“LOVE LISTENS” ~ Pastor Dan Leininger

September 1, 2012

Visitation Pastor’s Notes

LOVE LISTENS

One advantage of growing older is that my faith seems to get simpler. (Or maybe my mind is getting simpler, whichever…). “Simpler” means that I don’t get as lost in the details as I once did. The basic understandings that I have about God feed my soul daily, even in the tough times. They help keep my soul, and restore my life. One of these basics is that “God is Good.”

GOD IS GOOD.

I remember being invited many years ago to be a guest speak at an annual meeting of Baptist churches in Maryland. I flew to Baltimore and was driven to a beautiful retreat setting on the Chesapeake Bay. As the people gathered there, they obviously represented a diverse mixture of urban, suburban, inner city, black, white, Hispanic congregations. An inner-city choir of black congregations sang hymns and spirituals. It was Wonderful!

When one of the black pastors would speak, he would say, “God is Good!” And the black folk would respond,“All the time!” After the second time, even we white folks were doing it. By the end of the evening I noticed some of our good German Baptists were joining in. Ever since, I cannot say or hear “God is Good”without adding, “All the time.”Just remembering that time and those words, still feels “Wonderful.” I smile as I write.

However, at some moments life does not feel “good.” We do not smile. We may even be deaf to the hymns or spirituals. The troubles, losses, and worries do not give any peace, or calm, or comfort. Instead, we just get more reminders of our pain than we need. The empty chair, the empty house, the empty feeling inside, virtually everything seems to remind us of the pain. At such moments, life may not feel good anymore.

LISTENING LOVE.

One of the many ways that the Bible reminds that God is Good are its reminders of how God “listens.”

  • God hears the cry of the poor, “I will hear for I am compassionate”(Exodus 22:27).

  • God hears the cry of his people in slavery (Exodus 6:5). (I hear their groaning… I remember my covenant…).

  • With irony the Psalmist asks, “He who planted the ear, shall he not hear?”(Psalm 94:9).

  • With faith he affirms “God you do see trouble and grief” (Psalm 10:14).

  • With hope he pleads “Record my lament, list my tears on your scroll; put my tears in your wineskins.” (Psalm 56:8). (I never thought of God as having wineskins, or of turning tears into Vintage production … humm. )

The Biblical writers clearly describe God as listening to both the unpleasant and seemingly trivial.

LISTENING TO DOUBTS.

God seems as interested in our doubts as our sense of faith. God takes our doubts seriously. God seeks to understand our struggles no matter how large or small, how enormous or how trivial they may seem to ourselves or others. It is as if God knows that what is a stepping stone in one person’s path, may just be a stumbling stone for another person. What one blunders over; another takes in stride.

God also hears the genuineness in our sorrows and laments. God does not judge on the basis of the distortions that may plague our minds. God gives no condemnation for the shame, or the rage, or even the pathology that may be within us. To be a tender“Abba” kind of Father is to honor the intent of one’s children’s hearts rather than their level of skill or maturity.

So even prayers that start with, “God, I can’t pray …, God, I am too angry to pray …, God, I don’t know how to pray …” are all music in the ears of our “Abba Father.” God knows that begging his presence, exercises more muscles of faith than fleeing or hiding.

But even when we DO flee and hide,God still wants to know where we are.(“Adam … where are you?” Genesis 3:9). Because God made us free creatures, he wants to know us, our worries, our choices, our hopes, our disappointments, our grief’s. The central facts seem to be that God wants to know us, warts and all. God wants to love us. Therefore, God listens to us. THAT is LISTENING LOVE!

GOD IS GOOD … ALL THE TIME.

So … Listen, Love, and Pray,

Pastor Dan Leininger

Visitation Pastor

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