Cacophony. What a good word. What a good word to describe the constant barrage of noise that seeks our attention in our culture. It describes the harsh noise created by a mixture of sounds that, for one reason or another, do not blend well.
Cacophony is a good word because, left alone, many of the individual sounds offer beauty and wisdom. These sounds, on their own, may inspire joy and reflection. But when those sounds become competitors for attention, such goodness is often obscured in the voluminous marketplace of ideas.
How can we listen in the midst of such noise pollution? And to what, or to whom, do we listen?
Often, I forget how easy it is to unplug from at least some of the noise. Our TVs, computers, phones, tablets, radios, magazines, newspapers, books, and anything else we consume with our minds can be turned off. Can be ignored. We can turn away.
But we don't. Why?
Because, I think, we are looking for something, or someone, worth listening to, but we get lost in the cacophony, and follow the shiniest objects or the path of least resistance. Or at least, I know I do all to often.
Lent offers us an incredible opportunity to listen by encouraging us to fast from certain things. I have the wonderful opportunity to spend this week of Lent with students from the University of South Carolina in ministry alongside Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands. In particular, we have the opportunity to work hard with the people of St. Croix, and to embrace time away from the noise that so often gets in the way of us truly listening, and truly finding someone with something worthwhile to say.
Throughout Lent, God is speaking, and in those most precious moments, God's voice cuts the cacophony that we might hear the words that we truly need to hear, that we might listen to the one thing that makes sense of the cacophony, for in the midst of the cacophony, God has something to say: "It is finished." The cacophony's power is no more, for instead, the one Word that makes any sense is speaking life into all of creation.
I hope that, somewhere in the midst of this Lent, we may all find ways to unplug, to get away from the cacophony, and to hear the Word that cuts through through the cacophony. Tonight, I am thankful for the opportunity to listen here, with a group of students who speak this word to me, and for a God who speaks to us beyond the noise.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.