The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

God is Calling—An Audience-Participation Sermon on Listening

Grace and peace from God our Creator, hope in our Redeemer Jesus the Christ, and the promised gifts of the Holy Spirit are with you, always.

Have you sensed a theme for this week yet? Our opening hymn was “Listen, God is Calling” and it involved some call and response that we don’t usually do. And then our first lesson, from 1 Samuel, we did a little reader’s theater, which we don’t usually do. And just when you thought the audience participation might be over! What did you notice about the song and the readings?

I could have chosen any song about being called, and I could have just had one person read the lesson. Is there a meta connection, too?

I am really asking. I have written “insert brilliant responses from students here” in my notes.

[insert brilliant responses from students here]

***

We did some extra listening, and some more intentional listening, by doing things differently. We didn’t just mosey through the opening hymn, we didn’t just zone out while someone read a long reading. We listened about listening.

Talking about listening is one of my favorite ironies. In a minute, I am going to stick giant papers on the wall, and you are going to sit for a minute, and think about the answers to the questions written on them, and then get up and write something. And then maybe spend some time this week thinking about the answers.

Where do you hear God?

What has God called you to “come and see,” like Phillip says to Nathanael in the Gospel story?

Who has God called to walk with you?

What has God called us to do?

You can be as literal or as figurative as you like in your responses. You can be as specific or as vague as you like. And in the last one, especially, what has God called us to do, you can think as personal or as communally as you like. Has God called you to something specific? Or, is the whole church called to a certain action?

As soon as I say “there are no wrong answers” I know someone is going to poke at that and find a wrong answer, so I will just preface with this: God does not call us to commit violence against each other or to oppress each other, but otherwise I think anything you come up with is going to be safe.

Where do you hear God?

What has God called you to come and see?

Who has God called to walk with you?

What has God called us to do?

[insert brilliant written responses from students on giant poster papers on the chapel wall]

***

Where do you hear God? Anywhere, any time you’re quiet long enough to listen.

What has God called you to come and see? The truth, and that the truth will set you free.

Who has God called to walk with you? The communion of saints.

What has God called us to do? Live as disciples, sharing the good news.

All of us are called. You are called. God speaks to you through all the channels in your life that bring you joy, and that challenge you, and that support you. God has called you and continues to call you to be your best self. God has called you to come and see what freedom, and love, and grace, and friendship, and community, and justice are really all about. God has called us all to walk together, supporting one another and learning from one another. God has called us to live as disciples, sharing the good news. God has called all of us to all of this.

Our scripture this week makes it so plain. There is no person, no place, no circumstance, to which God does not speak. The holy spirit moves in every nation, in every city, in every community, in every person. For centuries, humans have tried to restrict the movement of the spirit, limit the work of God, by declaring who is fit to preach the gospel and who is fit to hear it. In 2018, as we read these words from Samuel and from Eli, from Jesus and from Nathanael and from Phillip, we can say—for sure—that God is still speaking. We can say—for sure—that any restriction on hearing God’s call is not a restriction put there by God, but a restriction put there by people.

God spoke to Samuel, who wasn’t sure what he was hearing. Hearing the voice of God does not always sound like your name, in the middle of the night, when you’re trying to sleep. God can sound like so many different things—in fact, God must sound like so many different things, because God’s people are so many different things. When you feel drawn to something or to someone, and you can’t really explain why, that can be the voice of God. When you’re so excited about something you’re learning or work that you’re doing, that can be the voice of God. When you’re challenged by something, taken outside your comfort zone, that can be the voice of God. When you’re feeling truly at peace, that can be the voice of God.

And the voice of God is not just a still, small voice that we listen for. We, too, are amplifiers and interpreters of the voice of God. When you practice kindness in the midst of this messy world, you help others hear the voice of God. When you work for justice, you help others hear the voice of God. When you provide encouragement, you help others hear the voice of God. When you stand up for something or someone that has been cast aside or silenced, you help others hear the voice of God.

Sometimes, we’re afraid of the word “disciple,” I think. In our American Christian environment, most of the people we know who identify as disciples are like really hardcore, and we’re intimidated by that. We can work our way toward identifying with the word disciple, but already, we’re doing the thing. How we live out our lives as Christians depends on who we are and where we live. “Discipleship require[s] fresh, ongoing, creative acts of interpreting and contextualizing our faith story.” It isn’t going to be the same for you as it is for me, and it won’t be the same as everyone else we meet along the way. We don’t have to compare ourselves to other people, and wonder if we’re “as good a Christian” as they are. “Our discipleship must be for the world the reality of love, justice, peace, and compassion for all”—including our own selves.

As we go out into the world, called and sent, keep asking yourself all those questions. Keep asking God all your big questions, keep asking me all your big questions! And then listen. Listen to yourself. Listen to your God. Listen to your community. Listen, God is calling.

[Dear reader, if you have answers to those questions, I'd love to listen.]

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