Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Re-learning to Listen

So I've been in an incredibly weird season since my last post. I finished seminary, graduated, formally began the discernment process for ordination to the priesthood in the Anglican Church (which is an intense, but gracious, process!), was commissioned to take pastoral leadership of a missional outreach of Church of the Savior in Ambridge called Village Church, and started working part-time in a temporary position with the YMCA's Summer Lunch Program. I also started spiritual direction, re-started with a counselor, and meet on a regular basis with the priests in my life. It's all life-giving stuff and God has been doing a renewing, refreshing kind of work in this quiet season.

When I first met with my rector (for those who don't know Anglicanism, a "rector" is basically like the lead pastor of a church) after graduation, we talked about where I was and the theme of that was that I was in the "in-between" times-- the wilderness. All of Bp. Jonathan Martin's sermons about wilderness and the chapter about it in Prototype came screaming back into my head. God brings us to the wilderness to bless us, to shape us, to show his love to us, and speak his words of affection to us without the distractions. That doesn't make the wilderness a place of suffering (evangelicals, take note). Unsurprisingly, the theme of the Easter season sermon series (which I preached in!) was on listening to God. My first meeting with my spiritual director: "What ways are you listening to God?" It's almost like it's a theme or something!

Now, don't get me wrong--it's not as if I felt like I wasn't hearing from God. I felt like the Lord had been quite vocal: in sermons, in the Word, in the ministry opportunities I'd had. He'd spoken to me, through me, for me in all sorts of situations and scenarios. But this was all very utilitarian--it was listening in order to be useful. These past two months have been learning (again!) how to hear the Lord express his love toward me, to remind me of who I am in him, and direct me, not for the sake of use, but for the sake of a Father speaking to his son. I'm excited to see where this goes, and what the Lord continues to speak while I'm in the wilderness.

What I'm learning is that what the Lord always speaks is a word of grace, of love, of righteousness and holiness. It's a word that justifies and vindicates me, against every accusation that I can muster against myself, and against every sentence of condemnation that can justly be given. Jesus, the Advocate, dispels the accusers, and amazingly declares, "Neither do I condemn you." Every time that happens is a holy moment. It's a holy moment that the Spirit breathes repentance into me--giving birth to faith and love that can endure whatever is coming up. Where I used to think of listening to God as hard work, I am learning to receive it as rest. When I'm no longer working, God is free to make that moment of rest holy and speak to me.