the heart of the life of the Church

Assumed audience: Theologically-orthodox Christians, or folks interested in things that theologically-orthodox Christians think.

First, hearing the Word of the gospel demands a certain definiteness on the part of the Christian community. It demands, that is, that the Church be this community, the community of Jesus Christ, the community that keeps his Word and does not deny his name. Hearing his Word requires that the Church have a certain clarity of profile, a clear shape. The Christian community will function well when it is much absorbed by listening to its Scripture, seeking the voice of God there, without worrying too much about other voices to which it might attend. There has to be a certain focused intensity in the Church’s listening: Here, not there, we are to expect God’s address of us, and so here, not there, is where we will wait.

Second, and last, the Church’s hearing is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We are sinners; we do not know how to hear. Right hearing is not within the range of our competence. It’s given to us, given by the activity of God’s Spirit in which God opens the ears of the deaf, making it possible for us to become true hearers of God’s Word. If we hear because the Spirit makes it possible for us to do so, then at the heart of the life of the Church, and at the heart of its listening to the Bible, will be prayer — prayer for the coming of God’s Spirit, prayer in which the Spirit is invoked because he alone establishes us in the Word. What is the real mark of the Church of Jesus Christ? It’s that in everything we do-believing, celebrating, praising, interceding, proclaiming, suffering, listening — we make one prayer: Come, Holy Spirit.

 — Confronted by Grace: Meditations of a Theologian, John Webster