Scripture Reading Psalm 91:14-16
“Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer …”
Message “I Will Answer” Rev. J. Renfrew
When I was a young boy we had one telephone in the house, mounted to the wall in the kitchen, with a long cord between the handset and the telephone itself. It was always getting tangled. The telephone had a dial, not buttons. So the telephone would ring and we would pick up the handset, “Hello, Renfrew residence, who is calling please?” (I had been trained to say exactly that). If we weren’t home no one would answer our phone, you’d have to try to call later. In those days there were no unsolicited phone calls from people and businesses trying to sell us Caribbean cruises or low-interest credit cards. When we answered, it was always someone we knew at the other end of the line. Usually a friend, a neighbor or a relative.
In that simple description of the 1960 telephone you can immediately see the differences between then and now. Few homes have just one telephone. I think most everyone carries their own cell phone that is not mounted to any wall, so no cords to get tangled. Your phone is with you wherever you go, in the car, at the store, or on vacation.
Most cellphones also tell you exactly who is calling. When you call me I can usually see your name on the information screen. So no need for me to say “Renfrew residence, who is calling?” because I can already see your name. And these days, if your name doesn’t appear I am likely not to answer at all, because all of us get pounded with endless phone calls from pushy marketers, schemers and scammers. If I don’t have your name in my phone and I don’t pick up for your call, please leave a message and I will get right back to you. And the ability to record your message is another big change from 1960.
Of course, maybe the biggest change of all is that a cell phone is a very powerful computer, able to receive phone calls, texts, e-mails, with the whole world-wide web at your disposal. On your phone you can read the newspaper, and even watch tv shows or movies.
I was thinking about my history with telephones when I first saw our text from Psalm 91, It is the voice of God that the Psalmist captures in this ancient song: “When they call to me, I will answer”.
Such a simple, short, eight-word verse, that offers a world of comfort to lives in distress and connection to all that is holy and divine. It’s not a promise, it’s a statement of God’s reality, that when we call, God answers.
So, let’s check in! Have you ever called God? Anyone? It’s not by telephone, of course, we call God in prayers, songs, artwork, poetry, writing, dancing, every way that you can think of for sending a message to God. Have you ever sent a message to God? Lots of you, maybe all of you!
Or are you still trying to formulate your question just so? I’ve mentioned this movie scene before, but I find it very powerful. Sandra Bullock is stuck in a disabled space ship with no way to get back to earth. She is running out of air and she is going to die. In desperation, she starts talking to God, starting out with the admission that she doesn’t know how to pray correctly. I wanted to jump out of my seat in the movie theater and shout, “That’s prayer!” The Psalm doesn’t say your call to God has to be perfectly phrased, and theologically correct, just call, because God is listening!
Have any of you heard an answer? Amen. What a blessing. Or maybe you are still waiting for an answer. I’ve sent messages to God and felt frustrated that I didn’t get an answer right away. But days, weeks, months, even years later I realized that I had gotten answer, and it was almost always not the answer I was expecting or hoping for. But an answer, just the same. When we call, God is listening, God answers.
These ancient Psalms have a way of resonating with the present. In times of dangerous war, economic stress and so much more, of course we would like some answers. The Psalm is giving us incredible assurance that on a planet with 6 billion people God is listening to you!
“God is listening to you!” What an incredible statement. That is worth a loud “Amen!” or a “Wowie-Zowie”. If you have ever felt that God doesn’t care about you, or that God is too busy elsewhere to pay attention to you, or that somehow you don’t deserve God’s attention, or that your life is such a mess that God will never answer someone like you, just ponder this “When they call me, I will answer”.
We have all kinds of defenses against unwanted phone calls. We can let a phone ring without answering because we’re busy. We can look at the name of the person calling and decide not to answer. We can block phone numbers that we wish to avoid. But that’s not how God works, not at all.
On this journey Lent that leads to the Cross, you can choose to say “no” to temptations. You can also say “yes” to helping lots of others in One Great Hour of Sharing. Now you can add this to your list – give God a call!