Hearing God's Voice
Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Grace and peace be unto you from God who is our Creator and from Jesus Christ who is our Savior and our Friend. Amen.
I wonder how many of you believe you have heard God speak to you? Was it a voice that you heard outside of your head or was it inside your mind? Was it a thought that came to you, or more of a feeling of knowing what God wanted to say?
In those times when I believe I hear God speak, it isn’t usually a voice outside of myself, but a thought or a message that comes to me. Something in me says, “that’s of God.” Sometimes it’s out of the blue, but more likely it’s when I’m actively listening to God’s Word – during the sermon, praying, meditating, or reading scripture.
If you were here last Sunday then you remember that I invited you to write down what you heard God calling you to this year, and then to share it with your neighbors. Well, while you were speaking with one another and I was standing right here, God spoke to me.
It wasn’t visual, but it was as if a little shooting star passed in front of me and left a word behind, and I caught it. I think it was from God. The answer to a question I’ve been praying about for some time.
Now, we can’t just go around claiming that every random thought we have is God speaking to us, so I have held that word I received last week in the light. I’ve have weighed it, tried it on, I have waited to see if it continued to feel right, and yeah, I think that was God’s answer. I think God spoke. In the middle of church. Go figure.
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)
Today we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus and what it means for us today. When the Christian community seeks to discern the significance of Jesus’s baptism, we often find it in the voice, in the affirmation that God gave Jesus that day.
Jesus had probably spent his whole life hearing a voice outside of himself, feeling a call to public ministry, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, but at the same time, no doubt he wondered if it was real.
He must have wondered if he was crazy, hearing voices, wondered if it was all in his own head, if he had caught the Messiah fever that so many around him experienced. And he must have wondered if it was worth the risk to his own life.
But in his baptism, God put those questions to rest. God spoke. God not only confirmed Jesus’s identity as God’s son, but God said, “You are my beloved. I am well-pleased with you.” God gave Jesus encouragement and the go ahead. “Yes. I’ve called you to proclaim the good news to all who will hear.”
I think the words God spoke to Jesus are words we all long to hear, from our father or mother, or from parent figures, or from anyone we look up to, who matters to us. I love you. You’re precious to me. I am so danged proud of you. I love who you’ve become. If you are a parent or parent-figure to others, remember to tell them not only that you love, them, but that you are pleased with them – proud.
And through baptism, these are God’s words to us. Baptism is a sacrament and a free gift of God and it is the entry point into the family of God. God loves every person on earth, baptized or not. But it is through baptism that we become part of the specifically Christian family.
In baptism God claims us and makes us God’s own. Baptism is God’s way of saying to each and every one of us, “You are my beloved. I love you and I am so proud of you.”
If you have not been baptized then I invite you to be baptized. Talk to me about it.
In his baptism, God spoke audibly to Jesus. Scripture tells us that there was a voice from heaven. I assume the voice spoke in Aramaic, but who knows?
How does God speak to us? God is most likely to speak to us when we are seeking God. God speaks to us when we are listening to God’s word, during the sermon, when we are praying, and when we are meditating, or reading scripture. We hear God when have stilled the outside sounds and voices, and are concentrated and open. Still, how do we know that God is speaking, as opposed to our own thoughts?
A Spiritual Director in the Ignatian tradition named Becky Eldredge shares how she discerns that God is speaking to her. She writes,First, “when an idea or thought or word or phrase comes out of nowhere during prayer, and then it continues to return over and over again, I find that it is typically something God is trying to tell me.”
Second, “when I have an overwhelming feeling when reading Scripture or praying—whether it be of great joy, peace, anger, or it moves me to tears—I know it is something I need to pay attention to and most likely coming from God.”
And third, “when a short phrase or word captures my attention, or something internal feels a nudge or stirring while reading Scripture, I know it is something to pause, sit with, and continue to pray on, because this is typically God speaking to me.”
So to recap, first, when an idea or thought repeats itself over and over, second when a feeling overwhelms you, perhaps moving you to tears, and third, when a short phrase or word captures my attention. That means pay attention. God might be speaking.
Let’s give it a try. I’m going to invite you to listen to the reading of the gospel lesson again. I’m going to read it aloud, and then there will be a pause, and then I will read it again.
Listen for God speaking to you. Maybe a word or phrase will jump out at you. Maybe word or phrase or idea will move you. Or maybe nothing so dramatic. But this is what you will hear God say to you. When God says to Jesus, “This is my Child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." God is saying it to you as well. Hear it as God speaking to you.
Close your eyes, get comfortable.
Read – pause – read
Would anyone like to share their experience of hearing God speaking to you? What came to you, or how did it feel, to hear God call you “beloved?”
Pause for discussion -
You know what’s wonderful about God’s Word to us in baptism? It’s mobile. The claim God made upon your life and the identity God gave you when you were baptized is in effect wherever you are.
Sometimes God’s voice thunders from the hilltops and the heavens and sometimes it whispers in the stillness. God’s voice always meets us in the words of Jesus in scripture, and that voice speaks to you and to me wherever we are.
At home, at work, at play, at your address at home /1225 Fulton Road, or here at 1650 West Third, with other people, on our own, when we were babies and when we are old. Who you are is God’s beloved. Through our baptisms and in our every-day lives, God speaks to God’s beloved words of encouragement, direction, sometimes admonition, and always love.
May God open our ears and our hearts to hear. Amen.