One evening in late September last year, I settled into our couch and clicked on Amazon Prime searching for “RBG.” It is the documentary about the second woman named to the United States Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She had died the week prior, and I wanted to spend some time digging deeper into her life. I was also trying to get my head around yet one more loss in 2020.
It was a beautiful film about the exceptional life and vocation of a woman and the first justice to become a pop-culture phenomenon. As I scrolled through my email recently, trying to clean out my inbox, I found a message to myself from that September night containing her words from the documentary:
“When I am at an opera, I get totally carried away. I don’t think about the case that’s coming up next week or the brief I’m in the middle of. I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the music and the drama. The sound of the human voice, it’s like an electric current going through me.”
Lately, I have found myself listening to music videos of concerts and other performances at night while I work or just rest. I miss live music, concerts, large gatherings of people who passionately sing together to the music that moves their collective souls.
“The sound of the human voice, it’s like an electric current going through me.” Yes, it is. We feel this in live music, but we also can feel this in the familiar voices in our lives.
Whose voice is most recognizable to you? Whose voice calls you back to your true self? Whose voice has the ability to calm you? Stop for a moment and think about this. Maybe close your eyes and imagine that person standing in front of you. Give thanks for them and their voice.
During the Easter season in my church tradition we read about Jesus as the good shepherd from the gospel of John. One of the characteristics of the good shepherd is that he knows his sheep, and they will listen to him. The good shepherd’s voice is one that his sheep yearn for, want to listen to. This provides comfort in my tradition to so many.
It can also be disruptive to listen to Jesus. Yes, he comforts and protects; he is also love and hope. His words and life stir our souls and bodies into action. He constantly crossed conventional boundaries in his day to listen and learn from those different than himself. His actions made room for many voices to be heard at the table and included in his ministry. His invitation was clear on several occasions:
“Come and see.”
“Love your neighbor.”
It occurs to me that taken together, these offer us a recipe for engaging the complicated world in which we live. A world where many voices compete for our attention but do not often make room for our voice. A world where we do not listen as deeply to each other as we could.
In perhaps the most popular version of the Easter morning story, Mary Magdalene has a conversation with the risen Jesus outside the empty tomb. She thinks he is the gardener until he finally calls her by name, “Mary.” She turns to him and responds, “Rabbouni” or Teacher. A sign that she is both known by him and knows him.
It is the intimate nature of calling her by name that wakes her up to the fact that he is risen and continues to draw her in to the call on her life. Her response is to mobilize, to move into action and tell the other disciples what she has experienced.
“The sound of the human voice, it’s like an electric current going through me,” said Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This can happen when music touches our soul, and it can also happen when we step beyond the conventional boundaries of our complex world and lives to listen to and make room for each other – friends and strangers.
“Come and see.”
“Love your neighbor.”
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is a United Methodist minister and college chaplain who lives in Oxford, Georgia with his spouse and 8-year-old.