My father and I recently returned from a trip to Germany and Austria. Suffice it to say, it was a memorable journey! In addition to the many cities and landscapes that were beautiful to behold, we also visited many historical and spiritual sites that have made quite the impression. Over the next couple of weeks, this religious column will consider some of the reflections gleaned since coming home.
One such spiritual and illuminating location that was Melk Abbey, which we visited on our way to Vienna, Austria. This Benedictine monastery, founded in 1089, was simply marvelous to behold. Its central cathedral proved to be one of the most ornate sanctuaries I have ever seen. We were lucky enough to enter the hallowed hall at the same time the Benedictine monks were conducting a service. This Baptist minister is quite unaccustomed to such intonations of worship, yet it was still quite moving. However, the dazzling Baroque decorative style of the cathedral and the Gregorian type chants of the monks were not the most evocative aspect of the visit. At the entrance to the facility there were steps that had the German inscription, “Ankommen, und du wirst höre.” In English, this means, “Arrive and you will hear.” This struck me as a very fascinating phrase. This concept was driven home as we were progressing through the visitors museum. Passing through a dimly lit corridor, there was a sound piped in of a monk quietly uttering the word, “höre,” meaning Hear or Listen. If you are familiar with German pronunciation, you would grasp that this word is quite weird sounding to the English speaking ear. It caused a very eerie feeling, but at the same time caused me to recognize the intention of this setting. “Listen” is the first word of the Rule of Benedict and the order’s desire to create a sacred community. The visitor’s center and the abbey itself was demonstrating the instruction to come and incline one’s ear to hear and listen to the voice of God in sacred devotion and meditation in response to the grandeur and sacredness of the beautiful Abbey setting.
Thinking upon this phrase and the instruction to listen as I have gladly returned to the hustle and bustle of normal life here in my home of Weakley County, my mind turns away from the pomp and the grandeur of the edifices that I saw that day in Melk. Instead, my mind dwells upon the benefit of listening to the Lord. Friends, as an evangelical church leader I believe wholeheartedly that we do not need grand cathedrals and monkish living to properly listen to God. Yet, we do need to “arrive” somewhere or in a particular way to properly “listen” to the Lord. That place of arrival is not necessarily a church or physical location where one must travel to from home. Rather, it is an attitude. It is an intention. It is a place that can be in one’s very own home or any place during the day. As Jesus taught us, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
God calls us to an attitude of listening, always, everywhere we go. James 1:19 says, “Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Our devotion need not be declarative to the multitudes to prove our piety and righteousness, for God honors the one who seeks Him in secret. May we be quick to show love, kindness, and compassion, sharing the good news of Jesus the Messiah, and be slow to outward expressions of piety that makes the most of our own facades of righteousness at the expense of others’ sinfulness. Be like the tax collector who utters some distance away from the attention of the crowd, “Lord, have mercy upon me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13)
We not only arrive and listen to God in our prayers, but we also arrive when we open up His Word. When we read the Word of God, we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds” so that we might be able to hear and listen to the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) So many of us are scrambling trying to figure out God’s will for our lives only to be unable to hear it because our ears are more inclined to listen to the deafening din of the world and conform to it rather than yearning to hear from the Lord in His Word.
Finally, Christians truly “arrive” and “listen” to God when that listening turns to action, following the teaching of Christ. Jesus equated the wise man who built his house on the rock as one who “hears these words of Mine and does them.” (Matthew 7:24) It is simply not good enough to travel to the most ornate cathedral or monastery in the world, listen to God in the midst of splendor, and then go home and do nothing the Bible instructs us to accomplish for God’s glory in our lives. That is a futile endeavor. God calls us to an active faith (James 2:14-17)! Therefore, it is more profitable for us to take time each day to go to our own secret place and dive into God’s Word, then allow the Spirit of God to convict us to apply that Word to our lives and then live out that instruction each and every day. Therefore, you arrive when you are confronted by the truth of God’s Scripture, and you allow it through active listening and receiving to transform your life. Arrive and you will hear!
-This article was published in the 6/14/2022 edition of the Weakley County Press, Martin, TN.