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Message from Our Pastor

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Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman’s Jan. 14th sermon.

Relevant readings are 1 Samuel 3:1-20 & John 1:43-51

A not-so-ancient parable:  unemployment was high, work was scarce and a young man was desperately seeking employment. He saw a help wanted ad for a telegraph operator.  He had no formal training or experience, but he had studied and learned Morse Code on his own.  With so few jobs available, he decided to apply for the job and went to the telegraph office.  He entered the crowded office and immediately noticed several other applicants seeking the same job.  His heart sank.  He was greatly discouraged as he sat in a chair waiting his turn to interview. He wondered what kind of chance he could have with so little training, and so many applicants. 

But after only a few minutes, his face suddenly brightened, he jumped out of his chair and ran into the manager’s office.  Within a few minutes the manager appeared at the door with the young man, and announced that the job had been filled.  One of the other men who had been waiting asked, “What did he say that landed him the job?  He was the last one here.”

“It was noting he said,” answered the manager.  “I was tapping out a message on my office window in Morse Code, loud enough for all of you to hear.  I tapped: ‘If you can understand this message, come on in.  You’re hired.’  All of you heard it.  He was the only one who listened.”

All week there have been these songs running in my head.  Listen to the voice of God.  Listen to the Spirit.  Listen can you hear it?  Listen.  It rings loud and clear.  You would almost have to be deaf not to hear that “listen” is the theme of the day.

If you are Samuel, listen to the persistent voice calling you by name. If you are Nathanael, dare to listen to the voice of the unexpected Nazarene.  These are the invitations that come to us from today’s texts.

Often I find people quite quick to jump up and respond when they hear God’s voice calling them.  It’s that their response is almost always the same: “Yeah, yeah, but ….”  

“Yeah, yeah, but…it‘s been eons since God actually spoke to someone, so that couldn’t have been God.” 

The reading from First Samuel begins:  “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.”  The priest serving as the voice of God, Eli, was old.  And the lamp of God in the temple was on its last flicker.  No one had heard or seen God in a very long time.  Yet, the voice of the Lord called Samuel. But he needed to call four different times.  Samuel did not know the voice of the Lord, since God had not spoken to him before. 

“Yeah, yeah, but…how do I know that was the voice of God?”

The reality is, maybe you won’t.  This is why it is important that we surround ourselves with those who have discerned the voice of God in their lives. This is why you cannot be a solo Christian, and why the church and community is an essential part of our faith.  Those who have heard the voice of God and experienced the call of God upon their lives, can help point us in the right direction and teach us what to listen for, as Eli did for Samuel. 

In the gospel, Philip hears the voice of God through Jesus, then goes and gets Nathanael and says come, we have heard God’s call, listen for yourself.  Nathanael has his own “yeah, yeah but….” Can the voice of God really flow from the mouth of a Nazarene?  He believes in God all right, but there is no chance that God would appear to him and certainly God would not appear in this lowly scoundrel from a town like Nazareth.  Like Nathanael, many Christians have already decided what God and Jesus look like, how they sound, and we’ve made up our minds as to what they will say.

Saturday the church council gathered in retreat --- not that we gathered for a day of rest and relaxing spa treatments. I mean we gathered away from the noise of work and our other obligations for a time of worship, prayer, planning, a little fun, and some listening. We sought to hear what God is saying to us, and discern the goals we want to set as council and committees. We tried to not succumb to the “yeah, yeah, buts…,” keeping ourselves open to the wideness of possibilities. You will certainly be hearing some of the results of what we heard and discerned. And know that our listening continues…listening for the glorious things God is waiting to reveal to us.

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