The Good News In, Which We Stand
Paul and Luke, those insightful and hardworking traveling companions, are our spiritual directors this month. Both point in the direction of receptive listening.
Luke is a listener, investigating carefully everything people remember and tell about Jesus (Lk 1:1-4). In the process of this close, attentive listening, he notes how Jesus names his disciples: “You who listen” (Lk 6:27). Paul is a proclaimer. However, his preaching of the good news grows out of his own listening and receptivity. “For I handed on to you...what I in turn had received” (1 Cor 15:3). Paul learned how to be a receptive listener. As he writes his letter to the believers in Corinth he affirms them as those who had also heard and received the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
This hospitable listening pays attention to God who comes like a divine surgeon searching and discerning our interior being, showing us that which harms, contaminates, and ultimately destroys us (Jer 17:9-10). Paul and Luke direct our attention to our need to keep on listening to the good news of God’s coming in Jesus to rescue us from the illusion and death of this world’s control (1 Cor 15:2).
Paul has learned (as one who calls himself unfit to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of God) that not only do we receive the good news, but that over time we come to realize that the good news becomes the reality in which we stand. Now the gospel becomes normative for how we live. Spiritual formation will show itself finally in this inner transformation and the resulting outward movement which are so out of step with most of our social upbringing, not to mention the resistance of our own human nature. This is where a continual, receptive listening is vital, if we are to stand within the reality of God’s good news for this age.
This kind of hearing invites a trusting, receptive approach, to the reading of scripture and other spiritual reading. As Robert Mulholland says, we allow ourselves to shift from an analytical, controlling, organizing stance to what we read. Instead, we become receptive, allowing ourselves to be encountered and mastered by what we hear (Shaped by the Word, Upper Room Books).
As we who pastor and proclaim become “those who listen,” we can also provide spaces in worship and in our teaching and proclaiming for persons to open their “attention” more fully to God’s presence and activity in their lives. In this way the good news can become the reality in which we all learn to stand.
Wendy J. Miller
Eastern Mennonite Seminary