Pastoral Perspectives

Hello, It’s Me!

A few months ago, we took out our old discman and showed it to our children. They had no idea what it was and how it works. When we inserted the CD and played it over the earphones for them to listen, they were so excited and surprised to see such an old gadget still working. Older folks will remember the cassette tape, compact disc (CD), mini disc (MD), Walkman, Discman, and even iPod. Recently I saw an interesting video clip. In the video, the parents placed an old landline phone on the table and asked the children to come and try it. One by one, they all tried to dial the phone, but they did not succeed. The children were frustrated because they tried all possible ways but somehow, they were not able to dial the phone. They could not get through the connection.

Eventually one of the parents came and showed them how it works. There was a crucial step that the children had missed. For the call to go through, the first step is to pick up the receiver. Only then, one can dial the numbers and the connection will get through. The look on the faces of the children was priceless. It is the same procedure at the receiver’s end. To hear the voice of the caller, one must pick up the receiver.

This reminded me of the conversation between the prophet Eli and young Samuel found in 1 Sam 3. The Lord had called Samuel but he thought it was Eli and ran to him. When Eli realised that it was the Lord calling Samuel, he instructed him what to do, say and to listen. It is as if Eli was showing him how to pick up the receiver, respond and listen. Samuel obeyed and when the Lord called Samuel a third time, he responded accordingly. Verse 10 tells us, And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” If it was a phone, Samuel would have picked it up and said, “Hello, God, it’s me. Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Today, many of us don’t use landline phones anymore. Calls can be activated without even touching the screen. Siri or Alexa can do it for us. Or even our own voice can activate our calls. The way we communicate and connect with each other has changed so much in the last 20 years of my own life. With handphones, we no longer have to queue at phone booths to make phone calls. We all have our own connections and have come a long way.

During this pandemic, we have seen the power of technology. It has given us many resources and means to continue our work, ministry, studies, and worship services too. It has shaped how we connect with one another to a point where, as someone suggested, I wonder if we now expect more from technology and less from one another. We can get everything – just about everything online now; sermons, songs, prayers, food, clothing etc can be found online. The speed at which many things can reach us is amazing. Amazon even came up with an advertisement discouraging neighbours from asking milk from one another when they could just order online.

Given such advancement in technology, how are we connecting with one another? We have become so good at multi-tasking now that our attention span is also shorter and split all over the place. Children have become experts at splitting the screen to do many things while attending class too! So, it has also become challenging for us to sit still through meetings or worship services. For those of us who come to on-site service, we have the benefit of sitting through the service because there is no way we can fast forward the service or skip certain parts! But if we are so used to staying at home, the temptation to split the screen, to skip, to forward and to wander somewhere else is tremendous. This has huge implications in the way we connect with one another and with God.

When we meet up with one another, how are we faring? Are we able to connect at the level where we can share honestly and be there for one another? Technology does not have emotions and it can often misinterpret even what we say or write to one another. A wrong emoticon sent at the wrong time can cause disaster. Trust me, it has happened to me! Let’s not even get to typos- auto edit that has ruined some sombre messages to memes. Authentic relationship and communication can only happen if we take time to listen to one another attentively. It takes time and patience. When we speak with others, we expect to be heard. The same goes for the other person too. In other words, all our receivers must be switched on if we want to hear and be heard.

When we commune with God, we expect God to hear our cries too. The Bible is loaded with examples of how God is always there to listen to the cries of His children when they cry out to Him. But we may miss the point that it is God who speaks first. If we do not hear God’s voice first, we might struggle to get a good and clear connection because our receiver is not in listening mode. After every Whatsapp call, there is this message that will pop up on my screen- to rate the quality of the call.  There will be a few options. If we were to rate our connections with God, I wonder how we will fare. When I come to God, it is the opposite of what Eli told Samuel. It is often “Listen Lord, for I am speaking, praying, begging, crying…”

As we come to the close of the year, I pray that we will be able to come before the Lord and pay heed to what Eli reminded young Samuel to do. Let us wait upon the Lord, and when He calls, may we pick up our receivers and respond, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity

 And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory

(Songwriters: Keith Getty / Stuart Townend

Speak, O Lord lyrics © Thank You Music Ltd)

Pr Loliro Sani

November 14, 2021