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24th Sunday After Pentecost - November 12, 2023


One of the lovely things that has happened in my life of late is the privilege of serving on the Steering Committee of the Seminary of the Southwest where Jared and I went to seminary.


When the call for nominations went out two years ago, it was almost as a joke that I put my name forward. I graduated in 1985 and most of my classmates have retired. I was certain that I had done my duty, but I would not be elected…


Well that was not the case and I volunteered to work on the Blandy lectures… Dean Blandy was the first dean of the seminary and each year we celebrate him…


This year has been a true blessing because it introduced me to the work of the poet and author, Shihab Nye, and the writing of one of the Seminaries professors, Gena St. David…


A more appropriate name for a seminary professor could not be found…St. David…


I have been devouring her book, The Brain and the Spirit. St. David who is a neuroscientist literally encountered a theologian who changed her life and her studies…


And I must say, she set me on a path that has certainly changed my understanding of the scriptures…


She introduced me to the concept of “slow listening”. Even her arrangement of her book encourages slow listening…the chapters are divided by poetry and icons… You are encouraged to stop as you encounter these distractions that hopefully lead the reader to thoughtfulness…


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So with all of that in mind, I went after the Old and New Testament stories in today’s readings…


My first reaction was that I had been hijacked…surely the lectionary did not mean for me to preach on these…


I want to preach on Good News… Not hell fire and damnation from Amos and the parable about the pitiful bridesmaids that were lazy and did not restore their oil for their lamps and the rotten groom who was probably drinking with his buddies and the rest of the village and was late for the wedding procession…


But then I was reminded of St. David’s book because when I saw the lessons, I chose to be still and listen…


Slow listening and a reminder from the theologian, Parker Palmer, encouraged me to look at what was being said and what might bless me and hopefully bless some of you…


Parker Palmer said that our hearts can break in one of two ways: either we shatter into shards of shrapnel that may injure others, or we break open at our core and love pours out…


I want to break open in my core and hear what both Amos and Matthew were saying…


And in practicing slow listening of the scriptures and in my life, I wanted to learn to break open and hear what others are saying to me…


To be open to the danger of loving and listening in a manner that had not always been mine to claim…


Habitually learn to listen and to protect myself and others from the shrapnel that may injure others…


In the Amos lessons, we run headlong into a mighty prophet…He was active in the first half of the 8th Century BCE.. Israel was mighty and

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strong at this time but the prosperity led to gross inequities between the classes…


The poor were getting poorer and the rich were getting richer on the backs of the poor…


Amos, a farmer from the Southern Kingdom, went after the rich in the Northern Kingdom… and as we read his writing, it is hard to find the light.


God through Amos clearly tells the people that the Day of the Lord will be darkness; with no light in it.


Take away your music and the worship because the Lord will not listen or accept…


It is at this point that I had to be totally still…the words of the prophet, Amos, are both ancient and modern…


Written and delivered in the 8th century, they can certainly apply it to the world in which we live…


Yet, in listening, we also hear words that call us to hope…that call us to purpose…that call each of us to a way of life and love that we can devote ourselves to…from now until we die…


Let justice roll down like waters; and righteousness like an overflowing stream.


Each of us in hearing that and holding that close know that if we adopt that as our work, we can open up the possibility of love and justice among our people


And in the Gospel lesson, I listened slowly… I listened over and over and in truth I was more than a little dismayed by Matthew.

Where is the love and where does it pour out…


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I think the love in this encourages us to realize that we are responsible for our own relationship with God and with others.


We must be spiritually and mentally prepared for what lies ahead of us…


No one can do it for us…No one can decide how it is that we must live…and as Gena St. David encourages us to do is to look at our lives, our reactions to life, and what motivates us to either listen or simply react…


So often fear motivates one… We cannot hear or listen because we are frozen in fear…


We often want life to be very different than it is so we look for other ways than thru listening, praying, centering to change what we do not like…


I encourage you to start a journey or to continue one that allows you the luxury of slowing listening, of praying, and of centering yourself in such a way that you can hear the Good News of God and can live that out in your daily endeavors…


We are celebrating Stewardship Sunday today and I remember distinctly how much when I was a little girl I did not like this Sunday…


My Daddy who was a very generous man but would complain when the two or three folks from the church would come and ask him for a pledge… where were those folks the rest of the year?

And then just before I started seminary, I was sitting in a room being told how to be a visitor and go out in teams to collect pledges..Yikes!!


Dan Roberts came rolling into my mind and at the same time, it dawned on me that there was another way.


Why not trust the people in our parish and beyond to pledge what they could and what their hearts led them to pledge.

Why not tell the story and give our folks the opportunity to listen, pray, and to be faithful in the ways that they could…


And so here we are… I hope that you have had the opportunity to slow listen to what has been said on Sundays by our speakers…


I have listened to them with a new heart and an open mind…I have found them on the internet and practiced slow listening…


We are a faithful and loving congregation…we stand out among other communities as welcoming


And this is a priceless opportunity and one that we must continue … Do not be afraid to commit to that vision …Let your heart break open at the core and allow love to pour out


Amen




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