Native Tongues

Native Tongues

June 04, 2014
Written by Steven Liechty

Vince Amlin

"And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language...about God's deeds of power." - Acts 2:6-8,11b

The best birders bird by ear. On a recent trip to Arizona, my guide kept her windows rolled down. Without warning, she would spin the car onto the opposite shoulder and declare, "Lucy's Warbler!" Her keen hearing led us to the perch of a Western Screech Owl, whose call sounds like a bouncy ball dropped on a tabletop. Her ears sent us wandering up and down a hillside, never quite locating the Greater Pewee mocking us with his five-note song," José…Maria."

I am still new to birds, but I am starting to learn their languages. I know the sound of chickadee, titmouse, woodpecker and wren. I can pick out the macho cry of hawk, the carefree bubbling of tanager, or the quarrelsome buzz of hummingbird. Now everywhere I go, I hear them speaking God's deeds of power.

In national park or local parking lot, I am like Jacob, waking at Bethel. Amazed and astonished, I admit, "God is here, and I didnt know it." I imagine this is how it has always been, the Spirit speaking through disciple or dove to anyone who will listen, creation going on and on like a Red-Eyed Vireo, the one they call "preacher bird" because it never shuts up.

The mountains and hills burst into song. The trees of the field clap their hands. How is it that I am only now hearing?


Holy Spirit, open my ears to your flocks of witnesses. Teach me the thousand tongues in which you sing.

About the Author
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.

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