Preparing to preach on the story of Martha and Mary this week reminded me of how important it is to regularly seek out quiet sabbath time. Perhaps it is even more important when things are shifting and changing, and we are trying to figure out the next best steps. How do we create opportunities to “sit with Jesus” and listen for the still, small voice of holy guidance?
During our synod assembly in May, our outgoing bishop Kirby Unti shared his last formal address to the synod. He reflected with us about the changing status of the church and challenged us to ask the hard question: “whose agenda” is driving the decisions made within our ministry context? Is it the agenda of the loudest voices? Of tradition and “we’ve always done it this way”? Of anxiety over survival? Or is it the Gospel – the agenda of Jesus? He underscored the importance of having our focus centered on setting aside “our” agenda and taking time to deeply ponder the questions: What is God up to in this community? And how might we join in?
In a time of significant transition, when old answers and models and approaches are no longer working, he suggests the need is to listen to the prophet Joel: Return to the Lord your God. It is time to move from “planning” and “figuring it out” to “deep listening” at the feet of Jesus. Only God can make the desired future happen, because it surely lies beyond our ability to predict – or perhaps even imagine.
Bishop Unti suggested that Lutheran are pretty much “head” people- comfortable with ideas and concepts and knowledge, at ease in the classroom, learning from the “experts”. The answers we seek about God’s desired future will not come from the classroom, but from engagement in community. First, the faith community engaging in deep listening to God’s word in scripture and in prayer, and then in deep listening to the diversity of folks around us in the neighborhood.