First Contact

Sermon by the Rev. Lisa Smith Fry
Sunday, January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-20

About 4 years ago—I got my current iPhone to replace my aging, not-as-reliable-as-it-used-to-be model. It had a bigger screen, and lots of new bells and whistles.  There was just one thing: despite my best efforts, and the efforts of the nice people at Verizon, I could not get my contacts list—my list of phone numbers– to travel from my old phone to my new one.

It was really frustrating. When someone calls me, I like to know who I will be talking to before I answer the phone.

But for those first few weeks I had the new phone, I could only see a number—no names. Not many of us memorize phone numbers anymore. Heck, I don’t even know my own daughter’s phone number.

So, when a phone call would come in—it didn’t say my colleagues names or my daughter or my MOM—I didn’t know who it was!

I would have this internal debate—“Should I answer it—even though it might be that college friend who I really don’t have the time to talk with right now?” Or,  “What if it’s one of several religious outfits that try and sell me curriculum—who I had conveniently labeled as “salespeople” in my old phone?”  Or was it one of my parishioners who I really did want to talk to?

By the time I had this entire internal debate, it had stopped ringing. It went to voicemail. Or—worse–it didn’t, and I will knew I would never find out who it was because I didn’t have time to check every phone number in my church directory.

21st Century problems, I know.

So– let’s go back to “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread”.

Eli’s eyes had grown dim, so that he could not see. There’s symbolic significance in that: his eyes were growing old, yes, but he was also shutting down the eyes of his soul—and not understanding what he did see.

The people all around him were feeling was that God was suddenly distant, uninvolved, unapproachable and unreachable. Maybe even uninterested in what was happening in their world. It was puzzling, but people had grown used to silence. And then God picked a child—who perhaps wasn’t as consumed with the noise all around him—and God called to him.

I have heard quite a few people today wonder why God doesn’t speak to us as much anymore. They wonder if the silence means God no longer cares for his creation, his children.

I doubt it. But what kind of looks do you get from people today when you tell people that God spoke to you? Most people don’t believe God speaks through dreams, or gut feelings, urging of conscience much less through words.  I think it’s less that God has stopped talking to us, and more that we have stopped listening for a voice. Or trusting it when we hear it.  After all, that would smack of fairy tales, or aliens, or mental illness.

And yet people still say God calls to them. I felt a call. Abby felt a call.  But I don’t think it’s just ministers who hear the call of God. In fact, I’ll go further—I will stand here and say with every fiber of my being– it CAN’T just be ministers who hear the call of God.

The Spirit didn’t leave this world after Pentecost. The Spirit is moving – especially now— urging us to listen to its voice. The Spirit is speaking.

Urging us to love in the face of hate and enormous fear, to open our minds to the Spirit’s further teachings—to try and understand that we still are not finished. We don’t understand everything there is to understand in this world- and never will unless we accept that the Spirit will teach us more and more about ourselves, our souls and bodies, humanity’s interconnectedness with all life, and new ways to break through our fears into the freedom of love.

And this world is so full of sound now—cars, and planes, car stereos and ear buds. Televisions, computers and iphones.  We can barely hear the birds call or the wind whisper in the trees anymore much less hear soft voices or the Spirit as it whispers to us..

We go on our way—not expecting, and certainly not listening for God’s voice. And yet the Spirit will speak to us.  Directly. But how will we hear God’s voice through all the competing noise?  We force God to photobomb our lives. God is still calling, but does anyone recognize that phone number anymore?

So here are three suggestions that might help us to discern that God is calling us—

#1  –Listen. God wants us to follow what will make our hearts sing and make the world a better place. When we don’t know what these things are, God gives us signs and signals. For example, an overheard a conversation in a coffee shop that was exactly what we needed to hear at the time, as if the words were spoken directly to us.

# 2  Respond. Once we’ve identified a calling, we need to respond to it. Sometimes we respond immediately, more often- we ignore the calling. I find that when I do that—I always regret that I didn’t listen to the small voice that urged me to do something. And then I promise myself to listen more carefully so I can respond next time.

For example: did three people recommend the same book to you in the space of the week? My friends– go get the book.

#3  Test the call. None of us probably has the caller ID for God. Test the calling. Does it uphold love as the highest law? Does it make you a little scared—but is compelling you to move forward? That’s usually a good gauge for me.  Trust that feeling in your gut when it tells you that this is the direction you need to be heading in.

God is not distant, uninvolved, unapproachable and unreachable. But we have to listen for God—and we won’t hear him if we are plugged in 24/7. Be open to first contact. Look for God. He’s always there—calling–just trying to get your attention. Listen for God.   Amen.