“Hearing the Vision” 1 Samuel 3: 1-10                  Jan. 18, 2009


Mothers are fond of telling their talkative children: "God gave you two ears and only one mouth, so that you would listen twice as much as talk!" Perhaps that truism has been forgotten. (Be slow to speak and quick to listen)
 
It's not as though there's a lack of audible sounds that stream hourly through our hearing. In fact, one can hear voices everywhere. Elevators announce the floor; greeting cards now speak their message; the answering machine tells us who's calling.

Samuel's vision of God, in good Israelite tradition, begins with a word. Nearly all the Old Testament prophets speak in this form of mixed metaphor, identifying a divine vision with the spoken divine word. Samuel's eyes are opened only to the extent that his ears are open. Samuel runs back and forth between his bed and Eli's, trying to obediently answer what he believes to be his master's call.
 
After the third call, Eli acts as mentor for Samuel one last time by instructing him to go lie down and wait to hear the voice again. This time, Eli counsels, don't jump up and run around, but remain still and answer, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (v.9).

Nearly three centuries ago, Soren Kierkegaard said that if he were a doctor and were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, he would prescribe silence. // For even if the Word of God were proclaimed, Kierkegaard said, it would not be heard or heeded, for there is too much noise and busyness in our world.

Ever since the "boob tube" replaced the "squawk box" as our favorite form of entertainment, we have increasingly made hearing a second-rate sense.  "Seeing" is believing. "Look" before you leap. "Watch" your back.

The biblical way forward is not one that "looks" before it leaps. It is, rather, one that listens that "you may live" (Isaiah 55:3). The ears are indeed "the gateway to the soul."

 
"Be still, and know that I am God!" (Psalm 46:10). "In quietness and in trust shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15). "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3, KJV).
 
Why is hearing so important? Paul said in Romans 10:17 that "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." (LOGOS: the spoken Word that reveals Christ's divinity.)

We often talk and hear about the beauty of God's Creation, but the sounds of God have revealed the much about the divine. We have only to open the Word to Genesis 1 to find that God is sound. Creation was a speech event. Creation is sound. "And God said . . ." brings all of creation into being. Only after God had spoken / and the listening void was filled / did God see and say that it was good.
 
The biblical account of Creation suggests that all matter had to "listen up" to God's creative voice in order to take on the form and function intended by the Creator. God created the world from sound. The world sounds back praises to God.
Psalm 29 makes this explicit: "The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,. . . The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty" (3,4). (Other references, "creation cries out," and "stones praising God."

 
 
Today, cellular biologists find themselves concurring with this ancient idea. As biological beings, basically you and I are "dancing energy." Not only does all of creation around us hum with the sounds of life, your genes, your liver, your brain waves, every one of your cells vibrates. The laws of resonance apply: Anything that vibrates sympathetically responds to vibrations, even the most infinitesimal vibrations we have yet to measure. Cosmic vibrations are everywhere.

Music is at base a set of vibrations called the harmonic series--so argued composer/ conductor Leonard Bernstein. Certain harmonic forms create and connect with certain emotions and moods and personalities. For example: People feel they are "in tune with each other"; "on the same wavelength"; "harmonious." Other times there is disharmony.
 
Emily Dickinson stated “The world is not a conclusion; a sequel stands beyond, invisible, as music, but positive, as sound.”

 
The church can present a more biblically based witness to the world if it stresses listening at least as hard as it stresses looking. Instead of squinting at the future, the church should keep its ears cocked; trying to pick up the soundtrack God is playing for the church's 21st century mission.
We have to hear better before we can see better. We have to move from vision to vibration.

Novalis was right: "Every disease is a musical problem." Disease occurs when the vibrations of one's being are out of harmony with oneself, with others, with God.
 
The discord that jars our culture is a symptom of the greatest disease we currently suffer--the most serious epidemic we now face. This disease is "harmonic clash"--a condition we experience when we find the rhythm of our souls out of harmony with the resonance of God's universe.

 
Getting in tune with God and with each other is the real challenge that confronts the 21st-century church. We don't need to "see" any more clearly or to "envision" any new pathways. What we need is to use the acute sense of hearing so divinely developed within every cell of our being to listen; listen to God, and listen to each other.

 
The "ear-gate" is so much more developed and sensitive than our "eye-gate." Hearing has been created to act as the natural conduit of connection between the Creator and all creation. Our sense of hearing, our listening ability, was designed so that human beings may get in tune with the divine.

It took both Eli and Samuel, both the experienced and the inexperienced servants of God, three times before they were able to sit and hear God's Word. Listen before you speak.


 
John's gospel identifies Jesus as the Logos, the Word, that which must be heard. Jesus as Logos acts as a tuning fork to the Creator, the Eternal. If we want to get our own lives in tune with God, it must be by listening to Christ's frequencies / and then matching the resonance of our actions and attitudes to Jesus' pitch.
 
Jesus is "God's perfect pitch." Any chance the world may have of achieving a new state of harmony depends on our willingness to hear, first Christ, and then each other.

 
Often we hear well enough, but there's too much of life's hullabaloo, too much internal cerebral noise or external doings, to listen carefully. Communication specialists call this "noise," and it comes in a variety of forms.
 
Perhaps we do not hear what someone is saying to us because of cultural noise. We can't relate to their cultural background, and we're irritated at the heavily inflected accent that makes it difficult to understand him or her, so we shut the person off completely.

Perhaps we turn a deaf ear to people because of environmental noise. The room is so hot and stuffy; it is difficult to keep listening. Soon we give up and allow our minds to wander off.

We may turn off hearing because of sociological noise. We are in a different social place than our speaker, and we have difficulty connecting with him or her on the same level, so our thoughts drift.

We may turn off because of emotional noise. We are so stressed that there is no point in even attempting to listen or be in conversation.

We may turn off because of intellectual noise. We so strongly disagree with what the speaker is saying that we simply shut down and refuse to listen further.

The point is that there is nothing wrong with the physical hearing apparatus, our ears, but there is often psychological noise which prevents us from hearing. Nor is there anything wrong with the spiritual inner ear which God has given us, but there is a problem with our ability or desire to filter out distracting noise that prevents us from hearing the Spirit of God.

Careful and attentive listening to the Good News of God, to the voice of God spoken to us, is what Jesus had in mind when he often enough asks us, "Do you have ears [to hear], and yet fail to [listen]?" (Mark 8:18).

What did Samuel do? He spoke just seven simple words of prayer, "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." It's a request that God help you to hear what he has to say -- hear his still, small voice among the many other competing voices in a sound-saturated society. It's a conscious and concerted effort to tune out the distracting babble of billions of fellow beings, and tune in the divine wave length of Almighty God.
 
Just as Eli helped Samuel to hear God clearly, it is a prayer that you and I and our fellow believers will be able really to listen to the Lord, and determine together what he is calling his people to do, and to be, today.

Virtually everybody and anybody can hear God's voice, but few choose to listen.
 
 
Let us pray:    O God, never let us close our minds to the varied ways in which you can reach us. Grant us great expectations, openness and vigilance, that we may say, "Speak, LORD, for your servant hears." Amen.

 
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
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