LISTEN – a series for Lent 2018
Journey with us through the wilderness and walk with Jesus toward the cross cultivating His habit of listening to God.
A sampling of Pastor Laurie’s sermons are found on this website. Contact the church office if you’d like a copy of a specific message not found here.
There is no sugar coating this following Jesus stuff. To be on the side of grace and compassion and healing and the righting of the systemic wrongs of the world is to lay oneself open to the possibility — even the inevitability — of criticism, scorn, and even execution. There is no playing it safe in Jesus’ book. After rebuking Peter, Jesus calls the crowd to him and says all the more clearly, that not only is he headed to the cross, but so also must anyone who follows him. This is the way to life: through suffering, rejection, courage and humility in the face of fierce and violent opposition.
There are special places where we feel particularly attuned to listening for God. For Moses, and Elijah, and Jesus, it was wild, mountainous places. For others, it is ancient cathedrals. And for others, it is the room where they regularly meet for Bible study. Places with a history, places with a track record. One of these places might be your “cave.” Take the time to go there and listen, for the still, small voice, the gentle whisper of God. But know that, just as it happened for Elijah, you aren’t likely to be encouraged to stay. You’ll be called out of the cave, to venture back to the people and the challenges that at times seem overwhelming. You’ll be reminded that you still have work to do,and that you’re called to it. But you’ll also be reminded that you are not alone.
Sometimes periods of wilderness wandering are forced upon us. And sometimes we choose the wilderness. Sometimes, like Jesus, we feel the Spirit compelling us, even though it’s scary (because we’ve known vulnerability before, and it isn’t easy and it isn’t fun), and it’s lonely. Maybe once in a while, we wisely choose the wilderness, because there are lessons to be learned there — about depending solely on God, about serving only God’s purposes, about letting go of the trappings of the world.
The Church doesn’t offer rites of confession, in whatever form they come, because we want to know all your dirty little secrets. We offer these practices because they provide healing. They draw us close to God, the source of healing. We are not the dispensers of forgiveness — it’s really God’s doing, God’s gift — but the ritual of confession is a way of releasing grace and hope into individual lives and into the world. Everyone needs a clean slate and a chance to start over, and it’s a privilege to be able to facilitate that for people.
Not everyone is going to get these crazy stories that Jesus tells. But those who do, who keep on sowing and leave the results to God, and those who cultivate their hearts/soil/ears, are part of this newly defined “family” that is the Kingdom of God.
People of faith conduct themselves differently in times of crisis. They are not superhuman; they will tire and they will make mistakes from time to time. Those who focus on encouragement — that is, on giving courage to others — will be a living testimony to the God who is our source of hope.
What seems stuck, what seems set in its way, does not have to stay that way. Hold onto God and don’t let go. Let God change your name. Let God rewrite the story of your life. It may not be an easy wrestling match. But it will be worth the effort.
We can learn from this ancient story that transformation and new life can take time to work on us. We are always works in progress. The only way to obtain patience is to exercise it. The only way to gain strength is to be challenged and stretched. The only way to access courage is to face fear. These qualities of character are seldom achieved overnight, but are, rather, the procurement of a lifetime. We make mistakes and missteps along the way. We are human. We are not perfect. Yet God is with us.
How do you find peace of mind — and how do you preach peace of mind — knowing that storms will inevitably come? The Lord is near always. To remind us to do the right thing, to comfort us in times of stress and trial, to give us the strength and courage and peace we need to be God’s hands and feet in the world.
Jesus’ practice of taking time for listening to God in the chaos — and in the stillness — kept him from succumbing to disorientation, kept him from just reacting to all the demands, robotically going from one need to another, getting sucked up and getting life sucked out of him. His practice kept him moving steadily forward into the mission God had given him, so that his actions would be impactful to an entire world and not that of just a few. My prayer for you, and for me, is that we may not only survive life’s stress and storms, but thrive — and not only for our own good, but for the good of the world, and for the sake of God’s kingdom.