Lenten Devotion: Spiritual Listening
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The first time I preached this text was during my pastoral internship. It was Ash Wednesday in an unfamiliar church with an ecumenical audience. I was trying my best not to be nervous. There was no pulpit – just a slightly raised square to stand on in the center of horseshoe seating. I stepped up onto the square, and when I turned around to face the people, I turned right into the direct path of the light beam of the overhead projector, temporarily and unexpectedly blinding myself in the stark white light. Stepping to the left of the beam and trying to regain my composure as quickly as I could, I heard myself say into the wireless mic, “Well, I guess I just had a Saul on the Emmaus road experience.” After the laughter subsided, I was ready to begin.
Recalling that experience while considering this text has challenged me to contemplate how my response might be a form of spiritual listening. I can hear with my spiritual imagination the panic in Saul’s voice as he experienced disorientation and the vulnerability of not being in control of the senses that, until that very moment, were fully functional and an integral part of his self-awareness to his immediate context.
How might we consider the conversation in today’s Scripture around giving, fasting, and praying to be more than just about the hypocritical person in action? These actions were taking place in the midst of community. How might we use our spiritual listening to the happenings in the ancient context to inform what we do today? Sharing our resources “quietly” allows those who need them an opportunity to partake with the assurance of equal personhood. Living out our faith by fasting “quietly” shouldn’t compromise the strength of our witness to those who might otherwise think us repugnantly pious. Praying for our communities and Creation “quietly” would minimize the possibilities of recrimination and more importantly allow us to build/enhance/grow our relationship with God.
Rev. Ruth T. West
SFTS Program Manager for Advanced Pastoral Studies
SFTS MDiv 2012; DASD 2013; Certificate in Trauma and Spiritual Care 2017