Hearing His Voice

A Voice to be Heard, an illustration by Grace Ellen Schiel

A Voice to be Heard, an illustration by Grace Ellen Schiel

“I turned to see the Voice”

I had read these six words in this same context before, but this time I stopped and read them again … and again. I can’t explain why it happened this time, but the words became crystal clear — even profound in their meaning. These six small words in the first chapter of the book of Revelation unexpectedly opened a new understanding for me. Suddenly, I realized the meaning of Jesus’ words in the 10th chapter of Romans, verses 17-18:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world. (ESV)”

The voice of Jesus speaks through the word of Christ, and is only effective when we are able to understand the meaning — to “hear” to the very core of our souls.

So, what does this have to do with “Technology and the Congregation?”

In this article I mean to examine whether the means of presentation of the word of God affects its effectiveness? In other words, do the technological advances and devices we have today, which give us myriad ways to read, hear, see and otherwise experience the bible, diminish the likelihood of our having that sudden “epiphany” I experienced when I read those six small words from my traditional leather bible printed in two columns in small text on thin gold edged “bible” paper?

In the years since that “epiphany” experience there have been incredible technological advances in how the bible may be experienced. And yet those words, whether read in that traditional leather bound paper bible or on my smart phone with my bible “app” while I’m eating a Scholtzsky for lunch, still arrest me, and I re-examine my attentiveness to the message God has given us through his Word.

When I first began to use my smart phone to read scripture on Sunday mornings in our congregation of older, conservative members it was “noticed” immediately. After all, most had been carrying large, leather bound bibles their entire church lives. Their bibles are well-worn and carry page after page of margin notes and underlines. How could this guy’s phone carry the same word of God as the bible they had lived with for decades? It’s a valid question. Bibles become very personal over time and the very feel of well-worn leather and dog-eared pages can elicit an emotional, almost reverent connection before a single word is read. And reverence in the presence of the Word of God is something to which we should all aspire.

From the pulpit we are encouraged to read our bibles daily, to immerse ourselves in the word of God. But our society has changed. Mobility has become a priority. Is in this new-found mobility that the Lord has provided new ways through technology to be immersed in the Word throughout the day. I have a daily scripture delivered to me from each of two different sources via email. One is ready for me as soon as I start the day by reading my personal and business email. No, this is NOT a morning devotional. It is a brief one to several verses, usually readable in under a minute. But even this brief encounter can set the tone for the start of the day, and often is relevant to whatever my day holds for me.

In the middle of my day I’m often completely immersed in the day’s activities that I’m actually surprised when my smart phone beeps to let me know that an email has cone through and I should check it the next time I have a free moment. When I do take time to read email, I always find my noon scripture delivery from a different source.

For decades folks have been listening to tape-recorded sermons, audio bibles, hymns and more to stay connected with the word of God, each person in his own unique way. Mobile technology takes this to a completely new level allowing us to store hundreds of hours of digitally recorded audio either on the device itself or streaming it from “the cloud” directly to our personal earphones. Is today’s experience on these mobile phones any less moving to our souls than listening to a magnetic cassette tape though the speakers in our car? Probably not. After all, the same heart is seeking assurance and guidance either way. And, it is the condition of the heart that God sees.

So, what conclusions can we draw from all of this? Should we read our bible from a 4 inch smart phone screen or a 1,200 page family heirloom full of history, joy and tears? Is Jesus limited to one or the other or is He able to encounter us wherever we are, whatever we are doing?

For me, as I become more and more accustomed to having the bible with me at all times, in almost all places, it’s comforting to realize that God’s word is even more accessible and available than ever before. The screen size has become more or less invisible, and mostly irrelevant to the message. I am still affected by the words, “I turned to see the voice.”

Each of us is unique in how we experience the Word. The point is that we prepare our heart as we receive the Lord’s message for us in that particular place, at that particular time so that we, individually are able to “see the voice.”