Calvary Episcopal ChurchPhoto of Doug Bailey
Memphis, Tennessee
January 21, 2001
The Third Sunday After the Epiphany

Hush, Somebody's Calling
The Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21
(This sermon is also available in audio.)

Come, God of Epiphany, come.
In our worship this day, reveal Yourself to us,
reveal Your face and Your grace.
Come, Epiphany God and speak Your word, and may only God's word be heard. Amen.

People of God, let's grow quiet. Not just physically, but let's grow quiet in spirit. Let's leave behind all of the things that are occupying our minds and our lives, and for these few moments, let's become quiet.

A newspaper reporter has said that in this fast-paced world of ours it may very well be that a Sunday morning homily is one of those very few moments when people have a chance to be quiet and reflect on the meaning of their lives. So, let's become quiet.

In the words of that haunting spiritual we're going to experience later on in our liturgy: "Hush, hush. Somebody's calling your name." So listen to the mystery of your life. Listen to all those moments in your life when, if you could just be quiet and dare to be open, somebody's calling you. Listen to and grasp again those moments in your life when your heart has been broken by possibly the pain of the death of a loved one, or you've just said goodbye to a relationship-in that moment, you're never the same again. Or maybe when your heart's been broken open with joy, like maybe the birth of a child-or when you've just said hello to a new and beautiful relationship, and you're never the same again.

It's in the moments of our lives, if we listen to our lives, that …"Hush, somebody's calling your name." Like in the moments of your life when you're just lying there listening to the rain, and in that moment, for some unknown reason, some new, clear direction comes to you. You're on a new path. It's a time of epiphany. That's what that "churchy" word means. It means a time of revelation, and you're not the same again. Or maybe you're a youngster sitting on the hay in a barn watching the evening light come in through a slat in the wood. You notice the filtered light coming in on your body, and you're never the same again.

Or maybe you're a young seminarian, in August of 1963, and you and your best friend, another seminarian, make the decision to go into the city of Washington, D.C. to the Lincoln Memorial. There, you and your friend become part of a massive crowd, and you hear a prophet in our nation talk about freedom. He rings a bell deep inside of you about freedom. He concludes with the words of a great spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last," and you're changed. From that moment on, you're never the same again. It's one of the many things that begin to move your life to issues of Christ and social justice. You're never the same again.

Listen to the moments of your life when the kingdoms of your world become touched and transformed and changed by the touch of the kingdom of God. A small epiphany happens in your life in that moment, and you're never the same again. Listen, listen to your life.

There is an excellent little book by Parker Palmer, a marvelous author, who uses a Quaker saying, Let Your Life Speak, as the title of his book. In it he talks about listening to his God in the moments of his great joy and spiritual communion, and in the moments of his darkness and depression. In all of those moments there is an epiphany. So I introduce to you a friend of mine (that's what I call my books), Let Your Life Speak.

If you listen to your life, and to the special moments of them, in those moments, "Hush, somebody's calling your name." It's personal. And, it's in the events of your unique life-"Hush, somebody's calling your name." Listen to the moments in your life, to the sounds of war that may have shaped your life. Listen to the moments in your life, to the sounds of peace that shape your life. Listen to the sounds of love and listen to the deep and eternal sound of God. Listen, listen to your life. It's the place where God dwells. Those moments make all the difference.

Yesterday our nation participated in another presidential inauguration. I'd already planned to use a great poet of presidential inaugurations, the poet of the century, I think, Robert Frost. Listen to a poem about a moment:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There are moments in life that make all the difference. Hush, somebody's calling.

If we can understand this about our own life, then maybe we're ready to travel with Jesus. In the Gospel story today, Jesus is at the very early days of his public ministry. He's just been baptized in the Jordan River. He's learned in that experience that he is God's beloved Child, God's Son. Then the Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness, and he experiences a time of temptation. A time where he makes decisions about different roads, and Jesus chooses the one less traveled. Then he goes back to Galilee, to begin his public ministry.

Jesus journeys throughout the synagogues of Galilee, and news spreads about him. They find him remarkable. He's one who speaks with authority and talks firsthand about the kingdom of God. Then he comes to his own hometown, to that synagogue in which he grew up in Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth comes home, and the congregation welcomes him back because they've heard good things about him. They invite him to be a layreader. He unrolls the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and begins to read:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

All eyes and ears are on him. Then he states boldly and clearly:

Today Isaiah's Scripture is fulfilled in me.

Then to himself he must have said, "My God, I've gone public with it. My God, I'm out of the closet. My God, my God, I've said it. 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' and I'm the Anointed One. I'm the Christ." Jesus has come to a road that diverges and he makes a decision, and he's never the same again, ever.

Hear the voice saying, "Hush, somebody's calling your name." You see, we miss my point, friends, if we think that's a story just about Jesus. The point of the story is that that's a story about you. Jesus is every single one of us. So, that's your story, and it's my story.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, because the Lord has anointed you. You are God's beloved. You have a vocation, a calling from God, to be God's beloved child. You are God's own child. Hush, today somebody's calling your name.

Several years ago, I was driving through the city of Memphis headed towards a parish call. On a billboard outside a Presbyterian Church I read something that I found fascinating. They had invited some clergy from the city to be a part of a sermon series in their church. The title that everybody had to preach on was "Your Last Sermon." I wonder what in the world I would say to you if it were my last sermon?

If this were my "last" sermon to you, one of the things that I would want to say to you in that farewell homily, is what I've just this morning tried to say to you-the Spirit of God is upon you. Just as you are, you are God's beloved child. Your vocation is hidden in the moments of God touching your life and revealing faith and grace and mercy and peace and life.

Do you know who Howard Thurman is? If you don't, then go out and do some research on him, because Howard Thurman is the formative figure in African-American history in this past century. He is the one who shaped the souls of almost all of African-American preaching ministry, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s.

Arthur Ashe, a magnificent African-American tennis player and a powerful and persuasive personality wrote a book, Days of Grace. He wrote it while he was dying from AIDS contracted through a blood transfusion. I introduce you to another great friend of mine, Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe. In it Ashe tells the story of a reporter coming up to him and saying, "Mr. Ashe, you say you're dying. Well, I have a question for you. If you knew you were going to die tonight, what three people would you like to spend an hour with before you died?" Arthur Ashe replied, "Jesus and Albert Einstein and Howard Thurman." The reporter hesitated and then responded: "We've heard of Jesus, we've heard of Albert Einstein. But who in the world is Howard Thurman?" Well, I'm here to tell you today that Thurman is a massive, giant of a spiritual person, that's who.

I want to read you a passage of a sermon that Howard Thurman gave back in 1960, when he was preaching in an Episcopal Church. In it he speaks about epiphany moments:

In every life there are a few special moments that count for more than all the rest of the moments in your life, because those are moments that have meant the taking of a stand, the making of a commitment, the making of a decisive choice. And it's that commitment, that choice that creates the person. It is the pressing need to find the meaning behind that choice that subordinates all of the rest of the events of the life of that individual. Those moments are many, but they come. And when they come, they are the touch of God. All of the ideologies of the world, all of the doctrines of the world, all of the formulas of the world that are drawn up by men and by nations, all of those will pass. Only the true and living God remains. So it's that encounter with God that is the most important. Often it will come as a surprise to you, but it is inescapable that this God, by God's direct initiative, touches and changes my own little life, my own little life.

Hush, Somebody's calling you. That certain Someone seeks to touch your own little life....

Copyright 2001 Calvary Episcopal Church

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

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