“There are few things more consoling to men than the mere finding that others have felt as they feel.” Frederick W. Faber
“The Hebrew word shema is translated as ‘hear’ in most Jewish prayer books and in the Bible . . . . But in the translation of the Koren Siddur (Prayer Book) I have used–which is by Britain’s chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks–shema is rendered ‘listen.’ His explanation for this choice is instructive: ‘I have translated it here as “Listen” rather than the traditional “Hear” because listening is active, hearing is passive. The Shema is a call to an act of mind and soul, to meditate on, internalize, and affirm the oneness of God. Most civilizations have been cultures of the eye. Judaism, with its belief in the invisible God who transcends the universe, is supremely a civilization of the ear.’ The words of the Shema also remind us of the risks involved in being distracted or corrupted by visual images. As it say in the last section: ‘Remember all of the Lord’s commandments and keep them, not straying after your heart and after your eyes, following your own sinful desires’ (Numbers 15:39). There’s an important Sabbath lesson here, because the Sabbath is a day when we have the opportunity to listen to people in a way we don’t during the rest of the week. Our modern secular culture is very visual, often in unhealthy ways. Our eyes are constantly on televisions, video games, computers, email, websites, and all the rest. Many modern workers spend entire days interacting with a video screen. It separates us from the company of other people and from civil interaction and social conversations. The Sabbath forces us to pull our eyes away from the digital flow and rejoin the natural world, where communication is accomplished mainly through human voices speaking and human ears listening. The genius of the Sabbath lies in the way it restricts us from certain activities and, thereby, frees us to experience others including conversations–big ones with God and less grand ones with our family and friends.” Joe Lieberman
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me
from among you, from your fellow Israelites.
You must listen to him.”
Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you mostly active when speaking and passive when listening? Does it matter?
- How often do you have a day that gives you space to really listen?
- Is listening for God’s voice making you a better listener with others?
Abba, may others know they are heard by me.
For More: The Gift of Rest by Joe Lieberman
“People were bringing even infants, presumably those so young that they needed to be carried, and other children to Jesus ‘that he might touch them.’ Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers and wanted to gain some of that for their children. However, that is partly to impose our more caring view of children onto first-century people. The literature on how children were viewed then suggests that people then did not value children very highly. Children were, in one interpretation, seen to be on the same social level as slaves: with few rights, open to abuse, and lacking protection under Jewish law. Other, more moderate views are that children were merely treated with indifference. . . . Clearly there is more than a metaphor here; there is an emotional image for us who would be disciples to imitate. There is something about Jesus that is a blessing, a hospitality, an approachability, a charisma that draws others into him. Luke the author wants us to get that image. . . . No one can merit or achieve the kingdom; it must be received without merit, as a child receives everything. . . . We, like the disciples, are to welcome as Jesus welcomed. We are to follow the example of Jesus, who called the marginal and the despised to himself. What we can do out of gratitude is to call the socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ. Like the early church, we are to transform society by not just accepting but seeking out the outcasts and the marginalized. We are to treat them as Jesus did the children. . . . Ministry to, with, and for those who are on the margins is our response to God’s welcome of us. . . . What is the quality that commends children? Precisely their dependency. Their dependence on adults mirrors our dependence of God; that is one of the marks of the kingdom, which belongs to them (v. 16b). Here is exemplified the equal unworthiness, marginality and dependence of us all before God.” Shannon Jung
“Whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it.”
Luke 18:17 NLT
Moving From Head to Heart
- What would a church look like that called the “socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ?”
- How would that impact it’s philosophy of ministry? . . . congregational demographics?
- Have you ever been an outsider? Are there many socially rejected people in your congregation? . . . in your list of friends?
Abba, thank you for our approachable Jesus.
For More: Feasting on the Gospels, Vol. 2 by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, eds.
“Of all the sacred acts, first comes prayer.” Abraham Heschel
“About a hundred years ago Rabbi Isaac Meir Alter of Ger pondered over the question of what a certain shoemaker of his acquaintance should do about his morning prayer. His customers were poor men who owned only one pair of shoes. The shoemaker used to pick up their shoes at a late evening hour, work on them all night and part of the morning, in order to deliver them before their owners had to go to work. When should the shoemaker say his morning prayer? Should he pray quickly the first thing in the morning, and then go back to work? Or should he let the appointed hour of prayer go by and, every once in a while, raising his hammer from the shoes, utter a sigh: ‘Woe unto me, I haven’t prayed yet!’? Perhaps that sign is worth more than prayer itself. We, too, face this dilemma of wholehearted regret or perfunctory prayer, waiting for an urge that is complete, sudden, and unexampled. But the unexampled is scarce, and perpetual refraining can easily grow into a habit. We may even come to forget what to regret, what to miss.” Heschel
“Of all things we do prayer is the least expedient, the least worldly, the least practical. This is why prayer is an act of self-purification. This is why prayer is an ontological necessity.” Heschel
“To avoid prayer constantly is to force a gap between man and God which can widen into an abyss.” Heschel
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple
at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- The practice of daily prayer at fixed times has long been part of the practice of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. If it’s not your practice, have you ever considered its merits? . . . how might it benefit you?
- Scheduled prayer can become “perfunctory.” Why be involved in something like that? What does Heschel say?
- Practical pressures easily make prayer seem “the least expedient . . . the least practical” thing to do. In what way might stopping to pray at scheduled times be an “an act of self-purification” for you? Is prayer the “first” of all your sacred acts?
Abba, bring me back to you over and over throughout the day. I’m ever drifting.
For More: Man’s Quest For God by Abraham Heschel