parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

November 2017

Deep Listening,

Post Camino


Since returning from my sabbatical Camino walk in Spain I am trying to do more listening…or maybe, listen differently, listen more deeply. My vocation is largely lived out by speaking, formally and informally. I regularly receive a number of requests to speak formally somewhere in the city, the country or the United States, to some group, some church, some conference or some gathering. I try to discern which to accept and which to decline; I turn down most of them. Of course all this speaking does require some listening; listening to a text of scripture, listening to what comes from pondering a particular topic I am being asked to address, listening to what is going on in the world, and listening to the context into which I will be speaking.


However, all this listening is usually in service to some form of speaking. It is true that in my pastoral duties I have ample occasion to listen to people and to host their stories, pain, problems and joys in my heart, mind, faith and prayers. This is a sacred privilege. But usually these times of listening also involve speaking; speaking words of comfort, affirmation, encouragement, prayer, challenge, solidarity, faith and hope.


As I continue to reflect on some of my sabbatical insights, experiences and challenges, I am wondering if I am being summoned to listen differently and deeply to God, the churning within me, the people I am called and privileged to serve and the local neighbourhood in which Parkdale conducts its ministry. “God, I am listening.”


Those who know me know that I take seriously the responsibilities of the vocation to which I have been called. Some may argue, too seriously. Who knows? But this business of faith, of mission, of discipleship, of proclaiming the gospel, of struggling for God’s justice in the world, is urgent. It is the most urgent “business” in the world. It seems to me that as followers of Jesus we should be putting a lot of energy, faith, prayer, discernment and commitment into figuring this out and living this out. I confess that when I don’t see this level of engagement in myself or in the community of faith, I get frustrated. Maybe, I just need to chill a little. But I do say to myself: “How can this not be our main priority?” I know that our world markets us a whole set of other priorities, but surely – so goes my soliloquy – we followers of Christ can help each other resist these and recommit to the priorities that Jesus modeled, taught, and commanded. Eugene Peterson writes, in one of my devotional resources:


Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own. It is finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes. It is making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.


I received this as a gift. I took it as a summons to listen differently, to patiently and quietly pay attention to what God is doing in me, through me, around me, to me; and what God is up to in our congregation, our city and our world. I haven’t figured this all out yet but recently reading and reflecting on some prayer poems by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Weiderkehr, I came across one called Listening to Autumn. I said, “God, you have an interesting sense of humour and timing.” An excerpt of this prayer poem follows:


                   Autumn is slipping through summer’s branches

                             and I am listening.

                   I am listening to the dying flowing forth from autumn’s being.

                   I am listening to the life hidden in the dying.


                             I am listening


                   I am listening to the song of transformation,

                             to the wisdom of the season,

                             to the losses and the grieving,

                             to the turning loose and letting go.

                   I am listening to the surrender of autumn.


                             I am listening


                   I am listening to a call for inner growth,

                             to my need to let go of material possessions,

                             to my need to reach out for invisible gifts.


                   I am listening to a call for transformation.


                             I am listening.


                   I am listening to the death of old ways.

                   I am listening to the life force turning inward…

                   I am listening to the poetry of autumn.


                             I am listening.


May God grant us all “holy ears” and “attentive spirits” to the free blowing of the Holy Spirit….and let’s see what happens.


Peace and blessings to you

my fellow listeners…