The Rev. Bain White: Has God spoken to you?
January 24, 2018
I recently asked the members of our congregation a question during the sermon. It dealt with the relationship between ourselves and the Lord God Almighty, and the question was, "Has God ever spoken to you?"
I asked the question because our readings for that Sunday dealt with when God spoke to Samuel, and Samuel, not recognizing the voice of the Lord, believed that Eli had called him (1 Samuel 3: 1 – 20).
The question dealt with two levels of understanding, the first with why the Lord would choose a young boy to speak with when His prophet and priest Eli was present in the next room. The second was how we would recognize the voice of the Lord ourselves, and what He might call us to do in our lives.
In the case of Samuel, he was called because Eli had lost favor with the Lord since Eli knew his sons had profaned the relationship with the Lord, and Eli had failed to discipline them. The Lord, therefore, called upon Samuel, who, though he was only a young boy to our way of thinking, responded positively to the Lord's calling, and the Lord responded by having Samuel be a prophet, a judge and a priest to all Israel and "let none of his words fall to the ground" (NRSV). This meant the relationship was sealed, and all of Samuel's prophecies were found to be true.
When I asked the question during the sermon, I was honestly unsure of what response I would receive, whether it might be giggling or blushing or embarrassment. Honestly, I did expect that at least one from the congregation would say, "yes," but was somewhat shocked at the response I received. Hands went up around the sanctuary from those who stated that the Lord had spoken to them. I was overjoyed with the response, and we had positive responses from all age brackets, proving to me beyond a doubt that the Lord has been speaking directly to us for millennia, and it is up to each of us, individually, to respond to that call with an earnest, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."
The following week, we spoke about who is "qualified" to have the Lord speak with them. We learned about Jesus' walking along the Sea of Galilee and calling to Simon Peter and Andrew, telling them He would teach them to fish for men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
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Then, Jesus called to James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were repairing their nets, asking them to follow him, and they also responded immediately by dropping all they were doing and following Him.
The question might crop up — and we might ask — whether the fishermen had special qualities that allowed them to follow. Did they perhaps belong to the "upper crust," having large amounts of money and investments to depend upon for their income and for their families? Perhaps it was that they were of the highest intellectual elite, the academics of their time, maybe belonging to the class of the Pharisees or Sadducees and highly proficient in not only the Torah and all of the oral traditions surrounding it, but also speaking and writing in numerous languages of the day. Perhaps it was that the fishermen were highly social and able to convince others through their interactive proficiency and skills about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Actually, none of the above projections are correct. None of the four fishermen were from any elite class or the nobility. None had academic backgrounds or belonged to the Pharisees or Sadducees or would be referred to as a rabbi. None were known for being highly social and able to convince others solely through their skill at rhetoric or public speaking.
The truth of the matter was that they worked in a profession where they didn't have that much contact with people, because they worked at night. They were a pretty rough and tumble lot, because one had to be to function as a fisherman. No real education was required of their profession and would be out of place on a fishing boat or mending nets. What they all did have in common, however, was a willingness to set everything aside and follow Jesus when He called them — no hesitation, no looking back at dad and the hands in the boat, no wondering where they would spend the night or obtain their next meal. They followed Him.
Has the Lord spoken to you? Have you answered Him? Are you willing to accept that He may ask you to do something out of your comfort zone? Do you realize that complying with His desires may hurt, both physically and mentally? When He calls and talks with you, it is time to put everything else on the "back burner" and follow Him.
What He asks may be difficult, dangerous or cost you friends or family. Can you commit to respond to the Lord's bidding by saying, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening," then drop everything and commit yourself to His will. If your answer is "yes" to the above, then prepare yourself for the most rewarding experience of your life.
The Rev. Bain White is pastor of St. Mark's Church of Grace.