1 Samuel 3.1–10
1 Corinthians 6.12–20
I want ask a question today, a simple question: where do we need to be to listen to God? (Short answer: In the house of God.)
We are commissioning Katie today for her role as coordinator of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Project in Mwandi, Zambia.
I think I can safely say that she hasn’t determined to go there so much by screwing up her eyes and trying hard to believe she can do it as by listening for that ‘still, small voice’, which speaks so calmly, gently, tenderly, persistently, and insistently. That Voice that just doesn’t give up.
But where do we hear that voice? We need to be in the house of God to hear it.
We talked about the voice of God last week. According to Mark, Jesus hears God say,
You are my Son, the Beloved. With you I am well pleased.
We talked about how we miss out on hearing that Voice, because—
Our own inner voices, perhaps accusing voices, drown it out. The sounds of politicians and advertisements and newspaper publishers drown it out.
We need to be in the house of God to hear it. We miss it because we are not ‘in’ when it calls.
It was in the house of God where Samuel heard the Voice, in the Tabernacle of the Lord in Shiloh, which is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept before it found its way to Jerusalem.
We all know the story, God calls Samuel in the night, and Samuel assumes it’s the old priest Eli. It happens twice but third time’s a charm, Eli realises then that God must be calling to Samuel. I think Eli knew it wouldn’t be good news for him—it seems he may have forgotten how to hear that Voice.
So on the third time, when the Voice calls, Samuel does as Eli has told him. He says,
Speak, for your servant is listening.
Samuel was in the right place. He was in God’s house, and his heart was ready to hear the Voice that spoke. He listened to the advice of someone older in the faith, and then he knew who was speaking to him.
Samuel dwelt in the Tabernacle, which was the house of God before the Temple was built in Jerusalem; and there he could listen and learn to follow God’s ways.
But Katie didn’t go to Shiloh to hear the Voice in the Tabernacle.
After the Tabernacle, the house of God became the Temple in Jerusalem. But Katie didn’t go to Jerusalem to hear the Voice.
So where did she hear it really? In the house of God.
Let’s look at the Gospel According to John. We’ll start with a verse that’s not in today’s lectionary reading, although it is in the same chapter of John.
It’s John 1.14a:
And the Word became flesh and lived among us…
That word ‘lived’ means more than just lived. We could better say it this way: the Word became flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us.
The Tabernacle had been the house of God during the wilderness wanderings and in the early years of settlement in Canaan.
Then the house of God was the Temple of Jerusalem.
But John says, the Tabernacle—the dwelling place of God—is now a person, Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh and has become our Tabernacle, our Temple.
So when Jesus brings Andrew, Peter, Philip and the other disciples into his life, they are coming into the new dwelling place of God. The new house of God is a human being, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus is the dwelling place of God, and as the Resurrected One he is not confined to time and space. Jesus is the presence of God everywhere and for everyone.
This is Christ in you, the mystery of faith. The Holy Spirit dwelling in our spirits. The Temple in us. The house of God in us.
So Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 6,
…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is holy. It matters. Matter matters. Hunger and injustice matter because they destroy temples of the Holy Spirit. The earth matters and the changes that are occurring in the earth’s climate matter.
So where does God live? What is the house of God? In our story, we have moved from
Samuel in the Tabernacle to
the Temple of Jerusalem to
Jesus as the new Tabernacle, the new Temple, to
Christ in us—friends, we are the temples of the Holy Spirit.
Samuel hears God in the Tabernacle; the disciples hear Jesus, the new dwelling place of God in human flesh; we hear the Spirit of Christ within the holy temples of our bodies.
That’s why Katie didn’t need to travel to a tabernacle or temple. Her body is a temple in which God’s Spirit tabernacles.
We are always in God’s house, because the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. We are God’s house. We are where the grace-filled God is at home. We don’t need to be defensive or fearful.
I want to suggest that there’s one step more in this Temple thing. It’s not just our spirits and bodies that are temples of the Spirit, it is the whole Body of Christ that is a holy Temple, built and knit together to glorify God.
Let us be clear about one thing: as soon as we try to be individual little temples of the Holy Spirit all on our own, we start to be disconnected from the source. We can easily mistake other voices for God’s voice.
We need to gather. We need to gather here for Sunday worship. But it’s not the building that is the house of God so much as the people who are gathered together as the Body of Christ, listening together for the voice of God through the Holy Spirit.
Katie has been part of the Body of Christ, the living Temple here in Centenary as long as she can remember. She is about to go to work in Mwandi. This is a great step of faithful discipleship, and the result of listening to the voice of the Spirit who dwells in her.
Katie, you’ll still be part of this Body while you’re in Zambia. Our hearts will be with you, and yours with us.
Discipleship requires us to listen, and listening leads to further discipleship. We are thankful, Katie, that you have listened and are about to take the next step of being a disciple of Jesus.
Those of us who remain here to exercise our life as disciples need to be listening too. Then we can walk together as God’s holy people, a Temple built without hands, living to the glory of God.