September 18, 2016
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
This short sermon is on waiting and listening when no calling seems to come forth, and consequently not knowing the next step. I invite you in the next few minutes that when I pause that you also pause within yourself to listen if God is speaking to you in some way. [Pause]
1. I don’t really like to pray. I’d rather BE prayer. But the act of prayer is not so much for me.
2. There’s a part of me that really doesn’t like to listen. I’m a rebel at heart. There’s part of me that wants to do it my way. [Debbie holds up card saying AMEN!]
3. Staying open minded and curious is a struggle for me. I’d often rather be critical and cynical of others.
4. I have a lot of room for growth when it comes to admitting fault and taking responsibility for my shortcomings. [Debbie holds up card saying Right On!!!]
5. And lastly, I have struggled with writing this sermon for the past three weeks. Last week I told my mission group that nothing seemed to be moving me. I prayed for God to reveal or call me to something. Nothing came. Silence. I was getting bummed about it and a little nervous. So, I decided to speak about hearing nothing! [Pause]
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” I don’t know about you, but for a long time, this verse bothered me. I thought why would some dumb sheep blindly follow the Shepherd’s voice. I learned later that the Shepherd’s voice perhaps was the only voice that brought them comfort, and probably joy. It’s like at an amusement park or the pool, when I called out for my kids, they turned to listen because, amidst all the racket and noise, they knew my voice. I so want that ability to easily hear God’s voice through the noise of life. [Pause]
Growing up in Sunday school, and later when my faith became a reality as a teenager, I was taught I was supposed to be “listening” for God’s voice on a regular basis (mostly through Bible reading and prayer). But my experience was mostly that all I “heard” was silence. Perhaps this has been your experience too. [Pause]
I grew up in a home and church that silence meant there was a problem, or something was wrong. Silence sometimes meant shame. Consequently, in my Christian life listening for God was difficult. It required then and still does require being quiet and open to receiving what ever I might need in that moment. The Silent Retreat coming up is a time to be quiet and open. Quiet and open… [Pause]
That’s still difficult for me as I often try to fill up the space in my mind and heart with spiritual stuff, subconsciously believing that silence is equated with emptiness or confusion or blindness, and that these are not good faith practices. [Pause]
I’m here to say that my Christian life, my faith in Christ, my love for you, my work in the world, would not be what it is had it not been for periods of emptiness, lost and confusion, and varying degrees of walking through thick wet blinding fog. [Pause]
Silence, I’ve found, has now turned to become a friend. These days I tend not to look for answers, but listen for nudges. I tend not to debate on what is right. But rather do what is right for me. I tend not to complain and bitch about God’s apparent apathy (as in the psalms), but try to learn from the struggle how can be a better person. I urge you to join me to learn from the struggle… [Prayer]