Today I am struck by the way all the places and things in which the poet has heard God’s voice seem to pile up together, creating a sort of cacophony of imagery. Everything from rocks to chainsaws resounds with the voice of God, suddenly present and no longer silent.
But I wonder whether what has changed is not so much that God suddenly speaks, as that the hearer suddenly listens – really listens, attentively listens, receptive to what they may hear – and hears what has been there all along: the presence of God in every aspect of creation. Perhaps it is not so much that God does not speak and then suddenly God does, as that we do not hear and then suddenly we do.
I enjoy R.S. Thomas’ use of the word ‘vernacular’. The vernacular is often something you have to become attuned to, when you enter a new context or move to a new area. When I moved to Birmingham, I had to learn a new vernacular – the first time someone told me to “go left at the island” it took me a while to realise they meant what I would call a roundabout. And becoming a Christian has also required tuning in to a particular vernacular, in which all sorts of words – ‘offering’, ‘grace’, ‘saving’, ‘word’ – acquire a layer of meaning they did not have before.
God speaks, as Carys Walsh puts it, “in myriad ways” in and through the world we inhabit. One of the tasks of the Christian life is to cultivate the attitude of attentive listening, and willingness to hear and receive words which may be unexpected or disruptive, which enables us to tune in to God’s vernacular.
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’.