Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hearing God.

How do we know when God is talking to us?
How do we know what we are called to do?
This question is in both our first reading from Samuel and our Gospel reading this morning.
Samuel is talked to by God and he doesn’t know it.
Nathanael is called to follow Jesus, but he isn’t sure what he is being called to do.
And at first he is not even sure that Jesus is worth following, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Both are not sure.
And like Samuel’s time our time too is a time when the word of the Lord is rare, and visions are not widespread.
At least it seems that way.
I guarantee that if you tell someone that God came and spoke to you, that the other person would think you lost your mind.
But at the same time I believe that God does speak to us all the time.
I do believe that even in these times God calls us to follow.

I was at an ordination yesterday and the bishop used a story about Martin Luther King Jr. that I was also planning on using this morning.
On January 27, 1956 as Martin Luther was beginning to be one of the key leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott he got a phone call late at night.
He was told that if he didn’t leave in Montgomery in three days that they would blow up his house and shoot him in the head.
Martin got off the phone and went into the kitchen thinking of a way to leave Montgomery without seemingly like a coward.
He prayed to God that night and he heard a voice call to him that said, “Martin stand up for truth, and stand up for justice.”
Well…you know the rest he stayed, he fought for those things for the rest of his life, and eventually lost his life for standing up for those things.
But it was that call from God that set everything in motion.
It was God whispering in his ear telling him to stand up for what was right and good that made Martin Luther King Jr. the name that we still remember.

Now that is a rather dramatic call, but I believe that we all have it.
That God is always whispering in our ears.
God is always saying to us, stand up for truth, and stand up for justice.
God is always calling us to love, kindness, patience, and self control.

How do we hear it?
Jesus tells Nathanael that he shouldn’t be that impressed with this dramatic moment.
Don’t get caught up in the fact that I saw you under the fig tree.
Don’t get caught up in the fact that I know who you are and what you are about.
Jesus tells him that, “You will see greater things than these.”
And I think we too must not get caught up waiting for the big dramatic moment.
Instead, we must trust in what we know about God through Jesus Christ.
We know that Jesus asks of us to give, to give of our money, our time, and our talents.
We know that following Jesus does not mean that our life will be easy.
In fact, it will often be hard.
We know that we are called to be there for others, because “the greater things” that Jesus is talking about his is own death and resurrection.
The greater things are the Son of God is going to give his life for the sins of the world.
The greater thing is that Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.

This past Friday I went with my mother to Dana Faber for her cancer treatment.
My older sister Jen was there too.
Jen’s sister in law, Karin, came by to hang out with us for some time while we waited to hear the outcome of my mom’s tests results.
She brought us fruit, and cookies.
I mention the fruit because Karin doesn’t like fruit.
She brought it because she knew that we liked it.
She knew that is what my mom would want to eat.
I mention the cookies, because as we went from the cafeteria to the next appointment, Karin would offer people a cookie.
One woman in the elevator was thrilled to get a cookie in the elevator.
She gushed about how that cookie made her day.
(By the way they were really good cookies)
When Karin left we continued to hand out the cookies to doctors and nurses and others that worked at Dana Faber.
It made everyone happy.
I don’t know what made Karin bring those cookies and fruit, but they were heaven sent.
They brightened everyone’s day, including ours.
A small thing perhaps, but I also think it illustrates what it means to hear God’s call.

If it is truly God calling us to do something I believe it will have two characteristics.
One hearing God’s call means doing something for someone else that goes against what you want.
It means putting someone else needs ahead of your own.
Two, hearing God’s call will bring goodness to others.
It will make someone else day, it will bring good news, joy, and show kindness.

If you think you hear God talking and are not sure I would check it against these two things.
I would ask myself if what I think God is asking me to do will be mean that I have to give of myself.
Does it mean that someone else besides me will benefit.
If those two things are present than you can know for sure that God is talking to you, and that you heard God correctly.

On the other hand, if you think you hear God’s voice and that voice tells you to do something self-serving, or something that hurts other people, than you need to readjust the tin foil antenna and try again, because that voice was not God’s.
The voice that tells people to kill abortion doctors in the narthex of their church, or the one that tells you to protest against gays at military funerals, or the one that tells you to call poor people lazy, or the one that tells you to call and threaten the life of a Baptist pastor because he is protesting a law.
All of those voices do not belong to God.

The voice that belongs to God is the one that says, help others, care for the poor, and love the unlovable, give of yourself.
Martin Luther King in a sermon he gave at Ebenezer Baptists church called “The Drum major instinct” on February 4, 1968, two months before his assassination.
He said about his funeral,
“I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)”

“And that's all I want to say.
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.”

Martin Luther King heard the call from God to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
He heard the call to follow Jesus the “Son of God! The King of Israel!”
That same voice that propelled him still speaks to us today.
Can you hear it?
If you can than serve others, forgive freely, love unconditionally, give generously, share cookies with strangers, and eat fruit even when you don’t want to because you know someone else does.
And your living will not be in vain, because you would have heard and followed the call of God.

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