Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister




Listening and Healing

First Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 5, 2006



Matthew 13: 13-17

Rev. Dean Snyder


Prior to this day’s sermon, Rev. Snyder delivered a statement regarding House of Representatives bill, HR 4437, regarding immigration law. To read this statement, click here.




Here are just a few words to prepare our minds and our hearts for this Holy Communion and this season of Lent.  In the complicated thirteen chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus uses three simple verbs that I’d like us to focus on this Sunday…listen, understand, and be healed. 


These three verbs first spoken by Isaiah and then by Jesus are, I’ve been thinking this week, at the heart of our decision to become and to be a reconciling congregation.  Our decision can be summarized as a conviction that, rather than prejudge each other or anyone, we will try to listen to one another and to understand one another.  We are convinced that, if we are willing to do this, the divisions between us as a human family can eventually by God’s grace be healed. 


This is, of course, not easy or simple work because listening long enough and with enough openness to really understand another is a discipline that does not always come naturally to us, and we do not always do it well.  But it is our commitment as a congregation to learn how to listen and to understand rather than to judge in the hope that we will be healed as a community and as a society.


I would like to ask us this morning to turn this basic principle and practice – listen, understand, be healed – inward to the divisions and brokenness within our own selves.  Like the society of which we are part and like the church of which we are part, we too have divisions and brokenness within our own selves.  Carl Sandburg used to say, “There is a zoo in me.”  Perhaps the divisions and brokenness within us is actually the cause of the divisions and brokenness around us in society and church.  So let us apply these three words to our inward lives, to our spiritual lives.  Listen to our own selves.  Understand our own selves.  Be healed within our own selves.


The season of Lent is the cycle of the Christian year when we encourage one another to make space within our lives and to listen to God, sure, but also to listen to our own inner selves where it is that God most often speaks to us.  How often we understand little about what is inside our own hearts and spirits.  We spend enormous energy, most of us, avoiding listening to our own selves.  We have created a world where it is almost impossible to find space and time and quiet to listen to our own selves.


I struggled for quite a while as to what I would do as my discipline for the spirit and the season of Lent this year, and I came to the conviction that I wanted to give up something.  I wrestled with it and decided that I needed to give up sitcoms.  For the season of Lent, I will give up Seinfeld reruns.  I will give up Cheers reruns, which I must confess I still watch if I can find them.  And I will give up, I’m embarrassed to admit I watch them, even reruns of Friends. 


After a day of business and a day when you come home and inside of you there are things churning, after a day when there is pain and sadness and frustration churning inside of you, it’s so easy to turn on something that will be mindless as a way of avoiding listening to my own self.  However, if we do not listen to our own pain and sadness, we will also lose the capacity to listen and discover our own joy.  Like any addiction, mine to sitcoms is a way of avoiding listening to my own self.  It’s a way that I failed to come to the place where I might understand my own self and be healed.  Lent is a time for all of us to replace whatever it is we use in our lives to avoid attending and listening to our own selves with space and quiet and reflection.


To begin every season of Lent, on Ash Wednesday night, most clergy read an invitation to Christian discipleship and Christian discipline during the season of Lent.  What it emphasizes is self-examination that we as individuals and a people find space and time and quiet and place during this season for self-examination.  Self-examination means listening, listening to our own inner selves so that, of all things, we might not live this life failing to understand who we and what we are and confident that if we will listen and understand our very own selves, we will be healed from our brokenness and our dividedness – from the zoo in me and you.