Learning to Listen

"In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen,
We can hear the whisper of the heart
giving strength to weakness,
courage to fear, hope to despair."

~ Dr Howard Thurman ~

Dearly beloved,

Dr. Howard Thurman is one of my favorite theologians. He was a leader in many social justice movements of the 19th century, and his writings are those of a mystic -- someone who spent time with the Spirit, who spent time in the quiet, who spent time reading scripture, in prayer and in contemplation. I was not familiar with his writing and work until seminary, though the Christmas/Epiphany Hymn "I am the Light of the World" is inspired on his poem "The Work of Christmas." Dr. Thurman's social justice work arose from his spirituality. It arose from the deep listening he did for God's voice and call and sustaining power. 

This week of Continuing Education gets to be a week of intentional listening for me. Listening through reading and watching and learning about the history of race and racism in our nation, about the whiteness that has marked me from the moment of my birth in a South African hospital for "so-called coloreds" -- people of mixed race or Indian ancestry. It will be an opportunity to be in conversation with colleagues. And it will be an opportunity for me to take a close look at the resources that Nora Smith has so generously been compiling for us for Adult Education in the coming year. 

In all of these arenas, one of the questions, one of the invititations is around intention or posture -- what is my intention in this listening? Am I approaching this learning from a place of openness or a place of defensiveness? Am I willing to learn? To have my mind changed? To be challenged? To deconstruct ideas about myself and to allow the Holy Spirit to make something new?

For me, this week, the question of intention and posture is fundamentally one of trust. Will I trust God's leading? Will I trust colleagues and the peers in the Sacred Conversations to End Racism seminar with my vulnerability? Will I trust them with my flaws? Will I trust them with ideas that I think are good but that may be laced with my own white power, privilege and ignorance? 

Maybe, just maybe in the stillness of the quiet, if I listen, I will discover that God is already whispering within my heart giving strength to my weakness, courage to my fear and hope to my despair. 

I will miss being with all of you on Sunday! You can look forward to Braelyn and Matthew Frank leading our call to worship, Rev. Laura Nelson preaching, Jon Haux reflecting on trust, and special music from Paul Heintzleman.

Beloved of God, it is good to be church together -- to journey through the stillness and into trust together.

In peace and grace,