I am sitting in the Coffee Shop in Christchurch in Jerusalem. Julia is queueing up for coffee and cake. I am sitting in a comfortable easy chair resting my tired legs after walking half way round the walls of this amazing city. I am feeling quite relaxed and mellow. Our time in Israel-Palestine is drawing to a close, and I am reflecting on all the things we have seen and done and learned during our month here. There is a lot of activity going on around me – people queueing for coffee, or sitting at tables chatting away, or walking around looking for seats – but none of this really disturbs me. I am glad to be sitting in a comfortable seat after all the walking. I am anticipating the coffee and cake that will be with me shortly. I am basking in the sheer joy of having had this wonderful opportunity to be here in the Holy Land for a whole month, and having received so much as a result of being here.
Suddenly I am aware of a very distinctive voice. It has a deep, melodic resonance to it. It is so different to the cacophony of other voices all around me. It takes me a couple of minutes to locate the source of this wonderful voice that has an amazing musical tone to it, even though it is speaking not singing. Eventually I manage to join voice to person. It belongs to a very ordinary looking man indeed – not very tall, slightly built, not particularly attractive to look at – but what a voice! It is a voice that, at one and the same time, draws you to it, compels you to listen, and in an inexplicable way does you good on the inside as you listen. I can’t help myself. As this man is speaking I just have to listen. When Julia arrives back at our cosy spot in the corner I ignore her – I don’t even realise that she has returned – even the presence of the much anticipated coffee and cake doesn’t distract me from listening to this marvellous voice.
As I think of this man with this remarkable voice I ponder the fact that in the midst of our ‘crowded world’ there is a ‘voice’ – a remarkable voice – that we all can hear if we take time to listen?! Jesus spoke on one occasion of people who would become ‘familiar with his voice’ or who would come to ‘listen’ to his voice (John 15:16). It is noticeable that the majority of people in the Christchurch Coffee Shop are apparently too busy to appreciate this wonderful voice – they are too busy queueing up at the counter, searching for seats, eating and drinking, talking to each other or chatting on their mobile phones. Just like so many in Jesus’ day who heard him speak, saw what he did, but completely failed to recognise who he was or the vital importance of what he had to say. They simply ‘didn’t recognise him’ (John 1:10). Just like so many of us today really – too busy to take time out to listen for God’s voice? And yet, how much we do need to listen to what God has to say to us through Jesus? How much we need, like Mary of Bethany, to take time out from the demands of the day, albeit for just a few moments, and simply ‘sit at Jesus’ feet listening to what he has to say’ (Luke 10:39). Hopefully there are at least a few other people here in this Coffee Shop who are equally fascinated by this man’s voice as I am … and who are equally fascinated by the words of Jesus!?
As I sit reflecting in this way I am also reminded that although we ourselves may simply be ‘ordinary people’ with nothing special to commend us, other than our simple faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, we too still have a voice. Part of being a Christian is that we are called to ‘hold forth the word of life’ to others (Philippians 2:16) – indeed to ‘speak the very words of God’ (1 Peter 4:11). This does not mean being ‘shouty Christians’ but speaking with a deep, melodious, interesting, and attractive voice … just like this man in the Christchurch Coffee Shop.
As I continue to reflect, this very ordinary man with the amazing voice eventually leaves. I hear his voice as it disappears in the distance. I want to get up and run after him. I have so many questions I want to ask him: Who are you? What do you do with your life? What was that you were saying to your friends … I only managed to catch bits of your conversation? Where did you get your wonderful voice? But it is too late – I can’t get through the crowd, my old legs won’t move fast enough to catch up – and by the time we leave Christchurch Coffee Shop he is nowhere in sight! I am reminded of an old poem about Jesus seeking to speak to us:
He came to you, for in is gentle voice he’d much that he would say –
Your ears were tuned to earth’s discordant note and so – he went away.
He came, and in his hand he had a task that he would have you do.
But you were occupied with other things, and so you missed that too.
He would have touched you, and his touch could thrill, and give you quickening power –
But earthly things enveloped, and you could not feel him in that hour?!
Or can we? I came away from my unexpected reflection over coffee and cake, grateful that God still speaks today, grateful that Jesus still walks with us on life’s journey, grateful that if we are prepared to listen he still has something helpful, perhaps challenging, to say to us today.