Listening for Crickets

“A friend of mine attended a Christian pastor’s conference in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The participants, gathered from across North America, included one Native American pastor who was on is first trip to a major metropolitan city. During a lunch break the Native American pastor took a walk outside with one of his colleagues. As they stretched their legs along the busy sidewalk, the pastor suddenly stopped, turned to his companion and said, ‘Do you hear that?’ the friend paused and considered the bustling noise of the city. ‘Hear what?’ he replied.
“Planted along the downtown sidewalk was a small row of tress. At the base of each tree was a circle of flowers. The pastor walked over to one of the trees, knelt down, reached beneath one of the floral clusters, then stood and opened his hand, revealing a small black bug. ‘It’s a cricket.’
“Dumbfounded, his friend replied, ‘How could you possibly hear that?’ The Native American pastor reached into his pants pocket, took out a handful of coins, and threw them into the air. As the coins hit the cement, people from all directions stopped and looked down. The pastor turned to his companion and said, ‘It depends on what you’re listening for.’
“In the New Testament Jesus identifies his followers not as those who hold orthodox beliefs or embody moral purity. Jesus says his followers are those who have ‘ears to hear’ (Mark. 4:23) -those who walk with heads tilted, straining to hear the voice of the ‘good shepherd’ (John 10:14). Jesus claims that those who know how to listen will one day hear the voice of the Beloved and will overcome death (John 5:25).
“Sadly, the Christian church is losing its capacity to listen. we forget what it means to sit still, to be silent, and to wait until we hear the voice of the One who calls us by name. We’re losing our capacity to be surprised and amazed by what we hear. We’ve become a church more responsive to the predictable clinking sounds of the marketplace than the surprising still, small voice of God. Instead of heeding the call to ‘be still before the Lord, and wait patiently,’ we ‘fret’ and worry and ‘plot’ (Psalm 37). Driven by our own fearful voices we run ahead of grace, frantically seeking a plan, a strategy, a formula for securing a Christian life. A culture that no longer listens to God becomes increasingly noisy. Every idea must be exploited, every insight publicized, every sermon downloaded, every passing thought blogged and posted. We live in a time when everyone is talking at once -a time when the truth isn’t hidden, but drowned out in a sea of irrelevance.”
-(Mark Yaconelli (2007), Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p 17-18)
While this book is directed to American-Evangelicals (primarily), I see within the Episcopal Church, which has much more of a tradition of contemplative worship and Daily Prayer, that we too have been so distracted by the “marketplace” of ideas and ideologies that overwhelm not only our ability to listen to one another, but to listen to the still, small voice – to sense and feel the thrilling of God’s voice.