Rev. George Miller
July 16, 2017
Once upon a time a young woman had just come back from the 31st UCC General Synod in Baltimore.
She had the chance to attend meetings, vote on resolutions, and learn that if you eat real seafood, you are going to get shells in your teeth.
While at Synod, she heard a lot about doing justice, loving kindness, and the claim that God is Still Speaking.
A pastor said that God speaks to each and every one of us, and it takes great humility and faith to listen to the Holy One’s voice.
The woman felt inspired; how couldn’t she when surrounded by 3,000 like minded people in a city alive with music, food, and fellowship?
“But,” she wondered, “Will God still speak to me even when I return to my home town, with my own people?”
When she came back from General Synod, and resumed the everydayness of everyday life, she kept wondering “Does God still speak to people?”
One night she went out with friends for coffee, and around 11 pm she left the local Starbucks to head home.
The questions stayed in her head: “Does God still speak to people?”
Sitting in her car, she began to pray. “God, if you are indeed still speaking, speak to me, and I will humble myself enough to obey.”
As she drove down the main highway towards downtown, she had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk.
She shook her head. “God-is that you?” No reply, so she continued home, but again the thought came into her head to stop and get a gallon of milk.
She thought of the stories from the Bible, remembering the one about Samuel who didn’t recognize the voice of God until he sought advice from Eli.
“OK God,” she said, “In case this is you, I will buy the milk.” After all, this odd thought did not require much work or money, and she could always use the milk in her morning coffee.
With the gallon container in the passenger seat of her car, she continued home, but as she crossed Seventh Street, she felt that urge again, this time saying “Turn down that street.”
Half jokingly she said, “Ok God, if this is your will, I will.” But she could feel the shells gathering in her teeth.
She drove several blocks when suddenly she felt, clear as day, that she was to stop. She pulled over to the curb and looked around.
The businesses were closed; lights were out indicating that people were already asleep.
Again, she felt that voice say “Go and give the milk to the people who live across the street.”
The young woman looked at the house. “Lord, this is insane,” she said. “The people who live there don’t know me. They’re probably asleep, and if I wake them up they’ll be all sorts of angry, and I will look stupid.”
Again, she felt like she should give them the milk. “OK, OK God – if this is you and you want me to look crazy, I will humble myself and give them the milk. But if they don’t answer right away, I am outta here!”
So she walked across the street, rang the bell.
“Who is it? What do you want?” A young man opened the door, looking a whole sort of haggard and not too keen that a stranger was standing on his stoop.
“What is it?” he asked.
The young woman thrust out the gallon of milk. “Here, I brought this to you.”
Without a word, the man took the gallon of milk and rushed down the hallway, shouting. From the kitchen came a woman carrying a child.
The child was crying.
The man had tears streaming down his face and began half speaking, half sobbing. “We were just praying. We had some big bills to pay this month and we ran out of money. We don’t have any milk for our child.”
“We were asking God to show us how to get some milk. We asked God to send us an angel. Are you an Angel?”
The shells in the woman’s teeth suddenly seemed a whole lot smaller, and with a spirit of compassionate generosity, she reached into her purse, and pulled out all the cash she had.
She placed the money into the hands of the young man, walked over and kissed both the mother and child on their forehead, and she turned and walked back to her car.
Tears of many meanings streamed down her face. As she drove home, it was now God’s time to listen to what she wanted to speak…
Over the last few months we’ve been on an odyssey; a journey that has taken us from mountain tops to lands of delight. We have talked about spice and light, generosity and shells in our teeth.
Friday, we concluded our annual Vacation Bible School in which our children learned the answer to perhaps the most important question of them all- “What does the Lord require of you?”
The answer is simpler than simple.
But before we get to that answer, another story.
Once upon a time there was a nation of people. People who had forgotten what it was like to be loved by the Lord.
Because they had forgotten what it was like to be loved, they found love in the unhealthiest of ways.
They only worried about what was in it for them. They cheated one another. They weighted down their market-place scales. They scrimped on paying livable wages to their employees.
They took advantage of immigrants. They cut services to the orphans, the poor, the elderly, the widows, and widowers. They were frenemies with foreign governments and fought amongst themselves.
One day, God had enough of their foolishness, and took them to court.
“Oh my people,” God said with a broken heart. “What have I done to you that you treat one another so bad? Have I asked of you too much?”
God, acting as God’s own defense lawyer, says to the people “I freed you from slavery; I brought you out of Egypt. I sent you shepherds; I found ways to protect you, all so you could know me and how generous I am.”
This speech moves the people, and out of their materialistic brokenness, they respond the best way they could.
“Oh God, we are sorry. What can we give you to make things better? Will a dozen roses make up for our adulterous spirits? Or maybe you’d like to go out for a nice bbq dinner at Sonny’s?”
The people realize just how much they have strayed from God, so they up the ante of things they are willing to give to God to make the situation right.
“Would you like it if we gave you an entire ranch in Wauchula with thousands of rams? Or maybe you’d like 10,000 jars of cologne, and perfume, and body lotion and cocoa butter?”
To which God says “No. I don’t want things. I don’t want items. I don’t want store bought merchandise. ”
“All I want…is you.”
“I want you. Give me you.”
“I don’t need fancy foods. I don’t need guilt-based goods. I don’t need you to go broke, or go into debt, or take out a loan to earn my love.”
“What do I want?” says God, “Simple- I want you.”
“That’s all I ever wanted.”
“I wanted to walk with you in the cool breeze of the garden. I wanted to feed and care for you in the wilderness. I wanted to worship with you in the Promised Land.”
God stands before the people in court and gives the answer to perhaps the most important question of all time-
“What does the Lord require of you?”
“…You. But the best version of you that there can possibly be.”
God wants you- the you that is just, the you that is kind, the you who is willing to walk humbly.
God does not want a thing. God does not want an item. God does not want a gift card or a gemstone.
God wants the genuine you.
The you who is willing to accept God’s generosity.
The you who is willing to sit and be with God on the mountain, or down at the seashore, or in the kitchen, or on the city sidewalk, or working in the garden or the workbench.
God wants the genuine you.
The you who is willing to be still and listen for that still speaking voice.
The you who isn’t afraid to get shells in your teeth.
The you who is willing to let the cats loose from the chancel.
The you who is Left Shark.
The you who is scared and unsure and seeking and afraid of silence.
God also wants the you who is capable of being confident and cool and kind and calm.
Yes- God cares deeply about kindness, God cares greatly about justice.
God cares about how we treat one another; God cares that we do the right thing, even when it is not popular, or easy, or shell-free.
But first and foremost, God wants us.
God wants to love us so that we can love the Lord right back, and in return love one another.
God is indeed still speaking. God is indeed still acting.
God is still asking us for the same thing that was asked from our ancestors oh so long ago.
Today- are you willing to give God the greatest gift of all?
Are you willing to give God you?
Amen and amen.