Scripture: One day as he saw the crowds gather, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down.  His Disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them. – Matthew 5:1-2

Theological thought: With all the various roles that Jesus filled during his earthly ministry, He was most famously known for teaching.  It is for this reason that he is often referred to as Rabbi, Rabbouni and teacher.  Even that his followers were called Disciples, suggests that they were assuming the role of students against his role of teacher.  Calling ourselves disciples means that we are assuming a position to learn.

Reflection: I think it’s interesting that Jesus is teaching his disciples here but he is also allowing anyone who wants to listen to do so.  In point of fact, Jesus is encouraging people to listen in to what he says to his disciples here just by the way he sets himself up: the side of a mountain is a natural amphitheater.  His voice could potentially travel a quarter mile without excessive effort.  It reminds me of a time when a bunch of us were sitting around eating out and I got into discussion about Job with someone at our table.  Without realizing it, I ended up speaking louder and louder until it seemed like we were shouting at each other.  Someone at the table nudged our pastor and said “shouldn’t you tell them to quiet down a bit?”  Our pastor replied “Not really.  Everyone else is listening.”  And looking around the restaurant it was true: everyone around us was listening to our conversation.  In that instance we didn’t have anyone come up to us and ask us questions, there were no amazing salvations that day, but there have been plenty of times in which an overheard conversation did lead to something more.  Jesus is doing the same thing: even as he instructs those who are closest to him in the deep and hard things of life, he’s making space for anyone else who wants to listen and potentially join in.  I as a reader am then forced to ask myself, “where am I sitting?” Am I sitting with the disciples, eager to learn more?  Am I at the front of the crowd, knowing there is more but not quite understanding?  am i at the rear of the crowd asking myself what in the world is going on? And then the really hard part comes: what do I do, when I hear Jesus?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for speaking.  Thank you for your voice and thank you that your voice carries.  Make my heart receptive to your words, and show me the way to come closer to you, to sit nearer to your feet.

Practice: Active listening is becoming a lost art in a world that in becoming increasingly more interested in self-expression.  To practice this, and to help attune our hearts to the voice of Jesus, try spending 15-20 minutes a day in complete silence and just listen.  Recognize mental distractions and stray thoughts for what they are, then push them to one side and resume in aural and mental silence, waiting for the slightest whisper from the Lord.