Spiritual Hospitality

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, March 3, 2019 | Respectfully submitted by Mal Underwood

 On this Last Sunday After Epiphany, Mother Mary’s sermon helped set the framework for the season of Lent.  She began with a brief review of some of the Gospel themes from recent post-Epiphany Sundays including:

·    The baptism of Jesus and the resulting understanding of our identity in the body of Christ;

·    The first public miracle at the wedding at Cana and our commitment to observing the sacraments;

·    The transforming nature of God’s love and our growth and maturity in faith;

·    The parable of Peter’s great catch of fish and God’s abundance for all believers;

·    The eternal covenant love of God for his children.

In this Sunday’s Gospel we heard the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus, attended by Peter, James and John who were joined by Moses and Elijah. During this sacred event, God spoke these words, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”  The Latin root word for listen is oboedio, which is also the root word for obey.  God’s command not only calls us to hear Jesus but to obey him.

Mo. Mary’s framework for our Lenten season is a focus on the “spiritual hospitality” of listening.  What might our various communities look like if we all listened more and argued less? What might our schools look like if we teach our children to listen with the same intent and purpose as they are taught to speak and write?  What might our church look like if we listen for the voice of God from those who differ from us? Theologian and priest Fr. Henri Nouwen said listening is very hard because it asks from us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speaking, argument, statement, or declaration. True listeners no longer have a need to make their presence known; they are free to receive, welcome and accept. The beauty of listening is that we begin to feel more accepted and consider our own words more seriously while discovering our own true selves. Listening is a form of “spiritual hospitality” through which we invite strangers to become friends and begin to understand more about our true selves.  While there is surely a time for discussion and debate, Mo. Mary invited us to embrace Lent as a season of listening so that we might grow in spiritual truth, acceptance and love.

Mo. Mary concluded her message by relating a story of seeing a glowing flock of geese fly over as she was walking home from the Vestry meeting Monday night.  The brief moment struck her as a beautiful gift and brought to mind the gospel song of acceptance and eternal life “I’ll Fly Away.”  After we joined her in singing the chorus of that song, she urged us to remember that there is abundant and joyous life after the Lenten journey to Jerusalem.  Our Savior Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension give us that great hope of our Christian faith.