Listening Well

    January 10, 2019 | Articles by Pastor Ryan Arnold

    Listening Well

    God is still speaking.

    The United Church of Christ, or UCC, used God is still speaking as a marketing slogan in the early 2000s.  Their campaign logo prominently features a big comma, implying God’s story is an unfinished one.  As a former marketer in my previous vocation, I’ve always loved this slogan.  It connects ancient scripture with an active presence of the divine in our modern world, by way of celestial speech.

    Sometimes the UCC includes this additional tagline: “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.”  What a neat quote, courtesy of comedian Gracie Allen.

    Other times the UCC logo is shortened simply to Still Speaking, with a large thought bubble around the text. The implications of that are clear: dialogue between the created and our Creator is still taking place.

    Hearing Voices
    Scripture is filled with examples of God’s speaking, in so many ways. Samuel 3:1-10 in particular contains multiple insights into the nature of this communication.  And it does so in bite-sized pieces that are downright ripe for consumption.  Here are the top six things we can learn from Samuel’s sleepless night.

    #1 Sometimes God is quiet. The passage begins by telling us that the word of the Lord was rare in those days. Visions were not widespread. But this quiet isn’t a negative. Here the sacred silence serves to highlight that something big, something unusual, something worth noting was on the way.

    #2 God speaks to people of all ages. While scripture doesn’t specify Samuel’s age, he is referred to as a boy. These days we like to define the role of children in church; first communion at this age, confirmation at that age, acolytes must be so old. But when it comes to having an active conversation with God? No such limit exists.

    #3 Recognizing the voice of God is no simple thing. When Samuel first heard the Lord calling his name he didn’t recognize the source. Instead, he went to Eli, the elderly priest he was serving, saying, “Here I am!” But Eli hadn’t called for Samuel. And Eli sent him back to bed. It’s safe to say this likely left them both scratching their heads.

    #4 God sometimes has to say things more than once. This pattern, of Samuel hearing the Lord calling, then going instead to Eli, then being sent back to bed repeats itself, three times. All in the same night! Repetition equals importance. Sometimes it can take a little while for we humans to recognize the divine.  This is certainly been true in my life, stories for another time 

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