God Is Still Speaking But Are We Still Listening
Last Wednesday was one of those days. I was tired, dragging and overscheduled. I wasn’t feeling great, I had a lot on my mind, and my responsibilities for the day had exceeded my energy. So, at Wednesday Night Supper, after finishing my dinner, I pulled away for a few minutes so I could regroup a little before teaching the Pilgrim’s Path class. I found a quite corner in the library where I wouldn’t be as easily spotted and sat down for a few minutes just to run things through my mind. The kids were playing in the hall, as they always do after dinner, and I found their joyful noise rather soothing. For several minutes I sat there thinking, praying a little, and checking my schedule on my iPhone. My head was down so I was surprised when I heard this little voice say – “Hey, you know we have the same birthday.” I looked up and little 7-year-old Andrew Ascoli was standing in front of me with this big grin on his face. “We do?” I said. “Yep, 10-10, October 10th, that’s our birthday,” he said. “That’s right,” I said, “October 10th is a great day to be born.” “Yep,” Andrew said, “I was born in 2005, but I bet you’re kind of old.” With that he gave me a high-five, which I love to get from all the kids, and off he went back to play. For the next several minutes I just sat there smiling and laughing.
Now, for some folks that story is nothing more than a cute encounter with a young boy. But for me it was much more. God was there. It was a holy moment, a bit of God’s grace, a little manna in the wilderness of my day. Andrew’s smile and his desire to make a connection with me was a little bit of spiritual food, a gift from God, just when I needed it the most. As strange as it may sound to some of you, I know that God was speaking to me through Andrew. Andrew and his beautiful smile were for me bearers of God’s grace.
In our first lesson this morning Moses receives God’s grace when God speaks to him through a burning bush. Moses is out in the desert tending his father-in-law’s flocks when he notices a bush that is burning but not burned, on fire but not consumed. God speaks to him form that bush and tells Moses that he is to be the leader who will free the Israelites from slavery and lead them to a promised land. God tells Moses that his name is “Yahweh,” which means – “I am who I am,” or “I am who Is,” or “I am all that Is.” With the knowledge of this sacred name Moses will have the authority he needs to confront Pharaoh and free his people. Moses may not feel capable of the task but God will work through him to accomplish God’s will. It’s a wonderful story of an unlikely hero who lets God work through him to accomplish great things.
This morning we worship God using the music of another unlikely hero – Robert Zimmerman better known as Bob Dylan. He’s been called the voice of a generation. Believe it or not, Dylan and Moses have a lot in common. Moses was a confused Jewish boy raised as Egyptian – an identity that did not fit him. Dylan was a confused Jewish boy raised as a small town Minnesotan – an identity that did not fit him. Moses is said to have had a terrible speech impediment. When Dylan sings half the time many of us can’t understand a word he is saying. Sure, Moses is perhaps the greatest figure in Judaism and Bob is just a singer songwriter who’s not quite sure what religion he belongs to. But both have truths to tell, both have something to say about freedom. More importantly, both of them can be vehicles for God to speak to us in our lives. After all, is it any crazier to hear God in the lyrics of a rock song, or through a simple encounter with a 7-year-old boy, then it is to hear God speaking from a burning bush?
Every so often in a Bible study or a small group discussion someone will ask me if I think God still speaks to people the way God does in the Bible. I definitely think God does, I just think we often miss it. As Christians, we proclaim that God speaks most clearly through the words and actions of Jesus. We believe that if you want to know about God then pay attention to Jesus. But make no mistake about it; we believe that God is still speaking. To Saul of Tarsus God spoke through a bright and shining light, to Job out of a whirlwind, to Moses from a burning bush. To Elijah God spoke in a still small voice, and to Jacob he spoke in a dream. To you and me God speaks in various ways. Some may have encountered God in sunrises or sunsets, in bright stars on a summer night, in towering mountains or surging seas. Some may have heard God speak in the kind words of a caring friend, seen God in the smile of an infant, or felt God in the warm embrace of a parent, child, or spouse. Many have met God in the pages of a great book, or in the holy hush of the sanctuary or in a quiet time of prayer. Some have even heard God speak through a conversation with a young boy or in the lyrics of a Dylan song.
In the last letter Gracie Allen ever wrote to her husband, George Burns, she said, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” God’s word is not finished. It isn’t something that just took place years ago to the characters in the Bible. There is no period that has been placed because God is still speaking. Listen for it, look for it. God seeks to encounter you in this life. God wants to touch your heart and expand it. God’s voice, however experienced, always says something to us about our own deepest needs, or the deepest needs of others. It is a voice that speaks truth, that cuts through the trite and the trivial. God speaks to us so that we can see more, hear more, and care more about the people around us. So pay attention to the music that moves you, the beauty that surrounds you, and the people who reach out for you – because like Moses and the burning bush, you may find within these things God’s voice calling you to do more and be more than you ever imagined.
And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my songs well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.