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January 4, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Communication has changed.

With the advent of cell phones we are constantly in touch.

It seems we can reach almost anyone at almost any time.

Some people never turn them off.

Not only that,

but we know who is trying to reach us.

Caller ID tells us who it is even before we hear the voice.


Wouldn't it be nice if we had caller ID for God?

It is very common for someone to tell me they are praying for guidance

but they can't hear God's response.

Or they aren't sure if what they hear is God or self-interest or maybe even Satan.


Caller ID would fix that.

We would know when it is God speaking and when it is just some random thought of our own surfacing.


If we could be sure exactly when it is God speaking to us

then we might find it easier to follow Jesus.


There are many questions about how God speaks

and how God leads us through our lives.


If God speaks to some people, why not all people?

And if God does speak to all why do some hear clearly and others not at all?

What if the voice I am hearing is my own psychological need,

or my own selfish desire?

How does God get through us so that God can get to us?


This morning we are celebrating the season of Epiphany,

which means revelation,

appearance, vision, occurrence.


Epiphany is about God's revelation.

God is revealed in the person of Jesus.

God was also revealed to the shepherds in an angel in the sky.

But God is revealed to the magi in the star.

God leads them and they follow.


The magi followed God's leading straight to Jesus.

They did not stumble on him by accident.

He did not come seeking them out.

So how did they find him?

How did they know it was God?

Why that star and not another?


The story has some clues for us.


1. The magi studied sacred texts. They knew about the writings of others, their own past, and their own history. If we study scripture we know how God has been made known to others. The Bible reveals God to us as a rock, a banner, a mother hen, a lover, an artist.

Scripture reminds us that the voice of God will call us to wholeness, healing, reconciliation, harmony and salvation. Any voice that suggests otherwise is not of God.


2. The magi were also keenly aware of the world around them. They paid attention so that they noticed a new star when it appeared and knew it was different.

Frederick Buechner wrote of a time when he felt God was very absent from his life. He writes "Only I discovered that it really wasn't that way at all. I discovered that if you really keep your eye pealed to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as I was living...opened onto extraordinary vistas-taking your children to school and kissing your wife good-bye, eating lunch with a friend, trying to do a decent day's work, hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so common place but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly...Listen to your life." he says. "See it for the fathomless mystery that it is...touch, taste, smell your way to the itself is grace. Listen to your life."

3. The magi knew the scriptures, they paid attention and they were willing to act. They were willing to act on what they believed was right in order to seek confirmation. They were not 100% sure but they loaded up the camels and took off on a journey.

Along the way, they were willing to ask others for directions. Herod was not the right person to ask, as it turns out, but at least they asked. Our reformed tradition teaches us that many minds are wiser than one mind. When we want to know if it is really God we hear calling us, we can check it out and ask for help. There is no way we can tell another person how God will speak to them. But we can recall and share those unexpected epiphanies that have occurred in our own lives.

4. The magi were open and attentive to God. They trusted the revelation in the star and followed. They encountered the revelation of God in the baby Jesus. But even after they found Jesus they remained open to more revelation. They did not assume God was finished with them and they received a message in a dream to go home a different way. No matter how clearly we hear God speaking, no matter where God leads us, no matter where we encounter God's revelation, we can count on the fact that eventually, God will have even more to say.

God never stops asking- Can you hear me now?

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