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Posts Tagged ‘listening’

Holding Hearts – Br. Luke Ditewig

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Br. Luke Ditewig

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”[i]In dying, we live. Anything would be more palatable. Nothing is so essential. We must surrender, losing and letting go, being vulnerable again and again, dying to ourselves in order to live. This Holy Week we face Jesus on the cross.

When serving as a hospital chaplain, I found it exhausting continually listening to heartache. One day I realized Jesus was listening to the same heartache yet not for a few minutes per person and not just how many people I met. Jesus knows everyone and listens to all hearts, to everyone sick and dying, to all who are grieving, to each in any kind of suffering, and indeed to us all. Jesus draws the whole world to himself with a loving ear in a listening embrace.                                                                                                                                                     

All of us need and glory in the cross. Jesus invites each to die to self-sufficiency and secrecy. Jesus invites us to pray the whole truth of our lives, naming what weighs us down, our grief and questions, our wounds and concerns, as well as joys, thanks, and desires. Jesus listens directly and in the flesh through other people. Jesus, exposed and vulnerable on the cross, invites us to expose ourselves, share our inner life and struggles, pray in the dark, and pray our hearts. 

Telling our stories can be painful, like touching wounds, a kind of death. Like wheat dying to bear fruit, safe exposure of our story heals. We like to edit, restrict, categorize, or deny our lives. Good listeners help by attending to our stories with their surprises, seeming contradictions, and scattered pieces. Listeners help us hear how these pieces together form us. 

Letting ourselves be seen and letting our stories be witnessed by another person actually changes our internal chemistry. We were created for this. Being listened to literally helps our bodies heal. Love listens. 

Look at Love on the cross. Everything hangs here. Everyone is held. On the cross, Jesus hears all. Jesus listens to people lost and lonely, grappling and grieving, troubled and terrorized, wounded and dying. Jesus listens to you, to me, to everyone. On the cross, Jesus bears the weight of the world. 

Look at Love on the cross. What is heavy on your heart? What pain or trouble do you bear? What secret is eating away at you or what story needs telling? Nothing is too awful, or messy, or trivial, or weighty. Nothing. 

As we walk in Holy Week facing the cross, here are a few suggestions for prayer.

First, look at Love. Pray with a crucifix or an image of the cross. Gaze at Jesus, his agony, his wounds, his love. Listen for what he says to you. Surrender by speaking your pain to the one who bore and bears all pain. Pray to the crucified Christ. Listen for his response.

Second, pray as Jesus did. On the cross, Jesus cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This bitter grief is the first line of Psalm 22. Like other psalms of lament, it goes back and forth from trouble to trust. Jesus surely also knew the next lines of Psalm 22: “[Why] are you so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? … I cry in the daytime but you do not answer, by night as well, but I find no rest. Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Our forebears put their trust in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.”[ii]

Pray Psalm 22 or use it as a model. Be specific about your pain and your present situation. Cry. Question. Grieve. Then pause to remember the past. What’s your experience of God?  When have you received love? Cling to memories as hope even amid today’s desolation. Pray the tension of present pain and trust God’s future informed by past provision.

Third, pray to Jesus with skin. Find a safe, trustworthy person and share what’s on your heart. Take a risk by telling your story honestly. Speak up to share. Let another witness your inner life. Let another grain die to bear fruit. Surrender by praying your life, sharing your story honestly. Let Jesus listen to you in the flesh with a safe person.

Love listens. God created us each to listen. While we can build skills, all can help heal with listening. One need not necessarily be or go to a professional. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love by listening.                       

This Holy Week, linger at the cross looking at Love, praying to Jesus, who is listening to all, tenderly holding hearts.


[i]John 12:24

[ii]Psalm 22:2-4

Hearing and Returning – Br. Sean Glenn

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Br. Sean Glenn

Hosea 14:1-9 | Mark 12:28-34
Hear, O Israel.
Return, O Israel.

We live in a particularly noisy world. Hosea and Jesus both certainly experienced the noisiness of our world, but we seem today to confront a kind of cacophony that is unique and acute. Even in the silences of our homes, the noise of the world calls to us from printed page and digital screen, hungry for our attention. 

All the more difficult it can be to hear the voice of God in our lives, surrounded by the siren songs of marketing campaigns and the mandates of a twenty-first century pace.

I am sure the scene we’ve just heard in the temple at Jerusalem was a noisy one. This chapter of Mark’s gospel has seen one conflict after another. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders have questioned the origin of Jesus’ authority; a group of Pharisees and Herodians has tried to trap him by inquiring as to his religious and political allegiances; some Sadducees have tried to deny Jesus’ resurrection claims by positing a logical quandary to him about a hypothetical woman and her seven hypothetical husbands. 

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The Unexalted Place for Humility – Br. Curtis Almquist

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Br. Curtis AlmquistJames 1:17-27

Some years ago I was sharing a conversation with my spiritual director, who was a seasoned Jesuit priest. He had risen in the ranks of leadership over the decades and, to me, was a treasury of wisdom. Re­flecting on his own years in the Society of Jesus, he said to me: “Be very kind to people on your way up, because you’re going to meet these same people on your way down.” There is a word for this, a word on which we should be on good speaking terms. That word is “humility.” The English word “humility” comes from the Latin humilis: “lowly,” or “near the ground.” Humility is the opposite of feeling oneself to be high and lofty, above and beyond the minions who otherwise surround us. The English words “humility” and “humus” are cousins, “humus” being the organic component of soil. Humus is what makes soil rich. Humus is formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material in the ground. Humility is composted from leading a well-cultivated life. I’ll come back to that.

Jesus navigated life with humility. The ancient prophecies that had anticipated the coming Messiah predicted the Messiah’s humility: “Lo, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey….”[i]Jesus himself takes up this theme of humility when he speaks of how we should enter this kingdom of God. He says to enter “as a little child.[ii] And Jesus gives the warning, “Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who humble themselves shall be exalted.”[iii]Jesus was critical of those who trumpet and parade their piety, their purity, their generosity, their grandiosity, their accomplishments from the grandstand. Rather Jesus commends us to live out our lives in a very unostentatious, uncalculated way, not even letting our left hand knowing what our right hand is doing. This is the grace of humility. Read More

Healing Together – Br. Luke Ditewig

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Br. Luke Ditewig

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Psalm 13
John 11:1-44

“How long, O Lord?” How long shall the news be of disaster? Fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and violence. More and more of it all. Mass shootings repeatedly, this week larger in Las Vegas. As in an Orlando nightclub and at the Boston marathon, a place of celebration turned into chaos.[i]

The psalmist prays with groans and wails. With memories and hearts broken again, we join in:

“How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart day after day?” How long and how much more?

More trauma—feeling threatened and our ability to cope overwhelmed.

Sometimes when we call out prayers for help, the situation seems to grow worse. We get more upset, questioning, “Where is God?”

After more loss, with life feeling out of control, God becomes visible. With Job, Old Testament prophets, and the psalmist, we can be angry. “If only you had been here sooner, the situation wouldn’t have gotten out of hand, with so much hurt. Pick us up. Get us out.” We want to be rescued and healed, swim to safety, for life to be resolved and back to normal. Yet healing is a slow work, not usually quick or simple, not neat and tidy. Read More

Listening for Jesus – Br. James Koester

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Br. James Koester

Acts 2: 42 – 47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2: 19 – 25
John 10: 1 – 10

Finally the phone call came, and I went down to the post office to pick up my parcel. On this particular day the woman ahead of me in the line was picking up her package of bees. I’d seen them as I came into the post office. They were sitting, by themselves, on the loading dock. The postal workers won’t let them inside the building. They don’t like having to deliver bees, but the postal regulations require them to do so. My package on the other hand was sitting in the corner, near the counter. I knew it was mine because I could hear the goslings inside, honking away.

As incredible as it seems my four goslings had hatched on a Monday. They had been sexed, packed and shipped from Oklahoma before the end of that day, and there I was, picking them up in West Newbury on Wednesday. They came in a box about the size of a clementine orange box with a bit of straw and a heat pad. I put them in the car and drove them home, talking to them the whole way. When I got them home, I carefully opened the box and picked them up one at a time as I gave them something to drink. Having done that I was able to install them in their goose coop. Read More

Sermons for the Beach: Listening to God

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, silence, solitude, and recreation. 

Br. David Vryhof“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10)

I once had a deaf friend, an earnest Christian, who asked me whether hearing people could hear God’s voice as clearly as they could hear one another’s voices. He had often observed hear­ing people responding to one another’s voices, mysteriously communicating meaning to one an­other through the movements of their jaws and lips, and understanding one another even when they weren’t look­ing at each other, or when the speaker was in another room. He had learned that they pos­sessed a mysterious ability that he had never had, and now he wondered if the same ability that enabled them to communicate with one another even when sep­arated by a wall or a door enabled them also to com­­­municate with God. “Does God talk to you?” he asked; “Can you hear God?” Read More

Marks of Love (Where Nails Have Been): Reflecting on the Third Mark of Mission – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

John 13:31-35

Throughout Lent and Easter tide this year, I’ve been praying with literature devoted to the Five Wounds of Christ. The meditative remembrance of Christ’s Passion was a profoundly meaningful practice in the spiritual lives of Medieval Christians, especially in England, and by the fourteenth century the visions and writings of saints steeped in such meditation concentrated with special intensity on the Five Wounds inflicted upon Christ’s Body: the nail holes in his right and left wrists, both of his feet, and the spear-wound in his side. These holy men and women saw the wounds of Jesus not as repugnant scars but as precious insignia testifying to the depths of God’s Love,as floodgates of Christ’s healing lifeblood, and as portals into the mysteries of Heaven. The seeds of such imagery are found in the Resurrection appearances in the gospels of Luke and John. When Jesus appears in the upper room, the disciple’s natural response is shock and fear, confusion and disbelief. Amid this rush of complex emotions, these distinctive marks clarify their vision and melt their hearts as they recognize the impossible: this is their Teacher, Friend, and Lord, crucified-and-risen. Read More

Tues Maria – Br. Mark Brown

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Br. Mark Brown

1 Kings 3:3-14
Psalm 119:9-16
Mark 6:30-34

It is night at Gibeon and King Solomon dreams. In the inner world of the dreamscape, images and words get put together in ways that may not make sense in ordinary waking consciousness.

The human heart, for example, doesn’t really have ears, except that it might in dreams or in Salvador Dali paintings.  In Solomon’s dream he asks God for “a listening heart,” a “lev shomeah” in Hebrew. Our translation offers a rather prosaic distortion of this very poetic image: rather than “listening heart”, we heard “understanding mind”.  Which is not a bad thing to desire, but what Solomon asks for is a “listening heart”. Read More

Listening to God – Br. David Vryhof

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Br. David Vryhof“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

I Samuel 3:10

I once had a deaf friend, an earnest Christian, who asked me whether hearing people could hear God’s voice as clearly as they could hear one another’s voices. He had often observed hear­ing people responding to one another’s voices, mysteriously communicating meaning to one an­other through the movements of their jaws and lips, and understanding one another even when they weren’t look­ing at each other, or when the speaker was in another room. He had learned that they pos­sessed a mysterious ability that he had never had, and now he wondered if the same ability that enabled them to communicate with one another even when sep­arated by a wall or a door enabled them also to com­­­municate with God. “Does God talk to you?” he asked; “Can you hear God?” Read More

Hear My Voice – Br. Luke Ditewig

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John 10:22-30

Jesus says in our gospel text: “My sheep hear my voice.” They hear my voice. They are listening to me. The greatest prayer in Judaism begins: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” This prayer is called the shema, from the first word “hear” or “listen.” This is the central prayer repeated over and over through life and the first one children are taught. When people asked Jesus what is the most important commandment, he quoted the shema: “Hear, O Israel” That’s number one, the most important thing to do: listen.

God continually invites people to listen through the Bible. The prophets call: “Listen to me, my people” (Isaiah 51). The psalmist cries, “Hear, O my people … oh, that you would listen to me.” (Psalm 81) Trouble comes when people do not listen to God. Blessing and healing occurs when they do listen, for listening is the beginning of conversion.  Read More