If the Third Sunday of Easter was about hearing God’s call for the first time, then this week is about carrying on that conversation. God doesn’t tap us on the shoulder and then leave us alone to figure it out from there. God is a constant presence, guiding, advising, hinting, strengthening us for the journey into discipleship. But how do we hear that voice? How do we know what God wants to say to us? How do we discern God’s voice in the midst of all the other voices in our talkative world? That’s what this week addresses.
We need to cultivate our ability to listen to God speak. But it may be beyond the scope of one worship experience. Instead, we can point to it; we can taste it; we can suggest it; and the worship team can even work with discipleship growth to set up an ongoing hearing God experience.
Worship can both move inward and outward to allow for a variety of experiences of hearing the voice of God. For those of a more contemplative bent, we listen to the stirrings of our soul. We need quiet and reflection time; we need to sort out the strands of experience that are working on us constantly, to examine our thoughts and see which ones reflect our own anxieties and which are leading us to deeper faith and hope. Build in meditation time in worship, perhaps guided with some questions for examination, perhaps in silence or simple music. There are those who need space to listen well.
But know that some will find that space difficult and distracting. So, we move outward. God uses the voices of others, at times, to direct us. The sermon is one such time, but not the only one. Look at the songs that are sung for guidance statements, for encouragement. Look to the prayers that speak of working toward a kin-dom expression of life daily. What quotes from spiritual leaders might be posted or projected? What fillers in the bulletin or worship folder might cause someone to think and to hear God’s urging voice?
Hearing God’s voice begins with the faith that God is speaking and then a needed determination to listen. So we sing about the voice of God; we pray for that blessing; we commit ourselves to the task of hearing and obeying the word that we hear, both the written word gathered in the scriptures and the ongoing prompting of the Spirit that speaks to us in this moment, for this moment. How do we hear?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.