At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” —1 Samuel 3:2-4
What would happen if you heard, or thought you heard, God calling to you? Like the story from Hebrew Scriptures of Samuel hearing God’s voice calling at night? What would happen if you actually heard God speaking to you? Who would you tell? Your minister? Your family? The whole church? They probably would wonder if you were crazy. Remember the old movie of George Burns starring in the movie called, “Oh God!”
Many people in the recent years have said they heard voices speaking from God, Jesus, or what they have been told are “Ancient Masters” from previous ages. Twenty some years ago an elder from a large, wealthy Presbyterian church came to me with a book titled, “Conversations with God.” The author, Neale Donald Walsh, of whom a movie of his life was produced, “Conversations with God”, had written a book based on what a voice, calling itself God, told him to write. Since then he has written several others, one of the later called, “Tomorrow’s God,” which I listened to while on retreat a few days ago.
Then Geoffrey Hoppe, a man raised I believe in the Roman Catholic tradition near Denver, began hearing voices in 1999 from celestial beings called Tobias, Adamus, and Kathumi! Some of listened to them a few years ago, and occasionally I still “dial in.” Interesting discussions for sure! (Tobias has now “dropped out!”)
In 1989 to a woman named Esther Hicks, began hearing a voice called Abraham in a collection later put in a collection called “Abraham Hicks.” It was this “voice” which inspired the best-selling book, “The Secret” by Ronda Byrne based on the idea, “The Secret is in You!”
There is another popular book, not as much perhaps as the above, called “A Course in Miracles.” It was given through a Voice named Jesus heard by a research psychologist at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Her name was Helen Schuman. The Voice continued almost nightly over a seven year period from 1965 to 1972. Again, this is a fascinating and interesting read.
But why doesn’t God or these Celestial Masters choose to speak to church leaders? Why hasn’t the Pope or the leaders in our denomination heard such voices? Why are they given through children like Samuel or to “outsiders” such as the above? No doubt most organized, traditional religions would spurn or denigrate such “voices.” Yet millions are reading these books.
The Bible says in the days of Samuel visions and voices of God were very rare. Some have commented people weren’t listening or were just too busy. Perhaps nobody even cared since it says, “Everybody was just doing what he or she thought best in their own eyes.”
The Bible says Jesus called simple fishermen to be his chosen disciples. They no doubt were peasants as Himself, one from Nazareth where no one expected good to arise any more than from out of a slum prison.
Maybe God might be calling and speaking to us today. Such Voices aren’t just from long, long ago. We “professional” Eli priests probably don’t expect it either. We hardly practice listening in silence or meditation. We are too busy reading, calling, doing all the things religious leaders must do. Years ago I mentioned to a Presbytery Executive my discovery of silence. I even wrote a doctoral dissertation on it. But she said, “You realize that Presbyterians are uncomfortable with more than 7 seconds of that stuff!” So maybe God turns to children, or a down and out radio disc jockey, or an “atheist” researcher, or peasant fishers.
Since the 4th Century, some have said the “talking God” ceased. After all, the scriptures taken from various letters, some “tweaked” somewhat, were then “canonized” as the final Word of God with two creeds written to end further discussion, speculation or inquiry beyond these “holy conclusions” for our lives. But now in this “post modern, post-Christian era” God seems to be speaking again, and people are hearing it. What is the summary of these Voices, what are they saying, what might be the messages for our times?
I summarize these voices as saying, “You and I are all God’s children, sons and daughters, and God the Father/Mother/Creator wants us to be happy, free, and empowered to energize and bless others.” The “secret” is we all have God’s Power within us and we can manifest wonderful blessings on a world heading toward self-destruction.” The messages say that God is One with many different names but this God is Love and wants us to discover this Love within and see it in all others.
As Jesus didn’t choose his followers from those in high seats of religious authority, maybe God is doing the same today. People like Walsh, the Hicks, teachers of Schuman’s Course, and others, are traveling all over the world telling people they have personal power to make choices; choices to be happy, kind, forgiving, compassionate toward others, and to change the world! And a central point is that unless we change our inward world from one of fear, hatred of others, guilt and joylessness, we will never see or promote a world of peace outside of ourselves. It is a message saying God’s justice declares we all are winners not sinners. In God’s vision, there are no winners and losers but all win as God’s Children. Pogroms, crusades, burning stakes, wiping our villages and groups in God’s name can stop, must stop!
Most of the “old religions” have been operating so many centuries teaching an “us versus” them mentality. It teaches people to say “we believe….” and them become suddenly a member of an elected, select group which is loved very specially by God. The others, if they don’t join or become elected, will suffer eternal death.” The trouble with this, however, is the luxury of such thinking highly risky in today’s overpopulated world filled with weapons of mass destruction. The God of Tomorrow would like to show us a common denominator within each of us, called “Spirit”, which is the same forever despite our colors, sizes, sexes, and religions.
Yet many in the remaining, historical organized religions don’t even want to be ecumenical, work within an organization called “The United Nations” or be near people with different sexual preferences, lifestyles or colors. As C.G. Jung wrote, “Our blight is ideologies—they are the long-expected antichrist!” (From Psychology and Religion, West and East)
The Voice or Call speaking about the “Tomorrow’s God” is not one telling us we are different from each other in our essence. It teaches we are One in Spirit, there is more than enough for everybody, and by sharing, educating and feeding each other, rather than spending our chief resources killing each other, we can create a much better chance for “peace on earth.”
God’s Voice of “the Presence within” does appear to be making new empowerment inroads into minds and hearts. Once a person hears anew the old message of Jesus, the “Kingdom of God” in already in you, they begin to recognize it and see it in others. So while authorities in religions and governments tend to miss it, people are beginning to live it. One can see it in the proliferation of “house churches” across Europe and America. One can see it in the sadness people feel toward teachings of the “Gods of Specialness” of “us against others”, that has so dominated most organized religions. Some even moved into “interdenominational” relationships and others into “Inter-Faith” discussions.
Do you hear it? Do you feel it? Aren’t you tired of always feeling guilty for not doing enough, for not be truly forgiven and accepted, with a sense of being overwhelmed that you “can’t do anything” about your life or the world’s?
God sees you, God loves you; lonely fisherman, busy housewife, businessman with too much money to spend, pious tired minister—let God meet you alone in silence and show you how to treat each one you meet as a “holy encounter.” The sense of hope, peace, and ultimate Reality will be within you, around you, before you, and behind you! Join the millions of others who have heard and “seen” it!
I often see church signs saying, “God still is speaking!” And so it is. Are you listening? Despair, worry, hopelessness are unknown entities of the Divine Creator. God IS speaking today! The old religions, the Gods of division, hatred, distrust, constant judgment, guilt and fear are being overrun by a grassroots awakening! No, these folks aren’t occupying a lot of churches today, but they are occupying offices, theaters, colleges, trucks and homes around the country, feeling empowered to love, make choices of equity, and push toward a new world of common love and respect for all. And once in awhile, they even show up in old churches. I hope we are one of them.
Talk given January 15, 2012 at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 2085 Union Road, West Seneca, NY. Comments, questions, suggestions always welcomed.
Rev. David G. Persons