Today in my speech class, my students did a mini-project on listening. They had to investigate the words listen, hear, attend, and harken, find where they are used in scripture, and give definitions in Greek and Hebrew. The result was a conversation about listening and how there are essentially zero examples of “listen” in the Bible that refer to passive listening. Every use involves action: obey, understand, remember, participate, DO.
In every liturgy, there is portion of an epistle and a portion of a gospel read. Preceding this reading is the statement by the clergy, “Wisdom, let us attend” (or sometimes, “Wisdom, let us be attentive” since I suspect most Americans don’t grasp what is being said with “attend”). In class today I realized that when they say that, they mean for the church body to pay attention and be active listeners when they read our most important texts. They are saying, “This is wisdom and you MUST understand, remember, and apply this text to your life so LISTEN!” I think something is actually lost when the clergy used the more colloquial “let us be attentive” because attending means more than just paying attention. It means moving to the 3rd and 4th levels of listening, understanding and remembering. I can pay attention without actually learning anything. I pray that next Sunday, I will be a much better attend-er. Glory to God for all things.