Series: God Is Calling. Will you answer?
Sermon: Speak, Lord. Your Servant Is Listening
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
January 14, 2018
Scriptures: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 and 1 Samuel 3:1-20
“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something (in Israel) that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.’”
The very God who knit us together in our mother’s womb, who created us and loves us still has the power to make our ears tingle – IF we are listening, paying attention, and giving credit where credit is due. Too often we let the noise of the world drown out God’s message to us. Too often we deduce that some happening was just a coincidence, just luck, or some other fate-based understanding.
As Christians, we need to be very careful not to minimize the presence of the Holy One at work in our lives. Yes, we have said that God doesn’t micromanage and control every little thing, but that does not mean that God is totally transcendent, hands-off, like the clock maker who wound the clock and walked away forever. What would be the point of praying if we didn’t think God was listening?
Last week I had the experience of tingling with excitement when I learned how you responded to the call for generosity to support God’s work here at First UMC at the end of 2017. Not only did you give enough that we could pay 100% of our mission support to Ministry Shares to the Conference, you gave more than enough to enable us to end the year in the black! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our treasurer, Jon Darrow will be giving a more detailed report in coming weeks. We did it!!! God is indeed at work here.
Not every tingling event is a positive one though. The news that God spoke to the little boy, Samuel, was not a happy message. Fortunately, Eli was faithful and seasoned enough to be able to take the message and be obedient, even when his sons had been greedy and disobedient.
Sometimes what we hear from God can be a bitter pill. We feel convicted and realize that something must change in our lives and relationships to God and others. Other times, we tingle with hope rather than fear.
I once had a Samuel-type encounter with the holy. I was recently divorced and grieving the loss of how I had imagined my life would play out. Evidently, my ex-husband wasn’t imagining faithfulness to his wife, so after eight mostly miserable years that marriage ended. I was teaching and living alone in what could best be described as a tiny home in the top of a little barn that had a workshop down below.
One summer day, after much time spent in prayer, I was washing my few dishes at the kitchen sink. I heard a man’s voice say my name. Thinking there was someone at the door, I dried my hands and went down the stairs to my front door. Nothing. How odd, I thought, and I went back to finish the dishes. Again, I heard my name spoken. This time it sounded more like it was from someone standing in the garden, outside the window. I looked, and saw no one. I thought perhaps the voice was coming through the intercom to the main house, where my landlady lived. Maybe it was her grown son messing with me. I pushed the button and spoke, but no answer. I even walked over to the house to see if anyone was home. No answer. This was getting weird so I walked back upstairs to my little place and finished putting away the dishes.
Then, a third time, I heard him say, “Diane.” This time I went nowhere, but knelt down in my little living room. I closed my eyes and listened intently, having remembered Samuel’s experience. Much of the message to me I don’t consciously recall, but I distinctly remember being told that I would remember this: I would answer God’s call and be ordained and at that time I would have both a husband and a twelve-year-old son.
After this encounter, my whole being was tingling! I was filled with a sense of purpose and hope like I had never known. But remember I was, at that time, single and lonely. I had never even known a female pastor, let alone imagined becoming one! I went to my pastor and told him the story. He recommended I go and meet a female United Methodist pastor so I could ask her questions. When I told my experience to my parents and grandmother – at the Embers restaurant, no less – they looked at me as if I was off my rocker. They didn’t know if this was a good idea. They had never known a female clergy person either and weren’t sure if that was even a thing.
From that point, doubt began to creep into my mind, and I stopped pursuing this vision. I got a new teaching job the next year, moved to Grand Rapids, and started attending Trinity UMC. There was a group of singles that invited me to go out to lunch at Wendy’s after church, and one of them was named Tom Gordon.
The rest is history – a history that God knew and led me through. Tom and I married a couple years later and then four years later we had a son, whom we named John Wesley – a family name on Tom’s side. I kept teaching and God kept reminding me every so often that this was just one leg of the journey. All good and healthy, but not the destination. The memory of the husband and son and ordination message had gotten buried in the busyness of life. Six years later, God started nudging louder, so to speak. Finally, I started listening and believing that this was possible. I may not have felt smart enough, good enough, etcetera, but I would trust God’s word to me and be obedient to follow this call on my life.
Now, 18 years later, I have a feeling that part of what God communicated to me that day was that this would not be easy. It would require great sacrifice for our family. My husband would have a life-threatening bout with cancer, and yet, that I need not fear. I need not fear the academic rigor of going back to school to get my Masters of Divinity. I need not fear becoming a female clergy person. I needed only to be obedient.
I realized at ordination in 2007 that our son was twelve. The memory came alive, unburied from all the stresses of schooling, illness, financial struggles, moving, serving small churches, and writing papers for the Board of Ordained Ministry. I realized that the memory I was told I would retain had come true. In hindsight, I think all that conversation with God’s messenger had come true.
When was the last time you felt a “tingle” about the word of God to you? Know that sometimes that tingle may be one of hope, or one mixed with fear. Know that God’s timeframe is long, and can’t be rushed. Great things are possible for those who trust God. Keep the good in mind and believe that it is possible. Be open to the guidance of the Spirit and know that God has great things in store. For all of us! Amen.