In church last month I shared a poem by Mary Oliver titled Song of the Builders. In the poem the speaker tells us that they are out walking on a hill in the summertime when they stop to sit down “to think about God.” While contemplating God, the speaker notices a cricket, a busy cricket, doing exactly what crickets do, in this case moving grain and, in its own cricket way, “building the universe.”
This poem first made me think about camp, because it is at summer camp that we are often drawn out into the hillsides and invited to contemplate the world as it presents itself—perfect and busy and quiet and divine—all at once. The poem next made me think of how important yet how simple the work of building the universe really is.
During the Children’s Message that week we talked about how God had created crickets to do exactly what crickets do. We talked about how God has equipped them with exactly what they need for their work—with ‘legs for hopping’ as young Dylan so rightly pointed out. We realized that although crickets might seem small, they are in fact perfectly sized in and for creation. And, as God’s beautiful world unfolds itself through generation after generation in chronological time, we realize that the cricket has its own cricket-y and vital part to play.
As God has made crickets, God has made us, too. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us to go out into the world as apostles, teachers, and witnesses of the good news. When we go out from the church in order to spread the love of God, we are told to ‘take nothing with us,’ a reminder that with or without shoes or sandals or bags or coats, God has equipped us in our humanness with everything we need to fully contribute our part to the building of the kingdom of God.
As we look ahead and continue our transition to become a thriving church for the next generation—and the next—I ask you to become a people with ears for listening and eyes to see. I invite you into a new spiritual practice, a practice of noticing and listening to your neighbor. I invite you to trust that God will equip you for this listening work as surely as God has equipped the cricket. Our legs for hopping become ears for listening, eyes for noticing, and a heart to understand and remember what we learn.
‘Operation Cricket’ is an operation of outreach we can do together. It’s simple. Get into the practice of noticing your neighbors, whether it is a person standing next to you in line, or persons or homes in your neighborhood. Do not judge, simply notice. In addition to noticing things, practice the art of listening. Engage the person next to you in line in a conversation, or visit a neighbor, or business owner, and begin with a ‘hello.’
Listening is a practice of making room. Prepare yourself to learn something new. Ask someone about their life. Ask them how long they’ve lived in Camas or Washougal, if they like it here, what places they have visited, and/or what their dreams are. Say ‘uh huh’ a lot, and ‘mmm,’ and ‘tell me more.’ Say ‘I’ve wondered about that.’ It’s okay if they say a lot or don’t say much. Just listen, hang in there, it’s all good. Listen and listen more. And take notice, because as you practice listening, you will notice that the Spirit bubbles up.
Blessings to you!
Image credit: Grasshopper on Wheat by CIMMYT 2011 Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0