A small electric ‘ping’; the silence was broken.
Once it was a knock at the door that brought news; then it was the shrill ‘Brrring Brrring’ of the telephone; now it’s a quiet, ping. Social media; [why is a collection of electrical impulses, called social? Can electrons socialise?] Social media announces it’s presence with a ping. Whatever the medium, the message is the same; somewhere, someone, wants to talk; or, more importantly, wants someone else to listen while they talk. Perhaps this little ping is an invitation – to listen.
What are you doing here Elijah? Remember last week’s reflection? Elijah is isolated. He has passed through sound and fury, then encountered the sound of silence. I wonder how that felt. However frightening noise can be, at least it signifies that we are not truly alone. When the phone never stops, the doorbell keeps ringing, the messages keep pinging; we long for a moment’s peace. When nothing comes, no one calls, all is quiet; we stare anxiously at silent phones, willing them to life. We dread the sound of silence more than the noise of fury.
Elijah had to learn to stand amidst this sound of sheer silence, bereft of friend and enemy alike. Silence, though, was but one more step on the road. Once all was silent God spoke: Why are you here, Elijah?’ It is only in this silence, that Elijah could truly listen to God and God’s first words were an invitation; tell me your story. God listened to Elijah’s tale. Then, and only then did God reply. God had a message for Elijah, but first God listened, God cared. In turn, having been listened to, Elijah listened and did as God said.
How good are we at listening? How well do we move beyond hearing, to understanding? If we can’t listen to our neighbour; who we can see and touch, who may be sat next to us; how will we ever be able to listen to God who we can’t see? (Compare with 1 Jn 4: 20). If we can’t listen to our neighbour, why should we expect our neighbour to listen to us?
In our noisy, but often lonely world somewhere, someone, wants to talk; wants someone else to listen. A friend, a family member, even a total stranger. Listening is how conversation begins. ‘Ping’, silence is broken, am I listening?
Rev’d Philip Payne The Notice Sheet for 28 August 22 can be found here