Active Listening

Today’s scripture:

Revelation 21:10-11 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Ben Lamb):

[A personal note regarding today’s Be Still: in no way whatsoever am I attempting to equate myself to John, the writer of Revelation, who was carried away (some say given a vision) by the Holy Spirit. John’s spiritual life must have been extraordinary; such a level to which I aspire but fall woefully short.]

My personal “Question Mark” block is Being Ready for When God Chooses to Reach Down to Me. It seems that most of my worship consists of me trying to reach up to God through various actions I initiate: singing, listening to a sermon, giving money, participating in a worship service, attending an Oasis (small group); you get the idea.

But surely, God wants to start the spiritual conversation sometimes, wouldn’t you think? I have to be ready for those moments. One time stands out in particular.

Julie Benson sang Ray Boltz’ Watch the Lamb during the Easter 2007 season here at Jesus MCC. The song tells a story: a father in Jerusalem and his two sons are on their way to Temple to sacrifice their lamb. He reminds them to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t run off. Along their journey, they encounter Jesus on his way to the cross. The father and children have a riveting up-close encounter with Jesus in all of his agony. At the end of the song, the father tells his children to watch the Lamb instead, meaning Jesus.

As Julie began to sing, the words filled not only the air, but my heart as well. Without warning, a series of events happened to me simultaneously. All sounds except those words describing what happened as Jesus was being led to the cross were completely blocked out of my hearing. I no longer was aware of the instrumental accompaniment or sounds of the congregation.

Physical warmth began emanating from the center of my chest to my whole body. It was as if a miniature atomic blast had originated in the middle of my body. Also, a slight pressure enveloped me; the same type of pressure as when someone rests their hand on your shoulder in a gesture of reassurance. The best description I can give to this feeling is a tangible manifestation of infinite, pure, and unconditional love.

In my mind’s eye, I was transported back to the scene described in the song. I became part of the crowd, seeing Jesus walking along the dusty road, as the people were shouting at him, and the soldiers’ whips were ripping flesh from his body. I saw him stumble in front of me.

I knew what was in store for him on the cross even though he had not yet gone through the horrid ordeal, because my 21st-century mind had traveled back to the 1st century with me. Yet, I knew that he was willingly doing all of this for me. Even if I were the only person ever born on planet Earth, Jesus still would have died just for me.

As the words of the song were ending and Julie’s last hauntingly beautiful note was fading away, I gradually became aware of the surroundings in the Sanctuary. The special warmth and pressure began to fade, and everything else slowly returned to normal as I continued to wipe tears of gratitude from my eyes.

That event impacts me just as much now in February 2009 as it did during Easter 2007. Even while writing this piece — or whenever mentioning the experience to others — I can recall that feeling, and my eyes still fill with tears and a lump catches in my throat.

Thought for the day: God, your timing is perfect. May I always be willing to let you start the spiritual conversation at those times when YOU choose, too.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.