Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Do We Hear God's Call?

Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Year B (RCL)
Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:6-14; Mark 1:14-20
Saturday, January 24, 2009 – Church of the Transfiguration, Arcadia

[The following is the text of a homily I preached during the Eucharist prior to my interview with the Rector Search Committee at Church of the Transfiguration. However, I actually preached it without notes or manuscript.]

I never cease to be amazed at how the Holy Spirit works. Here we are, gathered today, with Church of the Transfiguration engaged in a process to search for and call a new rector, and me, discerning what and where God is calling me to do and be in the next phase of my ministry; and the Scripture lessons appointed happen to be call narratives. In fact, they are two of the greatest call narratives recorded in Scripture.

Looking at the two stories, we see that they are vastly different, spanning the spectrum of how God’s calling can go. On the one end of the spectrum, we have the Gospel lesson about Jesus calling his first disciples – Peter and Andrew, and then James and John. This is the ideal call narrative. God, or in this case, Jesus, issues a call, and the ones called immediately respond. No hesitation. No questions. I really wonder about all of that. “Hey you guys, I want you to quit your job and come follow me as we become itinerant preachers.” What? They didn’t question who this guy was or the insanity of the request? But that’s a whole other sermon. The bottom line is they accepted the call without reservation.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the call of Jonah. Where we pick up the story, Jonah is finally on-board and doing what God has asked. Before this, however, God calls Jonah to go east to Nineveh. But what does Jonah do? Instead he heads west, toward the Mediterranean to set sail for Tarshish. He runs away from God’s call. Only thanks to the agency of a terrible storm, some pagan sailors, and really big fish, does Jonah get the message that you can’t argue with God. Only then does he give in and do what God has asked of him. I think Jonah’s story is closer to the experience of a lot of people who are called by God. I know it was my experience. God calls and we do everything in our power to ignore, deny, or avoid the call.

So why the differences in call experiences? I think it has a lot to say about who we are, about how receptive we are to listening to God’s call, of how we respond to God’s call. In the ideal situation, the call is heard and immediately becomes part of who we are, resonating with our inmost being, with out very souls. Because of this receptivity, this resonance, the call seems natural and we know we must obey. On the other end of the spectrum, like in Jonah’s case, we hear the call, but it gets stuck, here, in our heads. We attempt to process it rationally, logically. We come up with all sorts of reasons why we shouldn’t or can’t respond. The call gets stuck in the head and we don’t allow it to enter into the depths of our being, to touch our heart and our soul.

So what do we do about this? How do we reconcile the ideal call of the disciples with the lived experience of Jonah, of many of us? For me, that’s where today’s Psalm comes in. This Psalm, Psalm 62, which begins “For God alone my soul in silence waits” is one of my favorites. I first really heard it at a time when I was in the midst of struggling with my own sense of call. And what I heard, what I came to understand, was that it is only by being in silence before God, by opening myself to listen for and to God, to listen without talking back, by becoming vulnerable before God, that God’s calling could move from my head, into my heart and my soul. Only then could it touch and become part of my inmost being. Only then would it feel natural and right, become a part of me. Because only then would I truly become who I am called to be. And only then could I answer the call with out question, without hesitation.

I think this is at the root of what the Psalmist means when he says “God has spoken once, twice have I heard it.” Only by being silent and open before God, are we able to hear with our mind, but also to hear in a deeper way in our heart and soul. Only then are we able to truly incorporate God’s call, to know what that calling truly is, and to begin to live into it.

So, for each of us here today, I pray that there may be a sense of openness to the Sprit, that all of us may be able to be open to allow God to enter into and work within the inmost parts of our being, helping us each to discern where and how we are being called to best serve God’s purposes.

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

1 comment:

Yard[D]og said...

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