Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Silence and Listening

I was able to go to the  Monterey Jazz Festival for several years in the early 1970s.  It was a great opportunity to hear amazing jazz artists, wonderful vocalists and up-and-coming performers.  There were five shows spread out over 3 days, winding up with the blues show on Sunday afternoon.

I was relaxing and watching television on the Monday evening following the Jazz Festival and realized that I was not listening to the words in what I was watching -- I was only tuned in to the music.  Three days of listening to great music had changed the way I was hearing things! 

I recalled this experience during the time of quiet waiting in the Friends in Fellowship worship group last Sunday evening.  Brent had raised the question of whether the group should continue.  Some people responded to the question and then we shifted into a time of quiet.

I came to realize that I was there for the silence.  Extended silence changes the way I hear things, in the same way that three days of world-class jazz changed the way I heard things. One of the ways quiet waiting transforms us is that it changes the way we listen.

And to extend the idea--
The significance of any form of worship is in the way it changes the way we hear and see and experience things when we leave that time of worship.  I am blessed by our worship on Sunday mornings, with hymns, a choir, prayers and preaching.  My Quaker understanding is that those outward elements of worship are there to help me discover my relationship to Jesus Christ in new and fresh ways, not as ends in themselves.  Otherwise it is only music and words. 

In the same way silence is not an end in itself, but another opportunity to explore my relationship to Jesus.  I hear the words shared in the silence within a larger context that includes the group, the world and the living presence of Jesus.  And the way I listen is changed.


Monday, March 9, 2009

A Season for Meeting Jesus

The season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter week, began on February 25. For this Lent and Easter season my them is “Meeting Jesus.” This is what the “Meeting” in Plainfield Friends Meeting is all about. It is a verb – an action word. We gather together to meet Jesus.

What happens when people meet Jesus?

When we read the Gospels we discover that things change when people meet Jesus. Some people get healed, others get angry. Fishermen and tax collectors begin gathering in people rather than fish or money. Some are puzzled and confused when they meet Jesus. Thousands are fed and others are made aware of their emptiness. Nothing stays the same.

The Gospel of Mark begins very abruptly telling us about Jesus. He is “the Son of God” (1:1). John the Baptist declares that he is “more powerful than I. . . . I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you the Holy Spirit”(1:7,8). The voice form heaven declares: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”(1:11)

And then, after all this introduction, Jesus introduces himself: “The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15)

We are almost too familiar with these words. We don’t take seriously what Jesus is saying as he greets the world – and us.

“The time has come” – There is a purpose and significance to our time on earth. Life isn’t just “one thing after another.”

“The kingdom of God is near” – Jesus invites us to live in a different place, even while we live in this world. We don’t have to settle for the status quo and business as usual. God is within our reach, if we would only recognize it. And the things we consider so important in the realm we live in lose their significance.

“Repent and believe the good news!” – Jesus caused reactions in people because he calls us to reorient our lives around something besides ourselves. It’s a hard and uncomfortable thing to do. And it changes us.

Look for ways to meet Jesus this Easter season.

pastor Bill

A Failure of Trust

The news stories about the current financial crisis suggest that part of the problem is a failure of trust. The world of credit is built on trust. Letters of Credit, Loans and Mortgages are all built on a trust relationship. On the most basic level the bank says to the borrower “I trust you to pay me back”. And then some manipulated that trust, preyed on others and distorted that system of trust. And the system broke.

I worry that trust is getting harder and harder to come by in our world. And a lack of trust in society has deep consequences. Trust is a relationship word. It is a basic building block of relationships between individuals and communities of people.

Trust is at the heart of who we are as followers of Jesus. In the Bible “Faith” is a word that in almost every case would be better translated as “trust.” The word “faith” is often used to designate a set of beliefs, as in “What faith are you?” It suggests something set and static. Our set of beliefs is important, but faith is something we do, not something we are. That’s why the word “trust” is better. It carries with it the idea that we are acting on that faith. Trust is how we live out our faith.

As followers of Jesus I believe we are called to help a broken world relearn how to trust. Trust is a relationship word and a community word. It goes against the grain in a culture that is so focused on individual happiness and personal self-realization.

Psalm 37 touches on the question of how to live in a world that is broken, where those who do wrong seem to get rewarded while those who do good are forgotten. Trust is the answer:

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret--it leads only to evil.

Psalm 37:3-8 (NIV)

“I do trust. Help me get past my inability to trust.” Mark 9:24


Wild About Horses Bible ?????

When Bible marketing goes off the rails . . . .

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