Here Am I
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
Where are you? That call is a phrase I’ve used countless times in my life. I’ve called to my children, my husband, and other people in lots of situations. My oldest son as a small child would respond “here’s me are.”
And so, Mary response to the angel Gabriel with the phase “here am I.” She responds actively as a willing partner in this holy disruption that is happening to her.
Years ago, I was involved in a lay ministry whose leadership was remarkably effective at recruiting involvement by newcomers to the group. When they needed more volunteers, they approach participants enticing them with the phrase “we have a gift for you.” They’d inform you of the gift which as it usually turned out was a task to perform or an activity in which to participate. They called people into the group and most folks willing join for the spiritual fellowship it provided. They’d use the call into service knowing that people like to be asked – it’s flattering to be asked. Not everyone is comfortable offering to volunteer – we don’t want our offer to be rejected.
Mary’s call came through the appearance of the Angel Gabriel. Even in biblical times, hearing God speak audibly or having an angel appear with a message from God was a rare event. Mary’s call to be the God-bearer, was unlike any other call in all human creation.
But many times, we also experience the call from God. The fact is God calls and uses ordinary and flawed me and ordinary and flawed you. After all who else is there for the work of the kingdom but us lowly imperfect people. This fits a pattern we see working its way through human history. Every Christian shares a common call to use the gifts God has given us toward the reconciliation of all the world.
I know that happen to me – I had a voice in my head telling me I was to become a Deacon. I resisted for several years because I didn’t believe what I was hearing was real. I know most listening to this homily today have also had a remarkably similar experience. I don’t mean a call to ordained ministry but a call to serve God.
But how might we hear God’s call? We find it hard to believe that what we heard is real. “Really” we say as we question ourselves? Did I hear a voice in my head – a voice which isn’t my own internal dialogue. A call can come in many different forms. Maybe it’s not a voice in one’s head but a yearning in our hearts to do or be more than we presently are doing or being. What is it like to discern how the Holy Spirit might use you? First, know that these are common questions. Maybe this really is a call – then we doubt saying to ourselves “no it can’t be real.” Our minds play tricks on us all the time. One way to test that a call is real is to experience that it will not go away. The focus might change but call truly from God doesn’t go away. How do I confirm what I’m hearing? We have a human tendency to doubt ourselves. How do you know when it is the Holy Spirit who is guiding you? After all, we know God can use your own interests and desires to call you, but your own interest and desire alone are not God’s call.
Second, know a call happens in community. If you are being led toward something, test whether it is God calling you – with prayer, by surrounding yourself with people of faith who are also praying for your discernment. Sometimes the call is truly clear – other times we must sort thru different interpretation. Then ask God to make a way or close the way. We are called to a variety of ministries. God may call you to a vocation, whether as a teacher or physician or real estate agent, or as a foster parent or scout leader, or even just to reach out to one person on a given day. In fact, the Holy Spirit can use you anywhere to touch the lives of those around you.
You might ask now what do I do? It takes some spiritual discernment, though, to determine when it is God and when it is just our own desires at play. When the Holy Spirit is really working to get your attention, God will use others to affirm what you are hearing. Ask your priest or a trusted friend to pray about it with you. I know this to be true - God speaks in stereo, using several methods at once—God will use what you read online, hear on television or the radio, and even the passing comment of a friend. God will also use those various means to show that it is not the Holy Spirit. Keep asking yourself is this my idea or is the coming from the Holy Spirit.
Then ask God to direct your path. This is necessary and essential. When something begins to develop whether in heart or mind, test it, and continue to listen. If something is of God, ask for the Holy Spirit to open doors, even though it seems impossible. And ask God that if it is not of the Spirit, to close the doors, no matter how promising that path seems, and make it impossible, even if it had been a sure thing. It is important when discerning God’s will to surround yourself with people you trust and to ask them to pray as well.
Praying for God to close doors is hard. After all, the thing you are praying about may be just your own will and desires talking. Still, you should pray for the opportunity to fall through if it is not God’s will.
But what if you have never experienced God calling you to do anything – ever? Don’t take that as a rejection. Every Christian has been there. Offer your life to God and let the Holy Spirit guide you. While none of us will experience a call as world changing as the one Gabriel announced to Mary, the effect of each follower of Jesus listening and discerning how God will use them is what the Holy Spirit uses to reconcile all creation to God. And we need that reconciliation now more than ever. This coming week try saying it a few times “Here am I.” and then pause to listen for the gift. Amen.