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2024-01-14 Epiphany 2







Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!


Enter the Second Sunday in the season of Epiphany. It is the season of light and revealing of Who God is and what He has done for us and our salvation. And appropriately, we have scripture readings that hone in and focus on God’s voice being revealed to His people. They are stories of listening and hearing. The Old Testament story of Samuel shows how God used to speak to His people and make His will known. God appointed prophets to hear the Word of God and deliver it to the people. Sometimes it was a good Word of God’s favour, and other times it was a strict Word of judgment. It all depended on the people’s level of repentance. If sin was left unchecked and allowed to run rampant, then the Word of God was Law and if need be, a divine time out or correction to stop the iniquity like what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.


But there were other times when God would give His people “the silent treatment” You know, when you’re so miffed at your spouse that you don’t really say anything. No angry outbursts, no yelling, no nothing. Just silence. “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” God wasn’t saying a whole bunch to His people. The Word of the Lord was rare in those days – and not medium rare either. We’re talking scarce. We’re talking ‘not happening.’ God wasn’t saying much of anything. Now why would this be? Was God miffed at His people? Was His divine nose bent out of shape? Well, it has more to do with His people who had basically quit listening.


Listen to this scripture from Proverbs: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (29:18). Herein lies the reason why the Word of the Lord is silent. Or, perhaps to say it a different way, why people who don’t listen don’t hear. People who have cast off restraint don’t receive God’s Word because they don’t care about His will. Often in life you can hear anything you want to hear and listen for. Or, you can ignore it and let it drown out in a cesspool of noise.


Back in the day, long before modern refrigerators, people used icehouses to preserve food. These icehouses had thick walls, no windows and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut and hauled to the icehouses and then covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the dog days of summer. There was the story of a man who lost his valuable watch while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. He got his fellow workers to join in the hunt and they also searched, but their efforts were all for naught too. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour lunch break and quickly emerged with the lost watch. Amazed, the workers asked him how he was able to find it. “Well, I closed the door, lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still,” the young lad replied. “Soon I heard the watch ticking.”


And therein lies the lesson. We need to stop and listen. The problem is people today have let the Word of God be drowned out by the busyness and noise of the world. Many people simply cannot be bothered to come to God’s house on Sunday. We fill our lives with pretty much anything but God’s Word. But Psalm 46 says “Be still and know that I am God” (10). But how often are we ‘still’? Not all that often. But think of how many times in the Scriptures Jesus went off by Himself to a quiet place to pray and be with God? And, when the Word of the Lord comes to Samuel, it’s when things are quiet and he was still from daily activities. Our problem as a people is that we overload ourselves with so much stuff that we literally drown out God’s voice from our lives. We need to learn the lesson from the little boy in the icehouse.


I remember back in the glory days of high school. I was trying to learn grade 9 French. Back in my day it was compulsory for grade 9 and I didn’t have much choice but to take it. So, struggle away I went with my “Au contraire, bon jours,” and my “j’allais a la salle de bains.” I didn’t like it and I didn’t spend the time with it listening to it and speaking it as I should have. And, after my compulsory 1 year in grade 9, I dropped French class like a “chaud pomme de terre!” The more I thought about that, the more I came to see that the exact same thing can be said about our faith. If we don’t spend the time with God, reading His Word and listening to Him, His voice will be to us like a foreign language and we will miss out because we don’t understand. We will plug up our ears to His Epiphanies to us.


But what does this really mean? Where do we hear God’s voice today? Are we like Samuel to expect to hear an audible voice from heaven? I thought only crazy people hear voices! When you read back in the Old Testament, you had these dialogues between people and God. Prophets like Samuel and like Jonah. They heard God’s voice and were given tasks by God. Go and preach to the people! And most of the time the message was “repent of your sin and return to the Lord your God!” Is this the way it still is for us today though? Listen to what this verse from Hebrews says to us: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world (1:1-2).” Jesus our Lord and Savior is the fulfillment of all the prophets. He is the final Word of God. And, He has given us the Scriptures to be the definitive place we gather to hear God’s Word in all of its fullness.


“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). The Scriptures reveal to us God’s voice and His will, just like a light in a dark place. Even the smallest of birthday candles show us the glory of the cake that lies beneath! Just so with God’s Word to us in the Bible. Even one little verse can often illuminate our hearts and minds. Think about the Bible like a campfire. The closer you get to it, the more you feel it’s warmth and the more light there is to see with. When we read the scriptures, we hear God’s voice. He reveals Himself to us. We hear His word of Law spoken to sin and unrighteousness, and we hear His word of Gospel in the forgiveness of our sins through the Cross of Christ our Lord and His encouragement towards pursuing a life of heavenly virtues.


Our Lutheran Divine Service, the worship service, is designed with this in mind. The grand majority of what we hear and speak each week in the liturgy is scripture, in addition to reading God’s Word publicly. When we come to God’s House, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, we get to know Him. We get to know His voice. We become the sheep that hear the voice of their Shepherd and listen to Him. But it is a time thing. There is no substitute for the time spent in His Word. If this gets neglected, it will end up much like my high school french class performance: “la big flop!” So instead, hear the Word of God and listen to His still small voice. Be still and know that His word truly is the lamp and light for our path, illuminating the way of salvation in Christ our Lord. In His Name, Amen!

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