Angels and Messengers
1 Samuel 3:1-10& Psalm 139:1-13 & John 1:43-51
In these next few weeks we are going to hear of God’s breaking in to our lives, through God’s self and via his messengers.
We will hopefully hear from some of the people present at services how God has broken in at specific times. Next week Maurice will give a part sermon/part testimony and today I will be doing the same.
The beautiful words of Psalm 139 are written to remind us of God’s presence, all the time, but also the plan God has for you and me. In fact, the most comforting aspect of this passage is that God cares enough even to care and love a loathsome person, such as myself.
But we don’t always recognise when it’s God, or God’s angels or messengers trying to get our attention. We see this in both the 1 Samuel reading and the Bruce Almighty clip.
For me it was in 2013. God was giving me signs which I was either ignoring or simply mis-reading
Actually it was Rev. Bronwyn Murphy, our new Associate Secretary of the NSWACT Synod, who kept saying to me it was time to test the call in my placement in the North West.
It took me many months before I put my Ministry Leadership Profile in to the Placements Committee.
At the same time I was the Presbytery’s Alternate Representative to the same committee.
In reality this meant Rev. Simon Hansford got to go to the meetings in Sydney and I got to stay home and read either the minutes of the meeting or the agenda for the upcoming one.
In 2013 I read every note and comment. Even though Kiama-Jamberoo was on that list month after month, I can honestly say I never once saw it – even thought I kept having dreams about an old building with five Norfolk Island Pines around it, near the sea. Furthermore, if I’d ever seen the Kiama church before, I had no memory of it.
Like Samuel, the time had to be right. It was only when Pastor Greg, from Moree’s Four Square Church, turned up with a word from God ‘I am preparing a new place for you and when I call you must go!’, that I started to question what was going on.
In June, I put forward my profile to ACOMP, just before we went to Israel. It had been sitting on our dining room table for five months before I could even face filling it in.
Once I did fill it in, I said, ‘God, I’ve done my bit, now you do yours.
A lot of things happened in the following months – more signs – which started to open my eyes to God’s new leading.
Finally, at the end of September that year we were asked come into conversation with Kiama-Jamberoo.
I needed to find cause to say no, as I felt there was still work to be done in the North West and, if we left, would anyone else even come to replace us. But the longer the conversation ensued, the more I realised this is what God was pointing too.
When it was confirmed by the Church Council, the Congregation and Thea and I felt it was right, I started telling my people in the North West. My patch was thousands of square kilometres and my parishioners were widespread.
I wanted to see as many people as I could rather than simply letting them know by phone or email or bush telegraph.
It was in this time that today’s third reading (also incidentally on the Lectionary) had God speaking into it – as if it had been written just for me.
X and Y were retired farmers living south of Narrabri. They were a wonderful Godly couple, who often spoke prophetically and who were our prayer partners.
When Y would preach, he would sometimes stop mid-sentence – and you knew he was listening to God – and so we all tended to lean forward to hear what God was about to speak through him.
Anyway Thea and I went to see them both to say that we had heard the call of God to go to lead the congregations of Kiama and Jamberoo. I felt a heaviness on my heart as tears welled up for all of us. But, of course, God came and brought words of comfort and hope, through Y.
We had started praying together, Y was leading and then he stopped. He then said ‘Your calling to Kiama is like the calling of Jesus of Nathaniel [also known as Bartholomew in Matthew’s gospel) as he was sitting underneath a fig tree in John’s gospel.
I understood it, that I had now gone from being called and not hearing, through to being called and now responding, as happened for Samuel in the first reading and now Nathaniel.
Like Nathaniel I was not wanting to move, then questioning the wisdom of a move, but I had now come to the point of realising that I needed to commit even if I didn’t have all the answers – to act in faith and trust God. But there was more to come still.
The day my Leadership profile went forward to the ACOMP meeting in Sydney, where some pairing up for a conversation with Kiama was to ensue, Thea and I were in Israel sitting with others in a garden outside Tel Aviv in Israel, sitting underneath a Sycamore Fig Tree hearing about why Zacchaeus climbed this sort of tree to see Jesus – it put a whole new meaning to the words of Jesus ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Phillip called you’ and it just adds to my understanding of the Psalm Lectionary reading for today also.
My heart was eased in the knowledge that, as God was in the middle of this, and would not only care for Thea and I, but also for the congregations we would leave behind, after more than four years.
It is now four years since we left the North West Plains. They still have no-one willing to hear, or at least, who has head the call to this placement. It still creates a little grief for me, but I know that God’s plans and omnipresent nature are bigger than my understanding.
What better way to sum up than with the words from Jeremiah 29 from the Message Bible verses 10-14
“10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.”