Speaking and Listening

1 Samuel 3:1-20

“Brothers and sisters at first Presbyterian, I am sorry that I cannot be with you this morning. Unfortunately, Paul the son of Rely and Johanna must take precedence over Paul the pastor. My mother, Johanna, is close to being with the Lord, but her body is continuing to fight. I am spending these last moments with her and my Dad.

All of us, the Heins family, greatly appreciate the prayer and support that we have received from so many of you. Both your prayers and your casseroles are heavenly! It is truly a blessing for us to be a part of such a wonderful community.

Both Rely and Johanna are strong in faith, and they/we know that everything rests in the Lord’s hands.

Say thank you to all who are stepping up to fill in for me today. Take it easy on Paul Davis/Mike Sweeney. It’s not easy reading my quirky sentences and my less than perfect grammar and punctuation. Any theological disputes, or comments on poor writing, should be saved for me the author for when I get back, and I will be back in the saddle soon. I miss it too much!

Blessings to you as you worship. You have our permission to offer up a prayer, for through those prayers, we will be with you in Spirit. Now let’s get to the good stuff!…”

Hear this hymn from the beginning of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. “In the beginning,” sings the opening of the Word of God written, “when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said…” God spoke and creation popped into existence. This opening hymn in Genesis sings a proclamation of faith. God spoke, and the result was life – beautiful, diverse, harmonious life.

The climax of that creative speaking was humankind, created to enjoy and tend the garden, living intimately with the creator. Imagine Adam and Eve walking together with God in the garden, talking-intimately, comfortably, lovingly.

Later in the story of the bible, Moses talked with God also. “Thus,” says Exodus, “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Ex. 33:11).”

Much later, when it seemed as if the voice of God had receded into the distance, when the whirlwind had seemingly grown quiet, the Living Word, Jesus Christ, arrived on the scene. This was the Word of God made flesh, dwelling among us, speaking words of wisdom, speaking volumes with acts of compassion and deeds of justice. The Bible is full of wonderful conversations with God.

With all of this speaking in the Bible, why isn’t it the same with us? Why, for most of us, most of the time, does the voice of God seem to be so hard to hear. Why can’t we talk with God like Adam and Eve in the garden, like Moses on the holy mountain, and like Jesus on the hilltops of Galilee? Why is it so hard to know what do in particular situations? why is it so hard to come up with answers to our deep questions?

Can it be that today, as it was in the time Eli, that the word of the Lord is rare?

I wonder how many times Eli would lie down on his bed at night, before this night with Samuel, and wonder why God wasn’t talking to him anymore? Do you wonder why God doesn’t speak more clearly, or more often? Do you wonder why things do not turn out the way you thought God told you they would? Why God don’t you answer?

There are some interpreters who believe that this story provides for us a model of faith. God speaks. He calls, and we listen. This may be true, but when I place myself in this story, most of the time I end up looking and acting a lot more like Eli, and not so much like Samuel.

Struggling with our jobs, our responsibilities, with relationships out of our control, with evil running rampant in the world, we become afraid and powerless to bring real change. This is not the worst of it. The worst thing is that in the middle of our mess, God seems to be silent. The word of the Lord is rare.

Perhaps it is because we are just too busy to listen? Too busy doing our own thing. Multi-tasking is a buzzword today, and we want to fit God in on our terms, speaking to us in the background while we keep working. There are so many things going on in our lives that God could be shouting, and we wouldn’t hear it.

Perhaps the word of the Lord is rare because we are just not ready to listen? Is it because we would rather do the talking, and on our terms? I am convinced that we often can’t hear God’s voice because instead of praying “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” we pray, “Be quiet, Lord, for your servant is speaking.”

Talk to me about my Sunday morning, Jesus, but leave Monday through Saturday to me. Help me lord, but in this area of my life and not in that. Go ahead and speak to me Lord! Give me a word about how ‘they’ have to change, but don’t talk to me about how I need to change.

There are many reasons why the conversation between God and us stops. As for starting it up again, there are no easy answers. There is no formula. There is no tried and true technique that works every time.

All we have is a faith that forgives, renews, and keeps sending us back into the temple to lie down and wait for that voice. This morning we are invited to simply quiet our spirits, clear our minds, and open our hearts…to listen. One preacher has said that the voice of God in Jesus was not a shout. The revelation of God comes to us as a whisper. In order to catch it, we must hush, lean forward, and trust that what we hear is the voice of God.[i]

And when there is silence the first time…and the second…what this story of Eli and Samuel does is send us back to our mat again, and again, and again, like Eli sent Samuel, to listen.

If you are having a hard time hearing God’s voice, if the conversation between you and the creator has stopped, know this: the light in the temple of the Lord has not yet gone out. Listen.

Eli is sending you back to your mat. Listen! Cultivate a habit of listening in your life. Find time in your day, every day, to take a break, to calm your spirit, to slow the thoughts and worries that usually stream through your mind, and listen.

Listen for that voice. Odds are you will not literally hear a voice speaking to you plain as day (You might!). But you just might calm your spirit enough to hear God’s voice in the voice of a friend, or in a story of Scripture, or in a new idea that pops into your head for the first time, or in some other way that God only knows.

Or you just may find five minutes of peace, which may be just what God wants to give you.

Amen.

January 18, 2009

Rev. Paul Heins

First Presbyterian Church

Logan, Utah

[i] This comes from the great preacher Fred Craddock, but the source of this quote is lost. Forgive me Fred.

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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