April 16, 2023
Scripture Reading: I Peter 1:22-25, Hebrews 4:12-12
Here we are on the Sunday after we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and the early morning trip to the empty tomb by Mary and the other Mary – and I have been wondering how those early disciples of Jesus coped with their loss. Yes, they had their few days of transition before the risen Jesus was taken up into heaven, but in those days, the reality was setting in: The physical presence of Jesus was coming to a final conclusion!
I’d bet that you could have heard good friends, like the two Marys saying to one another what we say now with sharp and penetrating grief: “I’ll never hear his / her voice again”
It’s for that reason that some people keep the voice mails of their loved one on their phones for a long time as a way of remembering what seems to be gone.
But the word that comes to me in the midst of all of these thoughts is this: What about this claim that has become the identifying slogan of the United Church of Christ? GOD IS STILL SPEAKING?
And then, there is that poignant COMMA! It is a part of the logo for our church. God is still speaking – comma! It is the added emphasis on the great logo! The sentence is not done. God’s speaking voice has not been silenced! We have not heard the last word from God! Wait for it… !!!
This word from God- it was not the last word when God walked and talked with Adam in the garden. It was not the last word when the 10 commandments were chiseled into stone before the very eyes of Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was not the last word when Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross! It was not the last word when the angel sitting on the stone said: “Come and See. He is not here, he is risen!” It was not the last word when some committee decided in the 300’s CE what books should be included in the Bible! And God has not spoken the final word now!
Don’t be confused when you hear some preacher or a particular denomination declaring: “We have the final word. This is the right way to interpret the scripture.”
The phrase: “God is still speaking,” is not just a theological resting place which we affirm occasionally by saying: “This I believe…” Those words are a launching pad. A diving board. A place from which we take a leap of new allegiance, new obedience, and new trust.
When we affirm that God is still speaking, we are saying that while reading what God SAID in times past is important, it is ALSO important to be listening for what God is continually saying now! And…If God is still speaking, then we must always be still acting – still responding – still venturing out into some new place of service and faithfulness because we have HEARD ANEW THE VOICE THAT
IS STILL SPEAKING!
It is why Joyce is still engaged with Jewish and Indian friends, why John is still tutoring Japanese students, why Caroline went to see Beulah last week, why Becky and the rest of you have the rummage sale, why Glenn and Rob keep our building in such good repair, why Mike and Ginny do all they do around here, why Liz and Nevin spent so much time with their daughter and family in recent days. It is why Ann Marie started the Grandfamily group in TGP. And… we could go on and on.
The point is, God is still speaking, still nudging us to something else, something more. And the point (at least in part) of all our preaching, teaching, singing, and listening is that a speaking voice is just empty noise unless there are listeners and doers.
The very fact of the speaking voice compels us to do more than passive listening to sermons, to the scripture, to our Sunday School class, to the music in our heads.
The compelling urgency is for each of us to go home and then to school and work and families with the words we have heard ringing in our ears, the living words embedded in our spirits because: the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Joan Chittister, in her book Called to Question, makes a habit in her quiet, devotional time to journal. Her journal, at least in part, is to respond to things she has heard or read. She honors the voices of others as if they contain the voice of God and so she responds as if she were writing back to the God who has sent her a letter. It is like she is saying: “I heard you God. If I’m not mistaken, this is what I heard you say to ME!. Here is where you are calling me. Here is a place that does not seem right to me. I have heard you!”
Now when it comes to interpersonal relationships, nothing means more than taking the time to really listen – I mean listen with an ear to hearing what THEY meant to say and not what I wish they had said. And then to practice the discipline of ACTING ON WHAT I HAVE HEARD – actually changing my behavior as a response to hearing that new word.
You see, to be truly heard is the greatest gift you can give to a child, a parent, a partner, a student, or a teacher. It is the greatest gift you give to the “God who is still Speaking.”
Can you imagine a greater gift you could give to God than to take with utter seriousness the words God still speaks to you?
It all makes the parable of the sower seem so particularly relevant doesn’t it? Jesus said: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the
birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-9.
God has gifted us by continuing to speak. We are tasked with responding in such a way that the voice continues to be heard and bear fruit. Amen