Trusting God (Part 2) – Is God Still Speaking>
June 12, 2024 Creekwood United Methodist Church

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Trusting God (Part 2)

“Is God Still Speaking?”

“Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. The LORD’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush.”

Exodus 3:1-2 CEB

Trusting God sure seems like it would be easier if one of our trees would just spontaneously erupt in flames without being destroyed. Then we would KNOW that God was sending us a message.

It would definitely be easier if Jesus himself brought us to a leper and lame colony and showed us that with God’s power they could all walk and were healed.

Even though it would terrify us, it would still be easier to trust God if the sky went dark, clouds of locusts were so thick we couldn’t see, frogs were everywhere, and the Nile turned red with blood.

I think a lot of us have a hard time fully putting our trust in God, because we’re not sure what God is saying. Or even how to listen. Or even where to start. So we look where we’ve been taught to look…

Signs and Wonders

Several studies have been done on the impact of campaign signs on the outcome of elections. Some political commentary suggests that overwhelming name recognition significantly impacts the outcome of an election. In recent elections, the names “Bush” and “Trump” were already household names, and the marketing prowess of the Obama campaign made a junior senator a household name before the election cycle even began. The linked article talks about a local school board campaign, where experiments made up a candidate and put signs on a busy street – and that candidate received a respectable amount of votes…simply because of the signs.

Jesus’ signs certainly didn’t hurt his credibility. Turning water into wine, healing people, etc. are all indicated by the Gospel authors to be Jesus’ way of establishing his divine credibility (this is especially true in John’s Gospel). We could argue that the burning bush became a landmark moment for God’s credibility, as was the parting of the Red Sea.

So, many of us do sit around and wait for loud bangs, whistles from heaven, and too many people try and interpret natural disasters and world events to be signs from God – as opposed to geological/meterological occurences or human activity.

But should we?

As recently as 2015, a study out of Columbia University determined that political signs have a marginal effect on the outcome of an election – maybe 2% or less.

In John 4:48, Jesus very cynically tells a royal official, “Unless you see miraculous signs and wonders, you won’t believe.” In Matthew 12:39, Jesus uses stronger language, “An evil and unfaithful generation searches for a sign, but it won’t receive any sign except Jonah’s sign.” In Matthew 16:1, Jesus makes fun of the Pharisees for trying to interpret weather patterns and sunsets for anything more than they are.

So…It doesn’t seem like massive fire-burning events and comets flying across the sky and sonic booms are what we should look/listen for. Maybe it’s more personal, maybe God wants to reach out directly through…

The “Bat Phone”

The joke I have heard the most is when people suggest I should go in my office and call God on my special direct line, like Gotham’s police chief had with Batman. But many of us are quite envious when we read stories of Noah talking directly with God about the upcoming flood or Jeremiah having an intimate conversation about his worthiness to be a prophet at such a young age.

This becomes more complicated when certain national church leaders claim to hear directr revelation from God – which somehow always seems to benefit them and the cause they are promoting.

But let me take us back to the burning bush at the top, and notice it does not say “God” was in the bush, but God’s messenger. Especially in the Old Testament, to hear the direct voice of God – or to be in the direct presence of God – was considered a death sentence because none of us normal, unholy human beings could ever stand in the presence of a holy and perfect God. When we do see direct conversation it is most often a literary device – given their fear – UNLESS it is a prophet, and prophets aren’t usually who you want visiting you.

Prophets tell the truth, and while the truth sets us free – it’s often inconvenient. It seems God’s direct line is usually not our version of good news, but a corrective word.

However, I will say that I have “felt” God’s direct voice to me before. I cannot say that I heard it, because I cannot describe the sound, but a moment into declaring loudly that I would never, could never become a pastor, I had a strange sense of calm and “felt” the words “Yes you will” come over me. I still cannot explain it, and it’s why I’m your pastor today, and I have heard other stories like this – again, never for one’s own self-benefit but always to the service of others or justice for all.

More commonly, the words of Rick Warren ring in my ear, when I heard him speak at Saddleback Church. He expressed that he had never heard God’s voice directly…and here was the pastor of the largest church in America and best selling author, who was about to radically change the landscape for evangelical churches helping those affected by the AIDS crisis – and he wasn’t doing it because of a batphone.

He was doing it because…

God’s Messages and Messengers

Rich had met a profoundly faithful church member who was living with…and dying from…AIDS. This gentleman presented Rich with no reason to fear him or condemn him, in fact, Rick was humbled and mortified of the way his brand of church had villainized those with AIDS.

It was the testimony and experience of this man that led Saddleback to become a leader in AIDS prevention and treatment within the evangelical Christian world.

99% of the time, God speaks in scripture through someone else. The prophets Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Habbukuk, Jonah, etc. are all charged with a specific message. The burning bush has a messenger, Balaam’s donkey becomes a messenger, the apostles and the early church are messengers…and what you’ll notice, the more the message spreads, is that revelation and direct divine communication becomes less and less and less.

It seems word of mouth became God’s favorite form of advertising.

So much so, that the testimonies passed down got turned into a collection of books that we call The Bible, which, maintains an inspired status that allows us to read/hear what God has to say any time we want to, on a great variety of subjects.

But Will We Listen?

In 1 Kings 1, Elijah is desperately seeking to hear God’s voice – expecting the signs and wonders route, or maybe a loud, booming voice. But after all the loud, crashing natural events, it’s only in the silence that Elijah hears God’s voice.

That’s not to say that silence is the only time we can hear God’s voice, but it certainly helps us know how to best hear what God has to say.

  • Silence means no distractions.
  • Silence brings focus.
  • Silence is deafening when we are so used to noise.
  • Silence perks our senses to pay attention.

Which is why VBS, as loud as it can be, is also a time to hear God’s message loud and clear. We are singularly focused, in every chaotic station, on the Good News of God. We have nowhere to be, no one to impress, no dates to keep, and no assignments to complete. We are focused, and in the absence of “the rest of our lives,” VBS turns into a moment of silence and focus – even amidst the chaos.

Trust Exercise #2

Active Listening

This week, I’d like for you to carve out some time to be intentionally listening to God. You can do this by reading scripture and meditating on where you find yourself in the story.

You can do this by praying and meditating upon where your thoughts wander to.

You can do this by coming to VBS and leaving your phone in the car.

You can do this by having coffee with a good friend and asking them to give you some honesty about how God loves you and how you can love God.

You can do this by taking a walk and paying attention to nothing but the natural sounds, and see where your mind wanders.

You can do this by taking a shower and remembering the waters of your baptism that bring you into union with God through Christ.

But in all of these activities, the necessary elements are the silencing of distractions around you and the silencing of expectations of what God is “supposed to be like.” Pay attention to the neighbor on your walk, or what your friend has to say. Pay attention to how you receive a scripture, or what you think about when you pray.

God comes in messengers all the time.

Anything that speaks peace, patience, gentleness, humility, self-control, kindness – and all the other fruits of the spirit.

But we’re looking for something else. Something we expect. Something more convenient to our schedule.

Maybe the problem hasn’t been God’s silence all along?

Maybe we haven’t heard God because we haven’t been “silent” enough to hear.


David Lessner