That is one of our official mottos in the United Church of Christ---"God is Still Speaking". We believe it and teach it in the UCC but how do we actively listen for God's voice to speak to us as individuals to act on behalf of God in the world around us? There are many voices in the world. Some voices guide people into wrong actions. When someone believes that they are acting on behalf of God by using a gun to kill another person, then their listening has turned to another source besides that of God. If one looks at what we as Christians are taught as being the very essence of God, it is summed up in 3 words--"God is love."
The writer of the short epistles that we call I, II, and III John wrote those familiar words and expanded them with these--"Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (I John 4: 7-8) Love is at the center of what one does in life if one truly is striving to serve God and neighbor.
The lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures for this next Sunday is the very familiar story of the little boy Samuel who lived in the Temple with Eli and his sons. Eli was the priest on duty and he was seeking to serve God but his sons were wicked and were doing all kinds of things that God found displeasing. So, God spoke to Samuel with a message to tell Eli so he would know that judgement was coming.
The story of God speaking to Samuel was always intriguing to me. Samuel was a little boy and knew nothing about God speaking to anyone. He heard his name being called in the quiet of the dark night but thought it was Eli who needed him. Three times he went to Eli to see what he wanted only to be told to go back to bed and stop bothering the old priest. The third time Eli recognized what was going and and told Samuel that if he heard his name again to say, "Speak Lord, for your servant hears." Sure enough, his name was called again and he was given a message to give to Eli, not good news to share but important news that had to be given.
God has never called my name in my ear in the middle of the night but God has spoken to me in dreams and feelings and impressions and strong yearnings to do something that I felt had to be done. Many times I have acted based solely on these things because I felt God wanted me to do something. When my wife and I had been married only a couple of years and we lived in Humble, Texas, I dreamed about one of my best friends from high school one night. The dream was a pleasant one as I recall but for a couple days I could not stop thinking about this friend. So, I wrote him a letter getting the address I could from his parents. A few weeks later, I received a letter back from him postmarked Chile. He had been working in Chile as part of his training to become an architect and he had received my letter there. He said that it was great hearing from me and that the letter arrived just when he was feeling very lonely and homesick. Shortly after he returned from Chile, he paid us a visit and we all have been close friends through the years.
I sincerely believe that God spoke to me through that dream and the feeling to write to him that would not go away was the work I needed to do to remind my friend that he was not alone even though he was thousands of miles away. God speaks to each of us in unique ways that fit our own personalities, our gifts, and our talents. When we invite God to be active in our lives and desire to be led by God's Spirit, God will use us in ministry to the world around us.
God is still speaking--everyday, in every way possible. Being willing to hear God's voice is what we do in response to God's voice speaking to us. Speak Lord, for your servant hears you.