Food For Thought
Do you hear God’s voice speaking to you? What does that question even mean? If someone told us they were literally hearing the voice of God we might very well question their mental health. Or we might be reminded of TV preachers who have claimed God said we should give financially to their causes. Doubtful messages, at best. But, I believe God does speak to us all the time. The question is, are we listening? Is there so much noise going on around us that it drowns the Divine voice out? The world provides a cacophony of voices making demands on our time and our loyalties. Have we become lost, wandering away from the Divine in our lives, no longer able to hear God calling out to us?
The Bible tells us of the story of the young child Samuel who hears a voice calling to him in the quiet of the night but doesn’t realize it’s God and doesn’t know how to respond. The next time he hears the voice, he’s told, answer by saying, “your servant is listening.” Once he hears God’s message, Samuel then does what God asks even though it is difficult for him and as a result the story says he grows with God, known to the people of Israel as a prophet, one who speaks truth. The story of Samuel recommends three things we might do to better hear God’s voice in our lives.
First, we need to find time and space away from the busyness and chaos of our world. Maybe a walk in the woods where we hear only the birds and squirrels and the swaying of the trees. Or time in silent meditation with phones and TV’s turned off, perhaps even in the dead of night when the passing of cars is quieter. Time spent listening only to our own breathing. If God’s call doesn’t come to us as a literal external voice but more as a feeling or the whisper of our sub-conscious (or we might say the Spirit within), then we will need to make an extra effort to hear.
Second, we need to put ourselves in the role of a servant like Samuel. This means listening with humility. It’s not about us and our fears, but it’s about God and God’s desires for us. It means we stop trying to tell God what we think, we stop trying to make God in our image – no more gun-toting white supremacist deity – and begin to follow God’s path of love, peace, and justice, becoming a servant not only to God but to our neighbor.
Third, to declare that we are ready to listen is to tell God, to confirm even for ourselves, that we are not only ready to hear what God is saying to us, but we are ready to respond to what God is saying to us. When we read the Biblical stories we realize that responding to God’s call almost always means speaking out and standing up for peace and justice. It means loving our neighbor (which includes nature). If what we think we’re hearing from God is not ultimately about helping others, being compassionate and caring for each other and for Creation, then we should seriously question whether it is God speaking or our own selfish egos. Of course, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor and enemy both, but love requires compassion and caring. It does not require or even ask us to accept destructive ideas and actions. Love demands we reject the corrupt and destructive ways of wealth and power. Jesus himself, the incarnation of God’s love, was willing to confront and speak truth to power and so should we.
God is always seeking us, whether we know we’re lost or not, whether we think we’re looking for God or not. God calls out to us, hoping we will hear, stop, and turn. That we will respond as the listening servant with love and compassion. To what is God calling us this day?
Rev. Ken Arthur
P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from January 17, 2021, “The Listening Servant.” Video and/or audio recordings of this and other past sermons can be found at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.