On the other hand, maybe I could just put my hands over my ears so I don't have to listen.
That's what Stephen's crowd did when he spoke to them and delivered the news that they didn't want to hear. Stephen is recorded as the first martyr of the new Christian faith and by the way the patron saint of DEACONS. Not sure just what the implication is here……. but then.
Stephen was called before the Sanhedrin. He infuriated them and the crowd. They covered their ears, and with a loud shout all had rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; In the face of an angry mob, Stephen delivered a message that accused the people "of being stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears ---of rejecting the prophets, and of opposing the Holy Spirit…."
AHHHH! Perhaps that's the key …. We are able to listen, to hear, to have compassion, because we are unwilling to oppose the Holy Spirit. So now how do we align ourselves, as individuals and as a congregation IN TRANSITION so that we are indeed working in alignment with the HOLY SPIRIT? Perhaps because we are all concerned about our transition time and the importance of hearing one another, we can hear what Jesus was saying to the disciples in our gospel reading this morning. It opens with these words…"DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED……..IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE THERE ARE MANY DWELLING PLACES……..
Many rooms…JOHN'S JESUS ATTEMPTS TO ASSURE DISCIPLES THAT THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF ROOM for all. The relationship is going to continue, even as it changes. Let me say that again. The relationship is going to continue, even as it changes! Jesus is reassuring the disciples that his death is not the end, but "THE BEGINNING!"
Robert Jensen writes about God's 'roominess' in relation, not to space, but to time. God is willing to take all the time it takes, but are we, much of the time willing to set aside some of our TIME --TO LISTEN! God's promise to love us, to make room for all of us, to know and to be known by us, NEVER ENDS! THEREFORE OUR HEARTS NEED NEVER BE TROUBLED. That is if we don't put our hands over our ears…..WE HAVE TO LISTEN……Really listen to one another!
I like what Bill Plotkin says : "The first half of life" is doing our survival dance" That would be in my opinion the time when we create the many costumes we try on to fit the images we want to create. "The second half of life," Plotkin continues," can then become our "sacred dance." " That is when I believe that we SHOULD see ourselves dressed In the garments of the Spirit.
When we are too busy saving our souls, we never get beyond our survival dance; and so we neglect to ask the deep concerns of the soul --the necessary questions that lead us into the sacred dance! That place where we are found "not opposing the Holy Spirit" but partnering with the Holy Spirit! And to do that we have to listen!
Now, St. Michael's must be ready to move forward. Let's not allow the survival mode attached to our former group identity to be a distraction as we embrace the wonder of a new journey together. Let's catch the vision of what can be --and with joy prepare to dance the sacred dance. It's not that we forget or neglect to see and to even give thanks for all those early stages, but our energy moves with us as we go forward. THE RELATIONSHIP CONTINUES EVEN AS IT CHANGES!
Dragged by an angry mob, and stoned -- two kinds of actions are witnessed in our story recorded in Acts. The members of the Council cover their ears -- so they won't hear…..because they have already determined what they are going to do …..because they don't want to change their way of thinking. And then there is the action of Stephen….he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, (while they were stoning him)…."Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Stephen had emphasized how God had been with Israel throughout the wilderness period. He had tried to convince them that often their times of greatest growth had occurred during their greatest struggles.
Even our Psalmist says this morning in Psalm 31: "MY TIMES ARE IN YOUR HANDS;………….
Are we willing to not be anxious or troubled to the degree that it interferes in the sacred dance with the Holy Spirit in this transition time? Opening our hearts with compassion, and listening -- truly listening?
Wednesday night, I had one of those nights-- you know when you go to bed and several hours later you're still wide awake…. Well, I really wasn't worrying about anything in particular, but nevertheless, sleep just wouldn't come…. Eventually I just got up. I had read earlier in the evening and wasn't in the mood to read more now, so I switched on the TV. SIGH! Well, at that time of night there was nothing I wanted to see or hear….so I watched the a rerun of the GOLDEN GIRLS! You laugh…but believe me, those comedy sitcoms often times deliver a powerful message….AS IT DID IN THIS ONE.
Blanche has announced that her brother Clayton is arriving with a big surprise. "Maybe he's bringing home his girl," she says hopefully, where upon Dorothy reminds her that Clayton in gay. "Oh", says Blanche, "I think that was just a phase he was going through"! Well, as you may have guessed, Clayton does arrive with the big surprise that he and his partner Doug are going to get married! The other roommates accept Doug and welcome him, but Blanche refuses to be a part of anything that is going to be made public.
BLANCHE CLOSES HER EARS (in a sense she holds her hands over her ears as well as her heart)…..SHE DOESN'T HEAR WHAT DOUG AND CLAYTON OR HER ROOMMATES TRY TO TELL HER.
Well, eventually using comedy and many clever comments and situations -- at the end…..Sophia the elderly member of the household and the mother of Dorothy, speaks the words that Blanche finally hears. I guess Sophia might be said to symbolically play the part of the Holy Spirit.
Here's what Blanche says to Sophia as they sit across the table from one another…"Well it's easier for you, Sophia, to accept the situation- He's not your brother. I can accept the fact that he is gay but why does he have to slip a ring on the finger of this man so the whole world will know?" This is Sophia's answer, first in the form of a question! "Why did you marry George?
Blanche answers without a moment's hesitation. "We loved each other…We wanted to make a life-time commitment… We wanted everyone to know that!
BIG SILENCE--- then:
Sophia's quiet reply: "That's what Doug and Clayton want.. Everyone wants --someone-- to grow old with. Shouldn't everyone have that opportunity?" You can surmise how the situation ended…….. With joy of course and celebration, of course!
We too have to listen to one another: to hear God's promise to love us and to make room for all of us: to know that even in our wilderness times, the time of our transition, God is calling us to DANCE THE SACRED DANCE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT!
AND THEREFORE, To never allow our hearts to be so troubled, NEVER TO PUT OUR HANDS OVER OUR EARS AND REFUSE TO HEAR WITH BOTH HEARTS AND EARS!
Our relationship is going to continue -- even as it changes!