“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.” Isaiah 55:1-3
Our senses have been dulled by the pandemic. Loss of connection. Loss of seeing new places. Loss of eating out with friends. Loss of listening to “live-anything” together. Loss of touch. Loss of love. One of my dearest friends recently lost her sense of smell and taste as a symptom of Covid19. I asked her about the experience and she related these thoughts:
For me, it was about missing an important part of enjoying life, like tasting the sweetness of fruit, or smelling a nice aromatic soup. When the sense of smell and taste go, then everything you eat is as if it were just boiled, without taste, and you don’t feel like eating even your favorite foods. I missed the smell of a fresh morning, the flowers and plants. And I started using perfume because I didn’t know if I smelled bad! The day when my sense of smell came back was so exciting, like rediscovering life again. I thank God for the gifts of taste and smell.
There is also a heightened loss of listening…to each other, to our true selves, to God. Although there is so much talking going on through many choices of media, it’s like a din of a million monologues going on at the same time. So many podcast opinions, hate speech headlines, self-righteous tweets…do we respond or listen? What about listening to our true selves, noticing the pain, hearing the need for creative space, opening our hearts to reach out and risk soul conversation. And then there’s the Lord. Have you heard the invitation to come away, to be satisfied with the good food of connection, to listen and delight so your soul can be nourished with steadfast love?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. Isa 55:2-3 MSG
How can we recover our ability to hear life-giving, life-nourishing words? In this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 14:13-21, we read the familiar story of the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowds. What happened before the miracle caught my attention: “Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.” Since the count of 5,000 was only men, there must have been at least 10,000 people including women and children. Can you imagine one man, Jesus, being able to get them to sit down after a long day with no supper in sight? Yet, they had followed him all day, experienced his compassion, healing, and good news. So, they listened. They sat. They waited.
And then “they all ate and were satisfied.” Jesus’ divine blessing was enough for everyone…with leftovers. I think it only worked because everyone shut up and listened to the One with transforming authority. The people were nourished regardless of whether they could pay or work or even believe. Everyone could partake in the miracle, not just the privileged few. Those who did believe became partakers of a new covenant with the Lord, a promise of life for their souls through the broken and blessed body of Christ.
“The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you (O Lord) and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand. You satisfy the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145:14-15
Spiritual Practice. Listening Prayer. This type of prayer is a gift from God. Ask for it, just as Solomon did: “Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can…” (fill in your own heart’s desire) (1 Kings 3:9 MSG)
Quiet both inner and outer voices. Sit waiting. Listen for God’s thoughts. What do you hear?
Notice when nature, a song, or a reading grabs at your heart. Don’t move on or away. Listen to what God is saying in that moment. What sounds, smells, tastes have you noticed and enjoyed with today? Thank God for these gifts.
Choose one of the Scripture readings, Isaiah 55:1-3 or Matthew 14:13-2. Read the verses one time and notice what word or phrase captures your attention. Read a second time and think about the word or phrase, repeating it and hearing it’s message to you. Then read a third time and say a prayer of response over what you have heard.
This week pay attention to your senses and allow the Spirit of God to heighten them as a sacred connection with God and yourself.
Daily breath prayer: “I will listen to the Lord my God, and eat what is good.”
“The real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me…To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing.” Henri Nouwen.
My blog reflections follow the readings from the lectionary, which include a Psalm, Old Testament Reading, Gospel, and Epistle. Following the Lectionary is itself a spiritual practice of submission to the community of believers worshipping globally. https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/ See also Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.