Union Presbyterian Church

254 Shell Road, Carneys Point, NJ 08069 856-299-1724 "A Caring Family Of Faith That Loves As Christ Taught Us To"

Psalm 85                                                                                                                                                                                    Hebrews 3: 12-19

                                                         Does God Still Speak To Us?

            May the Lord be with you!  (And also with you…)

            I’d been hoping to show you all a video this morning, but with the Musser’s not here at church this weekend, video showing becomes a little bit difficult because to show a video I need to rely on Chuck’s computer which configures with the projector that we have here at the church.  In some respects it’s a little confusing, but really it’s not. 

            Anyway, the video that I’d been wanting to show you all is of this young man who is talking about his experience with God growing up.  He grew up in the church, his entire family was active, ..and on him, there was this expectation that the church would always be a part of his life.  But then, as he got older, late teens, he started questioning what the church was standing for and moreover, questioning the reality of the church community.  And so then within that questioning, he became unable to see the church as what it always said it was trying to be and do.  Meaning, it became impossible for him to see the church as just this congenial community of Jesus lovers who were always working hard at following Jesus and at attempting to do good in the world.  And he was starting to notice too that most all of the people around him at the church, did indeed seem to carry some traits and elements of being hypocritical.  And so as what happens with all of us when we reach those important teenage years, we start to see the imperfections in the people around us, our parents and family members in particular, but also really it could be any of the people we may see on a regular basis.  When we’re quite young, the world and its people look much different to us, much more black and white.  On top of that, this young guy is finding the church to be boring to him, it’s not connecting to his life experience and just in general, he doesn’t feel like the church is a part of his life as it once had been. 

            So, the young man goes off to college, and is really happy to go in part to escape the responsibilities that have been put on top of him in regard to the church, but then also of course because of the college experience that can be so crucial and foundational to our development.  ..He goes to his college and once there he joins a fraternity, he takes part in all of the partying that’s typical of the experience and he admits that he was having a lot of fun while there. 

            He finishes college and moves back home for some time to get himself organized.  And then one evening his father asks him to go with him to one of their typical church services.  They go – and mind you this wasn’t a main line traditional church, this was one of those non-denominational community churches.  They have the service and then afterwards the pastor is walking around the room while people are still milling about and socializing, and he’s stopping to pray with people individually.  And every time the pastor gets close to the subject of this video, our young friend quickly gets himself as far away as he can from the possibility of being approached for prayer with the pastor.  And then, this young man says that he found himself in the middle of the room, and that in this crowd of people he felt really alone, and that it was at that point that he then heard this voice that said to him, “You’ve been far from me.”  He said he heard it as clear as day, but that it wasn’t audible in a way that other folks would be able to hear it too.  That it was kind of a loud voice in his head, ..but then he also added that he knew right down into the core of himself that this was the voice of God speaking and calling to him.  And then in the video, he’s explaining that he was kind questioning this experience, and then this young guy said something that really clung to me personally.  He said, “When people speak to God, it’s called prayer, but when God speaks to people, it’s called crazy.”

            We people are funny that way.  We talk about being in relationship with God, but for some odd reason, we have this deep seated expectation that our communication is only going in one direction, meaning just from us to God, unless of course some incredible sign happens upon us that we can then contribute to God and his Holy Spirit.  AND, the way that we’ve gotten this way, is because we generally assume that God may not always be listening, because IF he was always listening, then clearly, he wouldn’t be letting happen to us things that seem to be happening to us so often.  Because IF God really does love us, he would only want for us, what we want for ourselves…..right? 

            God spoke to Abraham and we claim Abraham to be the ultimate father of our faith because he was, after all, the first person that God communicated with, that God spoke with.  And God spoke with Moses, and we certainly don’t deny Moses his place in our faith story, that God spoke with him we take as fact.  And then God also spoke with Eli and Samuel and Elijah and Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah and really so many others too.   And so my question now is this, why is it that most people really do adopt the thought that was given to us so perfectly by that young guy in the video that I had really wanted to show to you?  Remember, “When people speak to God, it’s called prayer, but when God speaks to people, it’s called crazy.”

            Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that every time someone says that God was speaking with them that it’s legitimate.  Lord knows that I’ve met more than my share of folks who claim to have very regular one on one conversations with God in which God is telling them all of the secrets of the universe.  In fact just the other week I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a very nice woman who shared with me that God had told her that on this past January 11th, that Jesus Christ had arrived back here on earth and that he’s just now waiting for the perfect time to reveal himself to his faithful.  And whereas that could be true, who knows, ..this woman also claimed to be Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame and was finding it pretty hilarious that only she could see the Cheshire cat that was apparently most often hanging out on my shoulder. 

            I do believe, however, that when God wants to speak to someone, that yes he will speak to them, and that it could very well be in a very similar way to the way that the guy in the video that you haven’t seen experienced.  And I say that, even though a lot of people believe that God actually doesn’t speak with us anymore, that he’s just so fed-up from us that he’s kind of written most of the world off.  But doesn’t that sound just so silly?  If God is loving, and we say that he is, and does love us as his children, what type of personality must he have to be so mad at us that he really does cut us off and simply not speak to us at all?  How many of us have been mad enough at our own children that we’ve decided – and upheld – a decision to never speak with them again?  It’s not too many parents that can literally judge their child so harshly that they’ll disown them to that level.  And so, where do you think God is on that front?  Could it be that God is willing and able and actually may be speaking with us when we need to hear a message from Him?  But that it could be that we need to be listening a little bit differently, that we need to be listening for the word of God in a way that forces us to even hear the words that we may NOT want to hear?  That’s really the hard part right there.  I really do believe that God speaks to us, and sometimes it’s maybe a voice in our heads, or maybe sometimes it’s a gut feeling or maybe it comes in a dream.  But in whatever way it may be, I really do think that we do ourselves an incredible disservice when we’re not paying attention to those feelings, thoughts and voices. 

            Psalm 85 that we heard this morning says very tellingly one verse on this subject especially, verse eight states, “I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his people, his faithful ones.  But let them not return to their foolish ways.”  But Paul’s words to the Hebrews I think says it all far better.  I’ve saved the New Testament reading until now, listen here for the word of the Lord….

                                                **Read Hebrews 3: 12-19

            Paul is not only stating that we need to be listening always for the voice of God in our lives, but that as a church, and meaning as a major part of the purpose of the church, that we are to encourage each other to always be listening.  And then especially, to NOT be as the Israelites had been.  Paul uses the big example of when they were in the Sinai Desert, the Desert of Sin.  The people rebelled against God once leaving Egypt with Moses as their leader, because they were essentially feeling really sorry for themselves, they were not seeing the bigger picture of life that God was trying to show to them, and their faith was weak.  And so they make this golden calf and they use it as an idol and worship it.  Not a good idea.   

            Paul tells us that they angered God for forty years.  Those who were from young adults and up, because of their actions would die in the desert, they wouldn’t be allowed the prize of the Holy Land.  They clearly weren’t listening to or for God.  Paul tells us, “Don’t be like them.”  When God speaks listen, and respond in kind.  Pray, unload on God.  And when God answers you back don’t adopt the assumption that you must be crazy, know that yes, God very well may be giving you a message that you need to hear; it could be words of encouragement and assurance, or it could be words of scolding.  Either way, we have to know that we’re not alone in this, that there are many other folks who’ve had similar experiences.  The way to find God in and for your life, is to be listening intently for him….always. 

            In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.