I am a fan both theologically and from a marketing/branding perspective of the United Church of Christ “God is still speaking” campaign. According to Wikipedia and UCC documents, the initiative was born in 2001 while Ron Buford was traveling in southern California. There, he glimpsed a postcard quote attributed to comedienne Gracie Allen:
Never place a period where God has placed a comma.
Allen’s sentiment, thought Buford, offered a more-contemporary spin on the UCC’s diverse theological commitment to a “still speaking” God. It resonated, he thought, with a similar-sounding refrain from long ago, a church-cherished historical quote attributed to Pastor John Robinson who, in 1620, urged the UCC’s Pilgrim forebears to remember that “God still has more truth and light to break forth from God’s Holy Word.”
In a recent sermon, Bishop Margaret Payne of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pointed out that we live in a time when shouting is the tone of our present culture. For me, if God is still speaking, placing commas in our lives… then how does one hear God over the shouting and exclamation points we are bombarded with? Bishop Payne noted in her sermon, that we live in a shouting country:
Salespeople shout, sports commentators shout, politicians shout, preachers shout, and most of all, talk shows specialize in shouting. I don’t think they should be called talk shows. I think they should be called “shout shows.” And so maybe – just maybe – this is a good time to think about whispering as a way to truth.
As a new teacher, I was coached to whisper when a classroom was noisy. Whispering may not be heard over the talking, shouting, and other distractions, but it slowly draws people in. Students will notice first one, then two, then three and more… and will pause to see what their peers are listening to… you the whisperer. Whispering where God leaves commas… whispering the truth in a culture of shouting… I think the Bishop is on to something…
Maybe the Holy Spirit is a “truth-whisperer,” and we who live in that Spirit must still ourselves so that we can hear and live in that person of God who comes to us from mystery and leads into mystery, and takes us along.
One of the ways to experience this is through the liturgy, which Payne points out is a vessel of truth, reminding us that God gives us life and truth through the Word, bread and wine as we assemble as God’s people in worship. God gathers us together as church, weaving together the fragments of our lives into one truth bearing bolt.
Recently a colleague via Facebook wondered as her status post, who you would consider a modern day prophet? For me this question made me immediately think of the “God is Still Speaking” initiative and of all the truth whisperers in my life. Most of the truth whispering prophets I experience are not famous writers, celebrities, overtly religious or even clergy types. The prophets I encounter come from a variety of socio-economic, demographic and religious backgrounds. These are people of faith who live out their call to share and be the good news, preaching the Gospel through the fabric of their lives.
There are three more public types whom I love to read, listen to and discern their prophetic cry(s) in the wilderness of our post modern world:
- Shane Claiborne, author, activist, speaker + new monastic, http://www.thesimpleway.org/shane/
- Sara Miles, author, food pantry founder + director of ministry @. St. Gregory of Nyssa Food Pantry, http://www.saramiles.net/
- John Nunes, president + CEO Lutheran World Relief, http://blog.lwr.org/
I encourage you to check them out if they are unknown to you and to share others that you are drawn to.
God is still speaking, through truth whisperers, post modern prophets, me and you. In his hymn God Spoke in Ages Past © 2002, Robert A. Lewis writes a sending, for each of us is called to listen and speak, hear and sing, and discern and whisper above all the shouting…
Go now and speak God’s Word, Proclaim God’s message true;
Let all be told, both young and old, That God makes all things new.
Go now and speak God’s Word, Proclaim to all the earth;
By word and deed meet human need, Show forth the gospel’s worth.