Sunday, January 18, 2009

Singing and Snow

Today was an ordinary Sunday after the Epiphany: ordinary time. I preached on the call of Samuel, and had parish members complete the phrase: "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." We had an important budget meeting after church, to approve a new budget. (It was approved.) In the meantime, we are starting to discern God's calling to us in this place; our community is not the same one that built a church in 1947, and welcomed the young families of World War II veterans. We are more diverse today: economically, generationally, racially.

I said that the first step in our discernment is to ask God to speak to us, and to trust that God will speak to us.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

To me, the story of Samuel has so much poignancy: the old priest, who has the wisdom of serving and loving God for all these years, but not the courage or the vision to do what is needed now. The young Samuel, sleeping next to the Ark of the covenant, hearing God calling him, but not knowing who it is, or, more important, the implications of God's call. For all his faults, I love the old priest Eli, even though his time is ending. And one of the things I love about him is how he accepts the word of the Lord, how he accepts God's judgment. "Let him do what seems good to him," he says.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Our community is changing, I said, but we can still be a community church. We can still be a church that welcomes the people who are moving here. We can still give people a place to worship, learn, and learn to hear God's voice to them. But we will serve, welcome and nurture a more diverse community. To tell the truth, I don't know exactly how to do that. I do know one thing: I believe our children, like Samuel, will show us the way. The question is: are we Eli, with the wisdom, but not the courage, to serve God?

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

After the first service, I looked out of the front door of the church and saw a thick, beautiful snow falling. Not all snow is beautiful, just ask my friend Songbird, who had a terrifying drive home from church today. But this was just as if someone had tipped over one of those snow globes right outside the church doors. A sudden delight seized me, the unexpected beauty, and I exclaimed, "Look at the snow!" ... and all the church heard it, because somehow my mike was still on.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

At both services today, we sang Here I am, Lord, and even though it has sometimes become a cliche, and even though we have perhaps sung it too often, I found myself moved.

I will break their hearts of stone/give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?

And at our 10:00 Contemporary Service, we sang a gospel song called Lead Me, Guide Me, and John Bell's The Summons.

Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
So many questions today: our changing neighborhood, and our fear of the future, our call, if we will answer it, the challenges of poverty and racism, the call to do justice. And then there is the unexpected beauty, if we have eyes to see it: the children, our disciples, our teachers.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Are we?


Barbara B. said...

Sounds like a good service... and I love the snow-globe snow!

Songbird said...

What a beautiful expression of how we are called to change! (And thanks for thinking of me.)

mompriest said...

That hymn was way over-used by the Cursillo movement in my former city...but I often find it moving....

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

"I said that the first step in our discernment is to ask God to speak to us, and to trust that God will speak to us."

This is so true . . . and so often overlooked.

FranIAm said...

Oh my what a post- I cried, this is beautiful.

And that Samuel reading is a favorite of mine.