Listening, Being Present and The New York Philharmonic

A couple days ago the New York Philharmonic and its director, Alan Gilbert, were in the news--not so much for their music, but because they had to stop a concert--right at the end of Mahler's Symphony No. 9. At issue: a ringing cellphone. At the beginning of the concert, as I understand, a pre-recorded message from Alec Baldwin, even asked people to turn off their cell phones. (I also understand that the perpetrator of this faux pas had just gotten the phone newly from work and didn't know that an alarm was set on it.)

We've all been in movie theaters or concerts or meetings or other places when someone has forgotten to turn off their cell phone and it goes off in the middle of things. I've done it myself. It's easy to forget to do. And sometimes we need to be reached--if our kids have an emergency for instance.

But we've all probably been in theaters, concerts or meetings where someone continues to talk, ignoring everyone else around them.

Tonight's text at church was 1 Samuel 1 in which God calls to young Samuel, who is in the temple with Eli. God calls to Samuel during the night. Samuel wakes up, thinking that Eli is calling him, but Eli tells him to go back to bed because he hadn't called Samuel. After three times, Eli finally realizes that God is speaking to Samuel, so he instructs Samuel to respond to God.

God, ever so patient and gracious with giving us several chances, calls to Samuel once more.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

And God speaks to Samuel. Not just then, but the rest of his life.

God still speaks. But we must be listening to hear. We must be willing to be present and available to Him.

Continually having our cell phones on does not constitute "being present." More likely, having our cell phones or ipods turned off makes us more present to others.

But listening to God or to others involves just turning off technology. Being present is a posture we take. We are, as much as possible, available and ready when God or someone else desires to speak to us. We are aware of self, but not absorbed with self.

When Samuel responds to God, he does so with the label of "servant." That is the role He calls us to as well. Serving others--our calling and purpose--is living out our love, both for God and others. Being present is living out love.

This is why the Rule of Benedict begins with the word, "Listen." Benedict knew that for a community to thrive and to live out their commission of loving God and loving others, they needed to be present. Awareness of God, Respect for Others, Hospitality, Taking Counsel and Listening are all core values of Benedictine communities and new monastic churches. They were core values of Jesus, as well. These values take a posture of being present.

Turning off your cell phone shows consideration for others. Turning them your ear shows them love.

God desires our ear as well.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

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