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Sharing my life with Jesus, using two ears and one mouth

by davesandel on September 28th, 2021

Tuesday, September 28, 2021                        (today’s lectionary)

Sharing with others my life with Jesus, using two ears and one mouth

In those days ten men from every country, speaking different tongues, shall grab hold – yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, “Let us go with YOU, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Often a zealous pastor or teacher tells us, “Be ready with your testimony, so when someone asks, you can tell.” I like that idea, but before that I think something like this: “Be ready with two ears and one mouth, so when someone asks about your life, you can listen longer, and find out where they’re coming from. They aren’t thinking about your life, they are thinking about their own.”

When I do speak, I want to skip the religious platitudes about being saved, or about Jesus or heaven. Those oh-so-simple/profound ideas come much later, in my mind, after a person has made up his mind about Christianity.

Really, I want to be prepared to talk from a deeper stratum inside me, a place where doubt and faith reside together, where my questions about God are unanswered and mostly unanswerable. Pat answers aren’t helpful.

And of course I want to invite others to speak from those deeper places within themselves. If I listen then, that’s when I begin to discover love, and in my relationships I will learn more from others about purpose and patience and confidence and courage and doubt and fear and grief, about being children of God and all those virtues Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 and Colossians 3, and in several other letters as well.

What is love in Greek? There are at least five words: epithumia, eros, storge, phileo and agape, which can be roughly translated as lust, romance, belonging, friendship and commitment. In our small sermon discussion group after church, each one of us has a hundred stories to tell about our experience with those ways of loving. The more we listen to each other, the more likely those stories will be told. And all of us will be blessed.

God is with us. He loves the gates of Zion, more than any of our own dwellings. Glorious things are said of you, O city of God. God is WITH us.

Our pastor Matt talks about “unzipping his soul.” Exposure is not for the faint-hearted, or the cowards, or those who haven’t done that “unzipping” even when they are alone, in their prayer closet, getting to know what Carl Jung called their “shadow.”

All shall sing in their festive dance, “My home is within you.” God is with us.

Famously, at least for me, Thomas Merton said, “You can’t have faith without doubt.” I come back to those words again and again:

It’s a risky thing to pray, and the danger is that our very prayers get between God and us.  The great thing in prayer is not to pray, but to go directly to God.  If saying your prayers is an obstacle to prayer, cut it out.  The best way to pray is:  stop.  Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not.  This means a deep awareness of our true inner identity.  It implies a life of faith, but also of doubt.  You can’t have faith without doubt.  Give up the business of suppressing doubt.  Doubt and faith are two sides of the same thing.  Faith will grow out of doubt, the real doubt.  We don’t pray right because we evade doubt.  And we evade it by regularity and by activism.  It is in these two ways that we create a false identity.

It doesn’t seem difficult to know this, but we are afraid, many of us, to share our “doubts” with other Christians. Why? I guess because we think they aren’t going to listen very well, because we think they are going to fix us and comfort us in our failure, rather than trying to see how these ideas apply to their own lives. We could even be worried that they might get angry.

The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus. When his disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

There are levels of growth in Christianity, of course, as in everything else. And as I said, the deepest things about Christianity are also the simplest things, which at first when others repeat them to me might sound like meaningless Christianese and empty platitudes. When at last I can say them for MYSELF, (try the Apostles’ Creed on for size), these same words are profound and life changing. But I can never ask someone else to say them; God has them on his time table, not mine.

Here is what Dostoevsky wrote about this in a simple, beautiful short paragraph:

It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.

For a counselor, I’m not always such a good listener. But when I encounter a person who has the slightest interest, God, please close my mouth, open my ears and let me hear.

(Zechariah 8, Psalm 87, Mark 10, Luke 9)

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