St Dunstan’s Camberwell
Sunday 17th January 2021
Called by God
“Are you listening to me?” A question that parents and sometimes grand-parents ask their little one.
“Are we listening to God?” is the question I perceive that springs from our readings today. What does that listening mean?
Do you know what a “Mondegreen” is – it’s when someone mishears a word or a phrase giving it a completely new meaning.
“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.” becomes
“The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind.”
The Two Ronnies were classics with such things – a labourer (Ronnie Corbet) walks into a hardware store and asks for what sounds like “four candles” – the frustrated store keeper eventually works out that he is asking for “fork ‘handles”. (Handles for forks)
Children are prone to mishearing especially religious phrases like “Our Father in heaven, ‘Harold’ be thy name.”
Are we listening? And what are we hearing?
As a Church are we listening and how do we discern the voice of the Lord. This is of course crucial to you as a parish now – as you try to discern the direction you are on in the next phase of ministry, and as you (through your incumbency committee) go about choosing a new Vicar. (A role that will be vital in leadership, but also delegation and co-ordination, I would say not unlike the Conductor of an orchestra – who brings the team together, is a great listener and encourages the best in each member of the orchestra and together they make beautiful music.
This doesn’t just happen and as an individual each of us is learning about communication. Active listening is vital in relationships, especially marriage. Understanding what is really being said – in Chaplaincy or Clinical Pastoral Care we are taught to respond by checking in with “did I hear you say…” or simply to repeat a statement.
Today’s readings lead us into the importance of deeper listening. The boy, Samuel, is with Eli the elderly priest as he thinks that Eli is calling to him in the night. Eli perceives that Samuel is being called by God – so he counsels him to say:
“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
In other words, be open – you never know what possibilities lie ahead unless you are open.
I remember back in about 1972 I had this feeling that I was being called to full-time ministry but there were hurdles, I was a draftsman, a footy umpire, I had tech. school education, I hadn’t studied a language. My Vicar simply said to me “keep the door open”.
My life took an amazing turn from there – but all that is another story.
In our Parish at about that time we had a CHN Sister – Constance Agnes, as a regular visitor. One Saturday morning she emerged from the Church building after quite some time inside – we had a Working Bee happening.
“What’s the time?” she asked – when she heard she said
“How time flies when you’re talking with the Lord!”
I think I was learning something then about this concept of deeper listening.
When Jesus met Nathaniel, who we think was also called ‘Bartholomew’, we see yet another facet of deeper listening. Nathaniel is surprised that Jesus already knew him.
“I saw you under the fig-tree.”
A shady tree for a young orthodox scholar – reading some scripture aloud – was both normal and proper.
Its sounds like he was reading about Jacob wrestling with God in the wilderness – and the vision of the ladder from earth to heaven. Jesus’ awareness is profound – he has just chosen his first disciples Andrew and Peter. Now he finds Philip all of them from Nazareth’s neighbouring village of Bethsaida – presumably too Nathaniel.
When Philip says:
“We have found him who Moses and the prophets spoke about”
– the young scholar says:
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
It would be like, when I lived in Benalla, we would say, “Can anything good come from Wangaratta!” A cynical statement by Nathaniel is met by a super Clinical Pastoral Care reply by Philip –
“Come and See”
In other words
But as Nathaniel was quick to learn – that Jesus was not about data – this deeper listening was about being transformed.
The ancient Greeks (I had to learn Greek in Theological College) have two words for time “chronos” and “kairos’ – the first, chronos, is about quantity – seconds, minutes, hours.
Kairos is about quality – what we do with our time, the value we have in being, in hearing, in working, in improving the world around us! The satisfaction we have and the joy and happiness we feel and enable in others.
In Psalm 139, we hear that the Lord has searched us out and knows us – so too we are invited into that place of holy discernment – to be at one with the one who calls us – to be open, to hear the invitation, to invite others “Come and see”.
I trust our time together might be a journey of joy, fellowship and being open to the possibilities that the Lord God has for us.
Archdeacon Ray McInnes