Listen With the Heart-Hope

Midweek Faith Lift

November 30, 2022

Listen with the Heart- Hope

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis


Daily Reflection

November 22, 2022


          Family members, friends, and others gathered at a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and pride flags outside the Club Q nightclub where the Colorado Springs shooting occurred, extending their hearts to those beset by the tragedy. Chris Hansen, who survived the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida years ago, said he hopes Club Q survivors and the LGBTQ community can "Stay in the light. Don't give up. There's still hope, there's still love, and love wins. Don’t allow this to take away your happiness, your brightness, your community, your strength."


          “There is so much goodness in the world. We see it everywhere. Every day, millions of people – more than millions – are touching others with kindness, generosity, and compassion. This is the trueness of humanity, of God in us. It bathes the darkness with light.” - Scott Awbrey


           Prayer: “Radiant Goodness, today I turn to you as the source of Love. I remember your light dwelling within me. Keep me mindful of your transforming presence. Shine this goodness lovingly on each person with whom I come in contact. I send your love forth into our world. May all those who suffer find solace in you. May all of creation know your peace. Amen.” – Joyce Rupp

On this first Sunday of Advent 2022, let us take a moment of prayer to support the families and loved ones of all who were present and part of this horrific incident in Colorado Springs.  And let’s also take a moment of prayer for all who have witnessed this kind of violence since the horrible events of Sandy Hook in 2012, which was my first Advent with you all.  And then let us take a deep, deep breath and affirm the incredible power of hope, the resilience of the human spirit and the ability to hold space that cultivates the awareness of the light, of the true possibility for humanity once we learn to listen with the heart.


What does it look like and sound like when we “listen with the heart?”  We have one description from Roy T. Bennett, from “The Light in the Heart:”

          Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we listen for what’s behind the words.

We have an illustration of what that sounds like in the Scripture story of the announcement of the birth of Jesus to his mother, Mary, which is at the start of the Advent season.  She is a young woman who was not yet married, just betrothed and she is given a very confusing message. It is found in Luke:

          Luke 1:26-42 The Birth of Jesus Foretold

                 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (NRSV- Updated Edition)

There are a lot of things to attend to in this passage, which asks Mary to listen and just be with what she has heard.  The first one is the number 6 as it is in the 6th month of the Jewish calendar that the angel Gabriel shows up to visit Mary.  The number 6 metaphysically represents the perfect intersection of the divine and human, much like the Star of David, created by two intersecting triangles.  It is the power of trinity times two, which signals something auspicious, something significant and important.  Mary is greeted as “Favored One,” which is also quite confusing.  And then when the message is that Mary, a virgin, will bear a child, the message is truly over the top and she finally responds with incredulity!  How in the world can this be the case?!?!?  She has to lean in and listen with the heart to begin to grasp the significance of the message. 


Now, I must confess, that as a woman I also find this incredulous, and in reality, it is! I don’t know why she just doesn’t tell the Angel Gabriel to take a hike, that this is nonsense and she has no desire to be a part of it, thank you very much!

Instead of “No way am I doing that, are you kidding?” Mary just listens with her heart, not her head. She remains quiet, heart open to hear what the angel has to share.  And the next message is that her cousin, Elizabeth who has been unable to conceive is now also 6 months pregnant, which is a miracle, not unlike the miracle happening to Mary.  And the final message of the angel is that “Nothing is impossible with God.” And on hearing that news, Mary has listened deeply to know that she is being called into service, even though she has no idea how it will unfold.  Her response is to acknowledge that she is a “servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”


The story of both Elizabeth and Mary illustrate the energy of hope and ultimately the power of faith.  When Mary consents to this declaration of motherhood, she has no idea of how it will unfold and how she will ultimately see her son’s life end.  She just leans in and listens, heart open, pure energy, the ultimate expression of hope. She has no idea of what she is saying yes to, she just says yes, the ultimate humility.  The human energy of hope- “heart open, pure energy” leads her into the spiritual power of faith, which sees her through the incredible journey ahead of her.


We have modern day examples of folks who have leaned in and listened to what they are called to do, even when it is painful, challenging and very difficult.  One of my favorites is John Lewis, who used to preach to the chickens on his family’s farm.  In his heart he was a preacher turned politician so that he could bring about more good for his people.  In his book, Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation, he has a chapter titled “On Hope.”  On p. 57, he writes:


           Never, ever lose hope. Never, ever give up.  Keep the faith and be willing and ready to walk those last steps to help redeem our society. To move us closer to the creation of a loving community.


           Hope is a feeling so deep in your heart, in the recesses of your body, that you know that good will triumph.  It is a trust in the divine and the laws of the universe that things will work out as they should.


It is a powerful message that we need to hear, that Mary would have appreciated as she took on the challenge of birthing and raising Jesus. 


John Lewis relates in the chapter “On Hope” how as a 16-year-old boy in Troy, Alabama, he was denied a library card because he was Black.  He didn’t argue but he never gave up hope that things would change, and change they did!  The day came when he wrote his autobiography, Walking With the Wind, and was invited back to that same library to give a book talk.  Hundreds of black and white people showed up to hear him speak and at the end, he was finally given a library card to the Pike County Library in Troy, Alabama.  When the people of Troy, New York heard the story, they gave him a library card, too!


John Lewis also states that he has been criticized for being too hopeful, naïve and unrealistic.  But he refused to give up hope because he has seen the changes people have been able to make, people who have apologized to him for their racial hatred.  Through that painful journey emerged people who could make amends, and heal and laugh and cry together.  He says on p.60,


            But never lose hope.  Because when you lose hope, it means that you are quitting on your brothers and sisters, on your friends, on your family, and on yourself.

We are all on that journey together, Jesus, Mary, John Lewis—the human journey of hope that brings healing and joy and deepened faith.


          What if joy is not only entangled with pain, or suffering, or sorrow, but is also what emerges from how we care for each other through those things?

                           - Ross Gay -

Let us lean in and listen with our hearts and during this Advent season and go forward together with deep and abiding hope.

Blessings on the Path,

Rev. Deb