March 4 2018

Sermon by Rev. Mark Thompson

Lansing Central United Methodist Church

March 4, 2018

“Finding a Word: Listening to Texts”

 

The Board of Ordained Ministry of the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church is meeting this coming week. That is a group of people who interview persons who wish to become ordained as a deacon or elder in The United Methodist Church. I serve on that Board.

 

Candidates must be “fit, ready, and effective “to serve in a local church or in a ministry setting. After great amount of discerning prayer, conversations, interviews and schooling, a person comes before the Board to be interviewed. We consider it an honor to listen to the faith journey of each candidate and look intently for a divine call upon their life that can best serve as a clergyperson in The UMC.

 

It is a daunting task. Certainly, interviewing a person to be ordained a clergyperson is daunting. Yet, I am thinking about the work of discerning whether a person is called to such ordained ministry. One has to listen for God’s call and then discern if that calling is to be a clergyperson.

 

Listening is not easy, especially when one is seeking to hear God’s voice. Life if very hectic. Life is messy. Life is complicated. Yet, we seek to hear that still small voice in the midst of it all.

 

It’s difficult enough to listen to another person. So often we filter what is being said through our religious, political, and social understandings in life. It is natural to do so. This frame of reference gives us just that: a frame of reference so as to make sense of the world in which we live.

 

To listen to another, really listen, is to hear about the world or an issue through another person’s frame of reference. That takes courage; for sometimes we come to a new understanding that is contrary to what we believe.

 

Jesus quoted Isaiah 61. The people had heard this passage before. But listen to what he adds: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  The response of the people was favorable. They listened to what he taught them about this new reality, and they were pleased.

 

We have come to understand that indeed Jesus did come to and not only spoke these words, but lived them out:

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

It was more than words. It was a new world view that Jesus lived out. Now, we as disciples of Jesus, seek to view the world through his eyes, through his teachings, through his ways.

 

So, let’s try it out. Listen to the words of the call to worship again. Look at them in your bulletin if you have it handy.

 

Wisdom shouts in the street;

in the public square she raises her voice.

Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.

At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say:

“How long will you clueless people love your naïveté,

mockers hold their mocking dear,

and fools hate knowledge?

You should respond when I correct you.

Look, I’ll pour out my spirit on you.

I’ll reveal my words to you.”
Let those words sink in. Let them come alive for you. What word or phrase stands out to you. Let me read it again.

 

Our world needs more of us to listen for the word of God for today.

 

Father Richard Rohr writes,

Christianity is a lifestyle – a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established “religion” (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history, and still believe that Jesus is one’s “personal Lord and Savior” . . . The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/580181

We’re only nine weeks into 2018, and there have already been at least 12 school shootings in the US.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/02/us/school-shootings-2018-list-trnd/index.html

The Nigerian government has confirmed that 110 girls are missing after suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a school in the northeast of the country last week.

http://time.com/5174951/nigeria-girls-missing-boko-haram-attack/

 

Jesus said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

Wisdom shouts in the street; in the public square she raises her voice.

Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.

At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say:

“How long will you clueless people love your naïveté, mockers hold their mocking dear,

and fools hate knowledge?

You should respond when I correct you. Look, I’ll pour out my spirit on you.

I’ll reveal my words to you.”