Even in the Bible, the “Bible days” of prophets miraculous speaking with God–the voice from a flaming bush to Moses, the whisper in the middle of the night to the boy Samuel–were already “long ago.” If we believe in an omnipotent God, that is an all-powerful God, there is nothing too miraculous, or to use a more modern word perhaps, too ridiculous for God to be able to do. If there is an omnipotent God, there is no reason why God cannot send angels or speak as a thundering voice from heaven; no reason why that cannot happen any more than it happened “long ago.”
A tempting, and common, reason to dismiss religion is to see these miraculous stories as the ignorant fantasies of long ago. We can get conceited about our own time and think we are somehow smarter than the gullible people of long ago. Just keep in mind: even within the Bible itself (after all, the Bible is a collection of writings spanning hundreds of years), people saw the miraculous prophets as being “long ago.”
If we only focus on the long ago part, whether we do it as fundamentalist Christians who believe it word-for-word or as cynical atheists who dismiss it all as nonsense, we miss an important claim this verse makes about God, prophets, and how God speaks to God’s people. “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways.”
Why doesn’t God talk to you through a burning bush? Because that is just one possible method! And maybe not the best! Perhaps the point of the many and various ways we see God speaking in the Bible is not to expect God to speak to us in any particular way, but to see God’s pattern of speaking in many and varied ways.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
1 Kings 19:11-12
The prophet Elijah looked for God in the big things. In the wind. In an earthquake. In a fire. But ultimately found God as an internal whisper. God still speaks. In our own quiet thoughts. In the well-timed words of a friend. In the holy examples of others, famous saints and usually even more profoundly quiet family members or people in our own local churches. In sermons. In intimate conversations. In the peace or love we feel, seemingly from nowhere, in solitary moments. How does God speak to you? Be open minded. God speak in many and various ways.
God, who has spoken to so many before me, help me listen to what you are saying to me. Keep me open to the many and various ways you speak, and prepare me for the many and various ways you may ask me to share your love with others, Amen.
The Reflectionary is a series of short reflections based on one or two verses of each Sunday’s lectionary readings (the lectionary is a calendar of Bible passages used in Sunday services by hundreds of millions of Christians around the world) by the Rev’d Jean-Daniel Williams, the youth and young adult minister for the Montréal-Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada and the Anglican-United Christian Chaplain at McGill University in Montréal, Québec, Canada