It's Wednesday, and I'm amazed at the inordinate number of comments I've received about my sermon from this past Sunday. Who would have thought that expressing the idea that God really wants to communicate with us all of the time, about matters that mean something to us in this life, would strike such a chord. People seemed surprised that God might have some interest in how you do your job, raise your family, deal with unpleasant people, etc... In things we encounter and deal with on a moment to moment basis.
Lots of questions though about "I'm glad that God wants to talk to me, but how do I hear Him?", which is pretty important too. Since I'm the one who used the metaphor of "tuning in God" just as we would tune in a frequency on a radio, let me expand a little on the subject (and remember, this is only one man's opinion, and opinions are like armpits, everyone has a couple, and they usually smell, so take this advice for what it's worth).
Just as I described what is happening to my son, Max, as he learns to read (the process of slowly being able to de-code all these hieroglyphics that have been surrounding him all of his life, to the point now where he's reading everything he sees as we motor about our lovely town), my experience has taught me that "tuning in God" is very, very similar. That, while many of us were taught about Jesus as children, it isn't until his words start really making sense in a real way in our life that he begins to have an impact on who we are.
So when Jesus calls me to humble myself to become a servant of all, or to not worry about tomorrow, or to not love money as much or more than God/others/love itself, and somehow I learn those lessons in practical ways, it's then that I start to pay attention to what it is he has to say. So when I shoot off my mouth in defiance or pride, and it truly hurts somebody needlessly or costs me something dearly (which is a hazard of this ministry business), I begin to understand, in practical terms what it is Jesus is trying to say, and wants me to become. Or, when I encounter the lady who draws together her two brothers who have refused to speak to one another for more than twenty years (because of a bad business deal), and witness the tearful joy as she relives the forgiveness that came out of her actions, that Jesus' words make more sense, and thus have greater impact.
So as we draw nearer to Jesus, making him our rabbi (teacher), in time we become attuned to what it is he, and ultimately God would want in this world. We can actually begin to hear him "speak" with clarity, because his values are slowly becoming ours. And, we can also begin to understand some of the stumbling blocks that we will encounter along the way.
One of Jesus' toughest sayings for me was that he came, not to bring peace, but division, to the point that father would fight with son, and mother with daughter. I never really understood what he meant, until the day when a young man named Dave (changed to protect the innocent) started attending the last youth group I pastored. Dave's family was a really "rough" bunch. I doubt they've ever had a family reunion without numerous kegs, and fights (and sometimes, fights over kegs). After Dave started coming to church, as a part of his unfolding commitment to Jesus, and in response to a lesson he encountered in youth group, he decided that he would practice an act of self-denial as a form of spiritual discipline, and that act was giving up smoking for as long as he could. Now Dave was 16, and had been smoking with his parent's blessing for at least five years, so you could imagine my joy (because it would be physically good for him, let alone any spiritual insights he might stumble on) upon hearing about this act of faith. I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that anybody would thing Dave giving up smoking would be a bad thing.....
until I received the phone call from his mother.
Apparently, Dave's decision caused all kinds of commotion in his family. They were afraid he was becoming "too good" for him. They were afraid church was making him judgmental (even though not a word had ever been spoken by him, or us, in this vein). They were upset that Dave wasn't smoking on the porch with them, and demanded that he quit going to church, which, after much indecision, he didn't do, but we saw him far less often in deference to his mother's wishes.
Now do Jesus' words make sense? How new values accepted can clash with old values still held by those who loves us, setting up fireworks of epic proportions?
So, as what Jesus teaches is proven out practically in our lives, and we grow increasingly more aware and in tune with those teachings, understanding what is required of us is not just a nebulous ethereal set of ideas, but practical sorts of things that help us see ourselves as we are (and hopefully what we want to become!). And thus, God is able to speak, and be heard because we grow in our understanding of the values (love, peace, mercy, justice, forgiveness, tolerance, self-discipline), integrity, and character he desires for all of us.
More on this tomorrow.