Learning is a complex phenomenon of human experience. We have our senses, our thinking, our feeling and intuitive capacities to process the data of life. Some naturally become specialists in a field of endeavour. The elite ones flavour their knowledge with those other capacities, of insight, maturity and wisdom. All the time we are seeking to enhance the quality of our experience. We humans all search for different ways to enhance our life. Sadly, the worst ways are typified by diabolical drug taking, and so the list goes on through to the highly inspiration, learner, leader, adventurer, carer etc.
Many find another source of knowledge built upon a belief in the spiritual reality of life, that which we ground in the being of the divine. We believe that this is the ultimate source of life and that we live in the realm of this divine reality.
The church has taught that the divine reality of life is constantly seeking to reveal deeper and fuller understanding of life to humans. Much of it is through the natural means of learning. The daily interaction with the world, a world laid out before us for our delight and exploration. In the midst of this learning we find ourselves presented with moments of transformative insight and we celebrate the enlightenment.
Technically we speak of general or natural revelation. But another step transforms the picture even further. Some humans are unique in their capacity to walk in tune with this divine. Not that they are better. Moses was a murderer but still able to guide his people through their oppression and wilderness wondering.
Many others would appear to have enlightened their community with special insights and direction. Their message has a special ring to it, a ring that seems to resonate with what many perceive to be a truth beyond the common. When they speak in the noisy bustling market place, their voice is like someone ‘crying out in the wilderness…The wilderness of a mundane scramble in our bustling suburbs or city.
JEAN THE BAPTIST
This was the way scriptures referred to John the Baptist. Echoing the same message of Isaiah he came to guide his people. John the Baptist is spoken of as the great prophet preceding Jesus, the last of a special line of insightful servants that spelt out the mind of God in a spiritually tired and disinterested community.
A CROWDED HUMANITY
Our record of Jewish history some two thousand years ago spoke of a comparatively small nation.
It was a small population of humanity. Those called prophets were few in number and can be read about easily in the accounts of history. At the turn of the third millennia our planet is awash with people. Some 95% of people who have ever lived are presently living today.
Knowledge is abundant. Our megacities are multitudinous. No one voice is adequate.
But the need is just as great, in fact even more so. Our prophetic voices may come unexpectedly and from remote corners of the earth. But do we listen?
Today most do not even believe in the divine let alone think we can detect the voice of truth. On this second week of Advent we have told the story of John the Baptist because we are being asked to reflect on the way God has spoken by his prophets. We are being challenged to ask if we are really prepared to listen for the wise prophetic utterances of our age.
To hear we must listen. And to listen with discernment to the whispers of the divine from amidst the raucous cacophony of deafening noise, we ourselves must learn to listen with a quality of discernment. As Elijah found, it was in the still small voice or profound silence following the earthquake that he discerned Gods voice.
I love the story of Samuel serving the priest Eli in the temple. 3 times he heard his name called and immediately got up from bed to attend to Eli. Three times Eli claimed he had never spoken. At last he told Samuel it must have been the Lord. Go back and listen.
I also love this story because it is in the depth of night time that the voice had come. Out of the depths of nights deepest darkness there is little to interfere with profound utterances. I guess that’s why many suggest we should take our dreams seriously. Morton Kelsey has written a book on dreams that he has entitled, ‘God’s forgotten language.’
Fortunately many across society are realizing what we have lost sight of and are turning to a new search to develop their spiritual listening. People exploring Meditation are sprouting like mushrooms.
As Simon and Garfunkel modernized the practice, ‘the sounds of silence.’
Life is a great teacher. Sadly we stop learning many of its ultimate riches way before we have we have barely started the very purpose of life’s journey. The call of the prophets is not merely the utterance of wisdom, but most importantly the call to learn the way of listening to the fullness of the spirit.