Do you ever feel like Crocodile Dundee in New York, greeting people in the town and getting no response? People with their hand-held devices, headphones and that glazed expression, unseeing, inward-looking, on their faces? They ignore your cheerful “Good morning” and seemingly go through life with two of their senses switched off.
We complain so often, and rightly, that the pace of life nowadays is frantic and frenetic and everything is so noisy, isn’t it? But isn’t increased noise part of the price we pay for progress?
Take grass-cutting, I remember hearing the regular gentle swishing noise of ‘the Swinging Sisters’, as they wielded their bamboo poles cutting the grass in our camp in Malaysia. Cylinder mowers were next with their regular whirr-whirr, but then the modern petrol or electrically powered mowers with their own particular din, together with strimmers, hedge-trimmers, blowers and shredders that took the place of shears and rakes.
But then, don’t we like noise? Can we live without the radio on in the background, our I-pods and Musak and those car stereo systems that, when on full volume, seem to alter the car’s suspension? And don’t we like to appear busy – in constant contact by phone, e-mail and social media with our business colleagues or family members?
If there is a reduction in numbers of people attending Church services, I don’t think it’s because people have come to any reasoned conclusion against the Christian faith. Convinced sceptics, agnostics and atheists are a tiny minority. The real reason is that in the midst of all the hustle and bustle there’s no quiet space left for thinking out spiritual matters. God is just crowded out. We give ourselves no chance at all of knowing God, because we don’t, deliberately, allow time to be still.
Here we are, approaching the peak holiday time when we ought to be thinking of ways to recharge our batteries and relax – remember that phrase from Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God.”? It was originally aimed at Israel’s enemies, telling them to back off from attacking Israel and to realise that the God of Israel was the only true God to be worshipped by everybody. Nowadays we understand the phrase to be more of a command to us to emulate Elijah and go to a remote cave to find God, not in earthquake, wind and fire but in the still, small voice.
So, is your holiday going to be one at the end of which you’ll be looking forward to coming back to Faringdon’s normal life for a rest?
I do hope not! Jesus gave us all an example in making time to get away from the crowds to recharge his soul’s batteries in the presence of God. We too should do the same, whether it’s an hour at a service on a Sunday or a few minutes for prayer here and there in our normal day, set aside to spend solely with God, to give ourselves the chance to ‘hearken’ to that still small voice.
I used the word ‘hearken’ because my dictionary tells me it means, ‘to listen with compliance or sympathy,’ or, even better, ‘to listen as an eavesdropper.’ So please do give yourselves the chance to be really with-it in the holiday period, and thereafter, by ‘stilling-out’ and eavesdropping on God.