Ezekiel 2:1-5, II Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13
“If only God would say something to me. I’ve been a Christian all my life. I’ve led a good life, prayed almost every day, went to church at least now and then, and believed in God, even when tempted to doubt. But God has never spoken to me,” he said. And at this point in his life, with several large problems looming on the horizon, and a lot of uncertainty, at this point in his life when he really could use that divine voice from heaven telling him what to do or at least what to look for, he was wondering, as we talked, why God seemed so silent.
I was fairly sure that this conversation was not going to end well for me. There was little I could say really. God is revealed in ways that will always remain a mystery, with ideas that sound crazy at first, to people you sometimes wonder about, and on a schedule that seems haphazard at best. And on the positive side, wondering about the silence of God is sometimes the first step in a spiritual journey. There were no simple answers to his lament. I did not have the words that would satisfy this deep thirst.
But his lament is often echoed in the hearts of so many. Why is God so silent? Where is God, anyway? Why doesn’t God speak to me?
Perhaps God is speaking, but we are not listening for the sounds God makes. Just as when we do not hear the rustle of leaves or the laugh of a child or the unspoken love of a smile while we are concentrating on the loud noises that dominate our lives, so we might miss the delicate whispers of God.
But each of these lessons attunes us to listen for God’s voice, God’s will, God’s purpose in our lives by lifting up for us how God does speak.
Sometimes God speaks to and through us in, with, and under our resistance to something. This is the situation in Ezekiel this morning. Ezekiel is called to be a prophet and to carry a message that will be resisted and rejected. He is called by God to speak this word even though the people do not want to hear it. Ezekiel reminds us that God speaks to and through us as we encounter our own resistance and rejection and the resistance and rejection of others.
Most of us have rejected or resisted many things over the years. With the gift of hindsight, we know that most of our rejection of things has been for good reason. All of us over the course of a lifetime have rejected many bad things. But as we think about this, we also realize that sometimes we have resisted or rejected the wrong thing. We did not hear or see or understand the best course of action, the way God intended. To hear God again, it would be good for us to think about our inner resistance: those voices within us that challenge and change us. As we do so, we will realize that in our decision to say no, sometimes God may be calling us to think more carefully about something. Resistance may be the human soul working on something difficult and coming to a new conclusion. And as you wrestle with something you would resist, you are wrestling not only with evil but also with God so to speak. God is chatting with you about the direction you should take. God may be speaking by lifting up your resistance to something.
Sometimes God speaks to us through our rejection of something. Sometimes God speaks to and through us in the overlooked ordinary.
At first the second lesson this morning from the early church seems strange. It begins with amazing mystical events, levels of heaven, and out of body experiences. Paul says all that spectacular revelation is good. After all, the buzz is usually about the astounding, the beyond life experience, the amazing revelation.
But in II Corinthians, the amazing beyond this life experience is not the way Paul finds God speaking to and through him. God speaks through Paul as an ordinary person through words we understand, and through the honest, everyday life events of a regular human being.
God in the overlooked ordinary things of life is a theme in the sixth chapter of Mark today. As Jesus returns home, he is perceived as an ordinary son of the village. He is viewed as the ordinary son of Joseph with brothers and sisters. Oh, it’s just Jesus, going off on God again. He is taken for granted. Yet this ordinary Jesus is the great healer and miracle worker of the gospel.
Toward the end of the lesson in Mark today, ordinary men, the disciples are able to do extra-ordinary things. The disciples who are common folk accomplish amazing healing.
God it seems, since that humble birth in a manger, is in the ordinary and common. God is in the details of everyday life: in the delight of a child, the affection of people for one another, the act of kindness, in stands made for justice, the care of a spouse for an ill partner, the decision to do the right thing, through acts of generosity, in compassion for the suffering and needy, through faithfulness to our family, friends, and vocation. When we recognize again how important the little things are in life, when we treasure these things, when we lift up the overlooked ordinary blessings, we can begin to hear again the subtle tones of God’s music usually drowned by the blatant strident voices dominating the world we have ourselves made.
Sometimes God speaks in the overlooked ordinary things. Sometimes God speaks to and through us as we consider our rejection of things. Sometimes God speaks to and through us in, with, and under affliction or in suffering.
In the second lesson today, in II Corinthians, Paul has an ailment of some sort. We do not know what it is. It is probably something physical. And he prays that the ailment will go away. It does not. It remains with him. He continues to suffer. And in his suffering he draws closer to the suffering God.
Now we must be careful here. Suffering is not a good thing. It is not a means to some spiritual end. God does not give us suffering to make us better. Suffering is bad. It hurts. And it is not a good thing. Our prayer, like Paul’s, should always be for the end of suffering.
And when it is our misfortune or the misfortune of others to suffer some malady or misfortune, we may discover that we are drawn closer to the suffering of God. For the Christian God is one who suffers, is crucified, dies, and is buried. And on the third day God rises from the dead. In suffering we may discover that we are accompanied by the suffering one whose own journey through pain provides the pattern for new life.
When we are in this movement from despair to hope, from suffering to recovery, from death to life, God is not so much speaking to us, but holding our hand along the way. God is silent in such times because there is a lump in his throat and tears in her eyes, as God is with us along this painful way until this too has passed.
Until having walked this path of suffering together, we find ourselves more deeply connected to the suffering of others. God with us in suffering eventually moves us to see, hear, and feel the suffering of others. We find in our own suffering compassion for the suffering of others.
Sometimes God speaks to and through us as we consider our rejection of things. Sometimes God speaks in the overlooked ordinary. Sometimes God speaks to and through us in, with, and under affliction.