Sunday, February 1, 2009

dangers of familiarity: cultivating a listening church

"Let those who have ears to hear, listen." Mark 4:9

With all this banging around in cyberspace, blogging experts espousing their latest, greatest, sexiest and hippest interpretations for God, church, faith and life is anybody really listening...listening to a voice from God that deeply challenges us, displacing our own agendas and making space for God to break in through new and fresh expressions? It seems that too often we slip into the place of familiarity, the place of hearing the voices we want to hear, those voices that help to legitimize our own cause, those voices, that in the long term, are more like us than different from us.

I have been wondering lately around what God is doing to us when we create space for listening, and deep listening, to the other whom we most immediately dismiss and want to have nothing to do with.

The above verse finds its context in the parable of the sower. Many take as a primary interpretation that of the word, seed, taking root and the call to be good soil. What is of particular interest to me is that it is bracketed between the word "listen." For the word to make its home in good soil, a new awareness for perceiving is necessary. My question is how well am I listening, especially to the ones I want so quickly to dismiss?

The second and related piece is this: who is God using to speak to us? Consider these words from Jesus in Matthew “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Mt. 25:45) While the context here is related to the judgment of the nations it is equally apportioned to where God shows up and through whom. I think this is where Nadia in her book, Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television, is going. In the end, as repelled as she is to hear "those missing-the-mark-Christians" she has to face the fact that they are her brothers and sisters in Christ as well. She has learned that they have a place in God's house too and that we, as antithetical types to the conservative movement as many of us are, we can't take the same alienating posture as has been forced on us.

What I want to add to this conversation however is that it is not merely a postulate that we arrive at in our minds. It must be embodied! This notion of "making space in me for you", my definition of hospitality, is about what God is up to through the other for the life of me, for the re-orienting of my life. God is touching and speaking to me through the other, as despised, angry and saddened as I am about this "other" person that is so radically different from me and my perspectives on truth.

Today we proclaimed a text on Jesus' authority as different from the scribes. The difference is how Jesus uses knowledge of God as an instrument for liberation and connection. The man with the unclean spirit cried out "what have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?" This cry could also be translated "what to us and you?" This fragment emphasizes the very thing that under girds Jesus authority, it is his necessary connection the One that is fractured, broken and isolated from God.

We question God's authority all the time through the words we say or don't, through the actions we convey or don't. But God's response is greater, "you matter to me, you cannot be without me, I re-value you and draw you into myself once again connecting you to a greater communal reality you're intended for."

It is my hope that I too resist the dangers of familiarity. It is my hope that I can continue to keep an open spirit to how God is speaking to me through those I want to dismiss. It is my hope that we can embody the very life we desperately seek to articulate here in the blogosphere by learning to re-value and welcome those different from ourselves, no matter their orientation or faith descriptions. Because in the end, it is this other, the "least of these", the minority voice that is God calling as a prophetic voice into us to rupture a new kingdom God reality through us for the life of the world.

No comments: