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Listening Posts

August 21, 2013

building

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. (Rev 1:3)

Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (Rev 3:22)

In September my congregation will begin a series on Revelation in our Sunday worship gatherings. I enjoy studying this letter, which I have been doing once again this summer in preparation for the series using Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination. For some additional resources on studying Revelation please see this earlier blog post.

Peterson points out a spiritual practice that clearly stands out in Revelation’s messages to the seven churches (also vital for engaging the entire letter): listening. The instruction to each church includes a call to “listen to what the Spirit is saying.” Therefore Peterson provides the image of churches as “listening posts” (48).

How adept are we at listening? Do we regularly practice listening-to each other in our congregations, and also to voices in our local communities? Do we know how? I see a lot of “doing” in churches and each week I participate in more than my fair share of it. Might we at times neglect the use of our “ears” because our “hands” and “feet” are so busy? Whatever our experience is with this sense, the revelation of Jesus Christ gives a repeated call to listen to the Spirit. Which implies that the Spirit is speaking. Right now. Today. But to discover this instruction we will need regular practices that form us to have ears to hear.

Listening is an act of collaboration. It requires conversation. It’s an invitation to interruption. It’s a willingness to potentially experience discomfort or challenge. It’s a path to constructive engagement with those whom we disagree. It’s a chance to say, “I see your point” or “I hadn’t thought of that” or “Tell me more.” It means I’m not the only voice that matters. It’s an opportunity to patiently stick together. It (hopefully) leads to reflection and action. It’s slower than the fast-paced culture that often forms us. It’s an expression of peace. This is what life together can be in a “listening post.”

This John who we meet in the pages of Revelation demonstrates evidence of being a good listener-both to the Spirit and to the churches he obviously cared about and ministered to. As I try to comprehend what John meant by being “in the spirit” (1:10) I tend to imagine his expression as being some kind of spiritual and physical posture of listening.

Peterson sees churches as being,

the one place in the world where persons deliberately come together and uncover their ears so that the sounds of God’s word will be heard, accurately and believingly. (49)

That’s a lofty goal, and one that we will need to intentionally work at together to realize. Today I see much value in welcoming (uncovering our ears to) a wider and more diverse participation in the life of the church, trusting that through hearing one another we will be better able to discern the powerful voice of the Spirit as we listen together. As we follow Christ, may we develop as “listening posts,” communities willing to truly listen, to hear, and to trust the guiding voice of the Spirit.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2013 1:10 pm

    Another book on my list… Man, that list is getting long…

  2. August 21, 2013 4:12 pm

    Rob, I hear ya. But when you’re ready to borrow it just put up the MennoNerd signal and I’ll bring it over. Or, you know, just text me.

  3. August 21, 2013 4:16 pm

    Heh… well, gotta finish Jesus Creed first… then I have Mark Van Steenwyck’s “Unkingdom” coming in the mail that I need to read and post a review… I have Yancey’s “Where is God when it Hurts?” to finish… Got Woodward’s “Missional Culture” book floating around and Giglio’s book I got from Justin Heibert… so… somewhere in there, I’ll get around to Peterson… someday…

  4. August 27, 2013 9:35 pm

    In Sacred Scripture we are, first of all, struck by the intimate relation of God to man and of man to God. In Scripture we see not only God, but man as well. It is the Revelation of God, but it is also a revelation concerning man. God reveals Himself to man, appears before him, becomes visible to him, speaks with him, so as to reveal to man the hidden meaning of his existence, to show him the path and meaning of human life. In Scripture we see God coming to reveal Himself to man, and we see man meeting God and not only listening to His Words, but answering them. In Scripture we not only hear the Voice of God, but also the voice of man answering Him — in words of prayer, thanksgiving, adoration, sorrow, and contrition. God wants, and expects, and demands this answer. It is for this that He speaks with man. He expects man to answer Him. He is waiting for man to talk with Him. And He draws up His covenant with man.

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