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big sister with baby brother

“Tell Me About God:  I’ve almost forgotten…”

Today in her sermon our priest told this story.  It was immersed in a Lenten meditation, and described a story that was originally written by Parker Palmer and then was shared by Marcus Borg.  Now I share it with you here.  It is from a different sermon but describes the same source material.  It brought tears to my eyes.  

In the Hebrew language the “voice of God” is named as “bat qol”.
It means – the daughter of a sound.
Sometimes we translate it as a still small voice, but I think that is a bit problematic
Because a “still small voice” suggests a voice.  Words and all that
It is I think, better described as the daughter of a sound –
something that is beyond the boundaries of speech

I don’t know how many people have spoken to me
about the fact that they haven’t ever heard that voice.
I am saddened that we – I – in the church haven’t fostered a better appreciation,
and that we have left people feeling that God is not speaking with them

The Quaker movement calls it “leadings” or “proddings”
Marcus Borg says that sometimes it is nudges or clobbers
Frederick Buechner says it wonderfully:

Listen to your life.
Listen to what happens to you, because it is through what happens to you that God speaks.

It’s in language that’s not always easy to decipher,
but it’s there, powerfully, memorably, unforgettably.

Have you had a voice of reassurance – especially if you are scared or unsure – bat qol
Have you seen someone whose life is clearly suffering get turned around – bat qol

This week, we start the season of Lent, and we will be working with a resource
that is aiming to help us understand and appreciate Jesus’ life.
It is about a journey to Jerusalem – from the Transfiguration on, this is precisely where he is heading
On that journey Jesus speaks about the way – the path of following him.
To listen to Jesus means to follow him on that path that leads to Jerusalem.

Borg comments:

“Jerusalem is both the place of confrontation with a domination system,
and it is also the place of death and resurrection,
it is the place of endings and beginnings, of endings and new life,
the place where what we feared was the place of death becomes the place of new life.”

Listening to Jesus means embarking on that journey,
and it is the journey at the very center of the Christian life.

Lent invites us to head on that journey
and to listen for the bat qol along the way

Early in our lives, we have what some people call the birth of self-consciousness,
the awareness that the world is something separate from us.

At some point, the world ceases to be immediately responsive to your needs,
and we become aware that “the world there” is something separate from you.
That’s the birth of self-consciousness, or even more simply,
that’s the birth of the separated self.
And it happens very early in life.

Lent invites us back to a new birth.  A new listening.  A new life.

Parker Palmer – a Christian writer –  tells a story about a three-year-old girl
She was the first born in her family.
But then her mother became pregnant,
and the daughter was very excited about having a baby in the house.
The birth goes well, and the mother and the new baby come home.

After they’ve been home for a couple of hours,
the little girl tells her parents that she wants to be with the baby in the baby’s room, alone, with the door shut.
She’s absolutely insistent about the door being shut.
It kind of gives her folks the willies, you know?
They know she’s really been looking forward to the baby
but at the same time, they are a bit nervous about sibling rivalry
and the impact of such a big change in the girl’s life.

Then they remember that they’ve recently installed an intercom system
in preparation for the arrival of the new baby,
and they realize that they can let their little girl do this,
and if they hear the slightest weird thing happening, they can be in there in a flash.

So they let their little girl go into the room.
They close the door behind her. They race to the listening post.
They hear her footsteps move across the room.
They can tell that she is now standing over the baby’s crib,
and then they hear her say to her two-day-old baby brother,
“Tell me about God. I’ve almost forgotten.”

It captures the sense that as we grow up,
and as we learn the language of this world, we engage in a process of forgetting

Because as we learn the language of this world,
the categories of this world get imprinted upon our psyches,
and our sense of being a separated self grows stronger and stronger.
That sense of disconnection continues throughout childhood,
until, by the end of childhood, we may have lost that sense of connection altogether.

Frederick Buechner again,
Increasingly, we live our lives from the outside in rather than from the inside out,
taking our cues from the world, taking our cues from others, taking our cues from culture.

During Lent, we are invited to reconnect with the one who is the source of our life
To listen again to the bat qol –
the daughter of a sound which we might hear with words – in prayer or in conversation
Or which we might hear as we pay attention to life, or to our own deep feelings
Or which we might hear with a sense of reassurance, or in a time of healing
or which we may hear in the call to journey to a place where
in a confrontation with the systems of this world, and of its governments
we undertake a process of dying, and discovering new life.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory