What Happens When We Listen?
By: Rachel Lyons
Take a moment to think about all that you heard today. Voices, different languages, a sarcastic undertone, advertisements, songs on the radio, a political speech, a prayer you repeated to yourself, music on an elevator, an ambulance, car horns, birds chirping, rain drops, wind in the trees. Walk through your day and think about all that you heard today. Some sounds you probably heard and made it a point to remember, such as a loved one’s request or a troubling story on the news. Some sounds you probably heard and forgot about immediately, such as the blaring siren or the political ad that played five times in one hour. Yet you can recall these secondary sounds now if you pay attention. Some sounds you probably heard and cannot recall now, even though they are subtly shaping your environment, your thoughts, and your future choices. Especially within the context of various devices and outlets on phones, computers, billboards, advertisements, television, and so on, the constant cacophony of economic, political, and social messages sing and dance their way into our days moment by moment. These messages seep into us and wring out when we hum a tune from a commercial, or bring up a topic with a friend over lunch, or, even years later, when we choose brands and do not think twice about why we are dedicated to one type of soap over another. It just happens, we say. ‘Just’ seems inaccurate, though, both in the sense of recently occurred and in the sense of merely or only, simply. It doesn’t just happen, but the messaging is ongoing and incredibly powerful in shaping who we are, what we do, and how we feel. As someone who has grown up here in the United States, I have been hearing and absorbing and soaking up messages my whole life from a society that tells me to be competitive, to follow the rules, to buy objects to feel better, to take care of people who look and talk and think like me, and definitely to fear people who are different from me. In the first reading today, we see the apostles standing before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioning and interrogating them about teaching in Jesus’ name. They are going against the rules, they are caring for outcasts of society, they are listening to a different truth than what society’s messages are telling them. And so they are interrogated – and the apostles respond by stating, “We must obey God rather than men.” They say that because they are witnesses of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, they embrace the power of the Holy Spirit and can no longer follow the status quo. They can no longer do it. It is not an option, because they know different. They cannot go back to ignorance or denial. This is what happens when we truly listen to the still, small whisper of God with us. When we hear Christ in our neighbor. When we take the time to stop and shut out the noise of a day and open up to the voice of someone sharing their story. What would we hear if we placed our ears into alleyways, near the bottom of dried-up streams, on prison walls, on quiet hospital floors, in the soil of farmlands, in the midst of a protest, or in abandoned homes? What cries of the forgotten would we hear in those places and spaces instead of just focusing on the mainstream translation handed to us on a silver iPad? When do we decide to go back to the original texture of human connection? My prayer this week is for our church to call forth disciples who follow God’s word and God’s call for solidarity and compassion in the midst of messages that divide us. May we be one, may we be one, may we be one.
Rachel Lyons is the Director of Social Justice at Old St. Patrick’s Church.