goes before us, follows us, and seeps into us. It’s leading us to that for which we are waiting.  But we have to stop.  And we have to listen.  It happens in the silence, the holy silence, the spaces between our words.  It happens in OUR silence.  See, Creation is full of songs of all types.  It never stops.  It never sleeps.  It is always there.  We don’t have to know the words.  We just have to listen.  When we are silent, we will hear the music around us.  And it will become a part of us.  And we will recognize it when it does.  Because we’ve heard it before.  It is God’s gift.  It is God’s voice.  Shhhhh….You’re supposed to be listening.

I just couldn’t help myself. The gates were open and the hills were beckoning…I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am. (Maria, from…”The Sound of Music”)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli