Minister’s forum: God is speaking to us; are we listening?
Mark Twain was a writer of great charm and wit who could communicate in a way that won him many admirers. He was welcome in the highest social circles here and abroad. When the Emperor of Germany sent an invitation for Twain to dine with the royal family, Twain’s daughter exclaimed, “Daddy, you must know everybody in the whole world. Do you know God, too?”
Can you remember the moment in your life when God became real? For some it occurred as a child or as a young adult. It may have been in church or on a youth outing – around a campfire or on a mountain top. At some point God speaks to us, and we know that God is real. In the Bible’s Old Testament, the child Samuel comes to know God on one special night.
Samuel was lying down in the temple when suddenly he heard a voice, “Samuel, Samuel!” He ran to his guardian, Eli, who was sleeping nearby and answered, “Here I am,” but Eli had not called him, and he sent Samuel back to bed. A second time the voice called, “Samuel.” And again he rushed to Eli’s bed, only to be sent back. A third time Samuel heard the voice and, for a third time, he ran to Eli. But this time Eli understood what was happening. “Go lie down,” he advised his young ward. “If He calls you again, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.” And God does speak to Samuel – words that will forever change Samuel’s life.
Hearing God can be a life-changing experience. People who have been blind are made to see. People who are in darkness see a light. And people have known nothing but defeat suddenly achieve a great victory. By God’s grace they finally conquer themselves. It can happen.
But there are three things that need to be present if we are to come to know God in the same way Samuel did. First of all, we must have a believing heart. Theologians talk about a “leap of faith.” Faith can be as simple as letting go and letting God take over.
A listening ear is the second factor in believing in God. Eli advised young Samuel to lie down and listen. It must be very frustrating to God to try to speak to those who will not listen.
God is with us through the beauty of creation, through the love of family members, through the song of a nightingale. In a hundred different ways, God is speaking. Are we listening? We need a believing heart, and listening ears.
And finally, we need obedient hands. Eli taught Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.” They key words are “thy servant.” Nothing in life is more meaningful or rewarding than serving God. Being a servant can mean simply doing one random act of kindness a day, expecting nothing in return. Take that leap of faith. Reach out to those in need. Listen – and believe.
– Rodney R. Petzak is a priest at St. John’s in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Glenbrook.
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