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Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Listening — especially to an adversary, real or perceived, and especially to an opponent who will not listen to you — is one of the hardest spiritual disciplines. Will the Anglican primates actually listen to each other, or will they only speak? I hope Rowan Williams insists that conservatives listen to liberals, that liberals listen to conservatives, and then that all sides listen for the voices that they haven't heard before.

I bought The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images in an airport bookstore after I opened it to page 37, and read this verse:

To listen to you
or to listen to me
     is not to hear us
     but to hear the God who sent us both.

I thought it was a version of Matthew 18:20 — "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" — and that is certainly the passage it has illuminated for me ever since. (The verse is actually Matthew 10:40 recast.) And it gave me a new way of understanding the famous verse about the location of the kingdom of God. (Is it "within you," "among you," "in your midst," or "at hand"? Or perhaps, as one theologian suggested, is it "available"? Or perhaps the Greek is best for suggesting all these possibilities at once.)

It's impossible to be the church by oneself; it's impossible to hear God's voice only by listening to oneself. But to listen to you — to listen to each other . . . now that would be something revelatory. Here's to the bishops' discernment — an outcome I almost have too little faith to hope for.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 14 October 2003 at 8:28 PM

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October 15, 2003 07:38 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thank you. I also believe that you can hear the voice of God in the natural world, but it's most challenging and most rewarding to hear it in other humans. I took a look at the Amazon review of this book, and was struck by this passage:

"Attempting to see Christ not through 20th-century eyes but in the social, political, and economic context in which he lived and taught, Crossan points out that for the first 300 years after his crucifixion what was emphasized was not Jesus' divinity but his concern for communal empowerment. The picture that emerges is of a political and social rebel, a fearless champion to the poor and dispossessed."

The first image that popped into my mind is one of my heros: Mother Teresa. Yes, let us listen to each other.

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