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Cultivating: Space to Listen

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Cultivating: Space to Listen, HERE.

One of the “what can we do as we self-isolate at home?” activities you might have taken part in during the pandemic is binge watching shows on a streaming platform. How many of you can relate? Have any of you binge watched a series or two… or three… or more? Which ones have you watched?

I am not much of a TV watcher, but even I have gotten hooked on a few shows—the most recent of which has been the Mandalorian. The Mandalorian is a continuation of the Star Wars saga, taking place a few years after the destruction of the Death Star and the collapse of the Empire. Intergalactic life has become a wild, wild west of sorts. War lords, rouge sheriffs, and bounty hunters abound.

The main character, a Mandalorian, is part of a secret guild. A secret guild with deep roots in a warrior culture whose call to relationship is the phrase, “This is the Way.”

And while “This is the Way,” is the way of the Mandalores, this particular Mandalore, this person, is changed in an unexpected way by an unexpected relationship. The mighty gun slinging warrior is charged with caring for a child. You might be familiar with… or your kids or grandkids may have… this baby Yoda like creature, Gorgu in your home. The series unfolds. Out of what seem to be unbridgeable divides in a time of violence and chaos, connecting, compassionate, relationships grow. This one individual, the Mandalorian, is changed in profound ways through his interactions with this child who is not at all like him. And as a result, other individuals across the galaxy are changed too.

This is the way. God’s way.

Initially, viewing the parable of the rich man and Lazarus through a lens of gaps and divides, the barriers in our own country, local communities, and the world, seem hopelessly deep. This makes me wonder: Who created the great rift in the first place? How was, why was, this deep crevasse dug? Is it truly fixed? Uncrossable? Or, is the barrier more like the locked gate outside the rich man’s home, which could be… can be… swung open… if only humanity has the will to do so?

I ask these questions, because I believe it is not God who has set the chasm before us. No, this atrocity has been committed by humanity. The trench has been dug by rich who are unnamed… and whom—if we are to hold up a mirror—is us. Rabbi Amy Robertson asks, “What barriers (do) we construct to separate ourselves from the very relationships that might transform us into better members of God’s community?”[1] (Bible Worm)

Digging in a little deeper, in his 1955 sermon, The Impassable Gulf, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the rich man “is the white (person) who refuses to cross the gulf of segregation and lift (their Black sibling) to the position of first class citizenship, because he thinks segregation is a part of the fixed structure of the universe… (The rich man) is the India Brahman who refuses to bridge the gulf between himself and his brother, because he feels that the gulf which is set forth by the caste system is a final principle of the universe. (The rich man) is the American capitalist who never seeks to bridge the economic gulf between (themselves) and the laborer, because he feels that it is the natural for some to live in inordinate luxury while others live in abject poverty.”[2]

It is all too easy to give into the mantra that there is too much evil, too many layers of structural brokenness, to cross from here to there: the “here” of our comfort, the status quo, our fear of change; into God’s vision of unlocked gates and doors of hope thrown open for all.

It is here, today, God calls on us to stop—to stop digging all those shadowy ditches of impossibility, and to cross into Holy Connections: Our relationship with God. With our neighbors. With ourselves. Thus, I invite you to embrace one of the faith practices from the Abbey of the Arts this morning, “to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist the culture of noise and constant stimulation.”[3]

Make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist the culture of noise and constant stimulation.”

For God provides. God provides Moses and Myriam and stories of liberation. Through Abraham and Sarah the Holy offers extravagant hospitality in wilderness places. Prophets like Jeremiah and Deborah have gifted us visions of the way the world can be with God. Through us. As we cultivate those stories today God says, “Listen, and listen again. To that other voice. A narrative of abundance.”

People of God, what streets do we need to cross?

In what ways do we need to listen?

What relationships do we need to build?

When the gaps, the chasms, and divides all around us seem hopelessly deep, Jesus shows us another way: a path built on relationships, love, and compassion. With these simple tools, gates bolted shut can be opened, roads can be crossed, and walls can be torn down.

And so, beloved, let us pause. Let us make the space and the time to listen. To really hear the stories around us. For in that space of listening to God in our lives—and out on our streets—what initially looks like insurmountable divisions can be crossed by building relationships. Step by step. Following God. Getting to know our neighbors. Reaching out, learning, and engaging with others can change the world.

This is the way. God’s way.

Let us follow.

~Pastor Kris

Reflection on Luke 16:19-31 offered March 14, 2021

[1] PodBean Development and Amy Robertson, “BibleWorm,” BibleWorm, March 7, 2021, https://www.biblewormpodcast.com/.

[2] Martin Luther King, Jr, “‘The Impassable Gulf (The Parable of Dives and Lazarus),” Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, August 4, 2020, https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/impassable-gulf-parable-dives-and-lazarus-sermon-dexter-avenue-baptist-church?fbclid=IwAR2q5LT9-mYoB9zBrv_fjQZQygaHm6gf-uCqo0KtJl_5lCGS7RxA5z9gocs.

[3] Christine Valters Paintner, “Monk Manifesto,” Abbey of the Arts, July 7, 2020, https://abbeyofthearts.com/about/monk-manifesto/.