"God is still speaking,"
Ron Burford coined this phrase that became a slogan for the United Church of Christ in the USA in 2005-06. This was inspired by a statement of Gracie Allen in a letter to her husband George Burns where she said "Never place a period where God has placed a comma." This is a fantastic notion and a great slogan. This slogan is an acknowledgement that God is still at work. God is still creating. God is still revealing. I have been heard to say many times before that God’s revelation did not end with the book of Revelation. This slogan was accompanied by a TV ad campaign that was quite controversial in some quarters. They adverts were in a word BRILLIANT. One of them had bouncers outside the church door on Sunday morning and would allow only “desirables” through the line into the church. The ad concludes with the slogan, Jesus did not turn people away…neither do we. The voice over then says. “The United Church of Christ – No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.” Then the slogan appears “God is still speaking,” The other advertisement that got a endless attention and was banned by some TV stations in conservative areas of the US was known as the “ejector seat.” It has the same theme with folks that don’t “make the grade” getting ejected. You can view it here. Click here if you would like to see "the bouncer."
I stumbled on these advertisements again the other day and was reminded of how effective I thought they were and how very relevant they are for all churches today. This all was fermenting in my mind as I continue to pray and journey through Advent. The season of Advent is almost a seasonal acknowledgement of the fact that God is still speaking, still acting, still at work. We wait for God. The comma in the above statement says, wait for it, listen for it, look for it, God has something profound to say. This is a great juxtaposition to the braggadocian theology of conservative evangelicals who speak and act as though God has already decided who is good and who is bad, what is right theology and what is not, who is in and who is out. In fact I would suggest that there are days that I am convinced that there is no way that we can hear what God is speaking because too many of our own voices are hard at work and drowning God out. On the wall in front of me, over the hearth, is a grand print that was a gift from a great and valued friend that reads “Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.” Those are the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I look to that gift daily and try has hard as I can to focus on that in prayer daily. It is important to seek stillness. Meister Eckhart mused that "Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness."
I think that if we sought to look, listen, embrace, and drink in what God is doing still we might be better at being the people of God. I am certain that Advent is a good time to exercise that spiritual discipline. The world around us is teeming with all kinds of noise that drowns out the still small voice of God who is quietly trying to speak “incarnation.” We have to work and allowing God to still speak. Taking that a step further we have to work to allow that voice of God to be heard. It will not be heard of we are busy keeping people out, or worse, ejecting those who come in. No one anticipated the presence of God working in an infant so long, long ago. God was still speaking to the people long after Abraham and Isaac, long after Moses and the Red sea, long after Rachel and Anna, long after Elijah, God continued to speak. But who would have guessed it? Who could predict an illegitimate child? Who could have known that the son of a carpenter would be so significant? Who would have even suggested that the Light of the word would be turned away from the door that night – sent to the barn? Who would have speculated that the Love to save the world would be a refugee? Who? The answer was then as it still is today – not many. But God is still speaking and still turning up and is still being turned away. Can we afford to turn Jesus aside? We have to work NOT to be the church depicted in those advertisements. Are we ready to make room for Jesus in our pews?
We are getting ready for Jesus in this season of Advent – are we ready for where we might find the Holy Presence of Jesus? I am reading entitled “Watch for the Light – Readings for Advent and Christmas” Tomorrows reading is written by the great Dorothy Day. I finish tonight’s blog with the first words of her reflection Room For Christ.
“It is no use saying that we were born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.
But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ. “
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