Sermon based on 1 Kings 19:9-18
A Midwesterner from the farm was visiting his college roommate in New York City. Walking near Times Square one day, the farm boy suddenly remarked, “I hear a cricket.”
“You’re crazy,” his city friend replied. “It’s the noon rush hour, and in all of this traffic noise you heard a cricket? C’mon, man!”
“No, I did hear a cricket,” the visitor insisted. Focusing more intently, he walked to the corner, crossed the busy avenue and looked all around. Finally he approached a shrub in a large cement planter. Digging beneath the cover mulch, he found his cricket.
His friend couldn’t believe what he had seen. But the friend from the farm said, “My ears are no different from yours. It simply depends on what you have learned to listen for. Here, let me show you.”
He then reached into his pants pocket, pulled out a handful of change, and dropped the coins on the sidewalk. At the sound of the money hitting the pavement, every head along the crowded block turned.
“You see what I mean?” the visitor said, as he began picking up what was left of his coins. “It all depends on what you are listening for.”
- This weekend in Charlottesville, the noise is very loud.
- White supremacists, using images similar to the KKK and the Nazis, including even speech of both, protest the removing of a statue of General Robert E. Lee.
- Other folk are the anti-protesters, including many clergy, who share that Christianity and racism/bigotry are antithetical to each other.
- and things turned a violent yesterday.
- President Trump and President Kim Jung Un continue to turn up the volume in their one-up-manship bringing THAT part of the world closer to the brink of war.
- Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo continue their very loud argument about who should pay for the subway mess and fix our system so we can got to work on time.
- In our discourse on issues of politics, either in person or on the internet, rather than listening, while the other speaks or we read what they write, we are ALREADY thinking about our response. Or should I rather say REACTION!
- In our homes, disagreements often lead to louder and louder shouts, as we shout PAST each other, rather than listening.
In the midst of all of this, we can hear, ever so faintly, ever so powerfully (whisper)
I AM. I AM HERE. I AM LOVE. I AM FOR YOU.
I AM WHO I AM!
Meerabelle Day, Attorney & student of religious studies. Devoting much of her work to helping women, children and the poor. She says her mission is “to use my writing to inspire others to achieve God’s unique purpose for their life.”
The world is a noisy place. If you live and work with people, you are bombarded by their opinions, issues and needs. If you watch television or the read the news, there is more of the same. It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the racket. It is even harder to ignore those distractions and focus on having a relationship with God. Why? Because God speaks to us in what the Bible calls “a still small voice.” Unlike the world, God’s approach to us is subtle. Yet His way is much more powerful. His is the voice that we can’t hear naturally, but it is the one we cannot ignore.
But it is very important to understand that God speaks in different ways to different people.
God is both inside and outside – in the mountains and the thunder, and in the dark, quiet interior of our souls.
To Moses, God spoke through the mountains with a roar;
to Elijah, God spoke in a cave, in a soul-centered whisper.
It is the same God, only different manifestations.
For me, I’ve never heard the voice of God speaking to me as the bible says he did to Moses and to Elijah. As I am speaking to you now, with a voice that I aloud, I’ve never heard God speak.
However, I hear God speak to me, over and over again in my life, in my ministry, THROUGH THE VOICE OF OTHERS.
Prayed on something. Seeking God’s direction and guidance. Then a conversation with you – you are not aware of it, but as I hear you – I HEAR GOD! And there is a certainty for me, about that voice, that message.
We also need to be conscious that there are specific ways in which God DOES choose to speak to us.
In the Word and the Sacraments.
So many want to equate that still, small voice, with the conscience. For them, the Spirit speaks through the conscience.
This may well be true, but can be very dangerous also.
We need to TEST that internal voice, that conscience. Ask questions of it:
- Am I being asked to do something, or NOT do something that is in line with the God we experience in the Bible?
- (Many have done things that are really NOT OF GOD and said, “God told me to do it.”)
- Is what I am hearing and contemplating going to further God’s mission on this earth?
- Will what I hear and the direction I take be of help to me, and especially to others?
- Remember, from the biblical perspective, the Holy Spirit is about the business of BUILDING UP. One cannot find ANYWHERE in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is about tearing down, dividing, dissing a person, making someone who is a creature of God – LESS THAN.
- When I was in Lindenhurst, I was involved in the Rotary. In addition to all the good things that we were able to do, one of the things that I appreciated was the FOUR WAY TEST. This test is the essence of what it means to be a Rotarian. It’s pretty good, and it goes like this:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Does it promote GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIP?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
- Would Jesus himself advocate the behavior or action I am contemplating for his followers? Is it in keeping with the mission and ministry of Jesus?
Asking ourselves these questions will help us to know if that still, small voice that is our conscience IS of God, or of something else.
And of course, studying the Bible, through worship, bible study, reading, and prayer is ESSENTIAL.
We seek to hear. We make ourselves attune to the voice.
One scholar had these words of observation on our lesson:
Elijah appears to be in control of this encounter. He is the one with grievances to air.
But even as it would seem Elijah has forced God into admitting to a dearth of support or guidance, the theophany interrupts the flow of the narrative.
Just as God may unexpectedly intrude into our own private caverns of despair and self-pity, the story of God’s visitation on the mountain breaks into Elijah’s complaining.
The God of all creation, the God of untamable, uncontrollable power and might is felt in the thunder, the quaking earth, the searing flames.
But while this is the God Elijah’s expectant Super-Ego has looked for to teach Israel a lesson,
it is not the God Elijah’s frightened inner self really needs.
So God is purposefully not in all those easy images of power.
Still cowering in the darkness of his cave, Elijah now hears something different.
From deep inside this cave,
from deep inside this soul,
Elijah hears a voice, small in size yet great in strength.
This voice pierces the shrillness of his Super-Ego’s accusations of failure and despair.
Wrapped in soothing silence, this interior word gives Elijah the courage to creep back outside of his cave sanctuary and once again face his God and his responsibilities.
So it is with us, in our OWN lives.
The still, small voice – whether speaking through our conscience,
In the midst of our bible reading and prayer
Or even on the lips of a friend who has no idea that God is using them to give direction:
The still, small voice speaks.
And calls us, after quiet contemplation
TO GET OUT THERE IN THE WORLD
AND BE A LIGHT
AND BE HOPE
AND BE JUSTCIE
AND BE LOVE.
A Listener’s Prayer by Sir Paul Reeves,
at the WCC Seventh Assembly in Canberra, Australia:
Grant me to be
silent before you –
that I may hear you;
at rest in you –
that you may work in me;
open to you –
that you may enter;
empty before you –
that you may fill me.
Let me be still
And know you are my God.