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Look Who’s Talking
a sermon based on 1Samuel 3:1-10
by Rev. F. Schaefer

I would like to begin my sermon by reading a quote to you I recently came by:

"Youth today loves luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people, and talk nonsense when they should work. They contradict their parents, talk too much in company, guzzle their food, lay their legs on the table, and tyrannize their elders."

When do you think these words were written? Just recently? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? I don’t think many of us would be able to guess this. These words were penned some 2,500 years ago by Greek philosopher Socrates - Sixth Century B.C.

Things may be getting out of control in our day and age. But after reading this quote and after reading our Scripture passage one must realize that things have been bad before. In fact, there are a lot of parallels between our modern world and the time of the Judges of Israel.

Judges 21:25 sums up the situation in a nutshell: "In these days there was no king in Israel: every person did that which seemed right in their own eyes."

The Writer of Samuel observed how people lived around him. And what he saw worried him: the majority of people lived their lives like there was no law, no moral values, and . . . . no God.

People living during that time seemed to engage in adultery and quarreling rather than in acts of peace and neighborly love. People didn't seem to think they were accountable for what they did. And so it comes that some of the things we read about in the book of Judges are very disturbing ranging from simple fraud to child-sacrifice.

But the writer not only gives us this socio-political evaluation, he also suggests what may be the underlying problem. He says at the beginning of our passage that "the word of the Lord was rare in those days."

Don't those words sound true today too? Isn't this what we could say about our culture? The Word of God is rare in our time too. God is systematically banned from public places. Religion has in many respects become a private issue. It has become more acceptable to talk about sex (or other private issues) than about one's beliefs.

We often hear that the constitution was founded on Christian values and principles, yet, today not even Christians agree on what is right or wrong. There seems to be no standard, or moral code, anything can be seen as good or bad; you may be pro life, or pro choice, you may be for prayer in schools or against, for or against the death sentence, and so on. And all is equally acceptable.

The Word of God is rare in our days and that this might just be one of the very reasons for our problems today. We are aware of the fact that we are in dire need of God's guidance; we know that we need to hear and listen to God's voice.

But does God speak to us today? Where can we turn in order to hear God's voice? Are there any judges or prophets like Eli and Samuel today? Perhaps Billy Graham? Anthony Campolo? Robert Schuyler? Perhaps our church leaders? How does God speak today? What's God's voice really sound like? And how do we know when God’s voice is ringing out?

There is a story of a man who thought had found his own method of determining God's voice. This man suffered from depression and in his despair turned to the "index-finger-open-bible method." This method is brilliant in its simplicity: you open your bible to any random place and with your eyes shut you place your index finger on any Verse--believing that God will direct your fingers to the answer for your problem. So, this man randomly opens his bible up to Matthew where it says: ". . . and Judas went out and hanged himself." This passage, he thought, "is certainly in need of interpretation. Surely, God doesn't want me to hang myself." So, the man decides to repeat the process. This time his finger lands on Luke 10:37 where it says: Then Jesus said to him: "Go and do likewise."

Though we all agree that this is certainly not the way to discern God's voice, I think we would all agree that in one way or another we must discern God's voice for our lives. Jesus compares himself to a shepherd in John 10:4 and says: "[the good shepherd] goes ahead of them and his sheep follow them because they know his voice."

So, how do we perceive God's voice. Does God speak to us in an audible voice like He did to Samuel? I remember a conversation I had in my senior year at college. Her name was Alexandra and I disliked one thing about her: she would always throw around the phrase: "the Lord told me this; the Lord told me that!" So finally I asked her: "how exactly do you hear God's voice?" And she said something like: "God speaks in many ways, sometimes its through an ordinary event or another person, but when He speaks to you, you'll know it."

Well, to this experience I believe we can all relate; we have heard God's voice at certain points in our lives; only that most people wouldn't put it in terms of: "the Lord told me." More often we're like little Samuel, aren't we? We're just not sure whether it was God's voice we're hearing or last night's pizza.

I usually notice God's voice after the fact. Often, when I look back on a certain situation I suddenly discover that God was in it, that he did speak to me and guide me through it. Kind of like the two disciples on their way to Emmaeus. They walked with a stranger they met on the road, and only after the stranger was gone, they realized it was the Lord Jesus. And they said: "Were not our hearts burning within us when he spoke to us?"

But you know, every once in a while, I have this experience when I think God is communicating something to me more directly. It is a rare experience for me, and it usually happens in a ministry situation, like when I laid my hands on a parishioner right before he went through a open heart surgery about 6 weeks ago. Suddenly, as I was praying for him, I sensed an incredible and intense peace in my heart, and something within me urged me to share this experience with him. So I said to him, " Terry, I don't know what exactly this means but I sense an incredible peace of God. I think, God wants you to know that everything will be OK. And it turned out that everything went OK.

And you know I had those experiences before, and I didn't say anything to the person I was praying for because I was afraid that it was just wishful thinking. But, you know, the bible tells us about these instances when God speaks to us more directly. In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul calls these moments when God speaks through human persons "prophecy," "discernment," and "word of knowledge," categorizing them as "spiritual gifts." In 1 Corinthians 12:7 we read: "To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given of the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a word of knowledge, to another faith, to another by the same Spirit, the gift of healing, to another prophecy and so on. . . ."

Note that it says that to each one of us is given, that includes you and me. And, perhaps, the reason why some of us don't seem to hear God's voice or don't hear God's voice more often is because we're expecting God to talk to us in a grandiose way accompanied by flashes in the sky, roaring thunders, or an audible voice.

What God wants to teach us with the story of Samuel though is that there is something about the way God speaks to us that was is very ordinary and human. After all, little Samuel mistook God's voice for Eli's voice, he did not even recognize it as God's voice until Eli told him: "what you're hearing son is God's voice,"

You see, there is something very ordinary about how God speaks to us. So, next time you're sensing this urge to give someone a call--call that person, it may be God's way of telling you that this person needs to talk to someone. And if suddenly out of the blue, this message pops into your head and it doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps you're supposed to share them with someone, or perhaps you’re supposed to share it with this congregation. God may give you words, and they may be the words of life to someone who sits in one of these pews, desperately waiting for an answer form God.

In the midst of a world spinning out of control; the midst of decaying morals, and staggering sinfulness, we need to hear a Word from God. The Word of God was rare in those days; it is rare today. Let us as Christ’s ambassadors, become more sensitive to the voice of God within us and around us. Let us listen! Because God may just be . . . talking. Amen.