The Noise Behind the Noise
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9)
I love Zoom. I know. I know. Nobody does. It is awkward and difficult. It drops calls with bad reception and obscures faces with blurry screens. And yet I still love it. I love all video calls. But not because the quality is great. And not because I think it is better than face to face. I would prefer a hot americano with a good friend at my favourite coffee shop any time over a video call. But I love video calls because they have wondrously brought us into the personal spaces of peoples’ lives. And as they talk I can’t help but to observe the background. And not the made up background that Zoom allows you to create, but rather the real life background. I love the kids running in the next room. I love the dog sitting on the couch just behind. And most of all, I love the sounds. Sounds inside and out. So many people film outside in an attempt to escape filming in the dreary light of our living rooms. And outdoors the world is alive. When the speaker, or preacher, is waxing eloquently, I love the colours and the sounds of God’s good creation. A sermon or devotion is a wonderful thing. But so is a songbird chirping its delight in the bright springtime sun.
I’m not usually that distracted of a person. In a church service I love to zero-in on the preacher and listen to the message being delivered. I read books, or write sermons, in noisy coffee shops, and drown out all the background noise. But there is something different about this time. I feel I have been provoked by God to listen in ways I might not have listened before. And so I am trying to slow down. To really listen. And to hear the message behind the message. To listen to the noise behind the noise.
Jesus was constantly encouraging His disciples to see and to hear what was less obvious to them. He would tell stories and parables, and while the disciples thought it was about one thing, He would need to redirect their attention to something else altogether. And then He would say, “He who has ears, let him hear.” It was Jesus’ enigmatic way of saying, “Try listening in ways that are attuned to God.” Jesus would oftentimes point out that we are prone to pursue personal interests, and in doing so, miss what God is doing and saying. But in the slowing, and the re-tuning, we can see and hear the words of God.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ most famous sermon. It is widely known and frequently quoted. And yet, I think it asks much more of our attention than we give. Jesus’ words ask us to sit and consider with great discernment in a process that takes more than a 5 minute morning devotional. In a type of summation of his teaching, Jesus said,
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt 7:24-25)
I have heard these words many times. I have studied them in commentaries. I have sung them as a nursery rhyme for kids. I have drawn pictures, seen videos, and heard sermons on this passage many many times. And yet, the words still stick out to me with a gravitas that demands my attention… “anyone who hears these words of mine.” And the exhortation is the same. I need to slow down, and listen.
Reflections for the Week:
- Ask yourself honestly, have you truly allowed yourself to slow down, rest, and listen in this strange new time.
- Find new ways to hear from God in old routines. Take a walk on a normal route, but look for 5 things that you have never seen before. Read a familiar passage in the Bible, but ask God to reveal something to you that you haven’t seen before.
- Slowly read the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5 – 7). Take time to reflect and ask God to help you “hear these words of mine.”