Sermon 6-14-2015 ‘Telephone’

Proverbs 2:1-10

(Listening to One Another); Listening Games And Activities, Copyright 2002 by Carole Elkeles

American Heritage College Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Ruthie Tippin, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting


Proverbs 2:1-10; The Message Bible


1-5 Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

6-8 And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free,
    is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well,
    a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.
He keeps his eye on all who live honestly,
    and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.

9-15 So now you can pick out what’s true and fair,
    find all the good trails!
Lady Wisdom will be your close friend,
    and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion.


Wow... I hope you heard what was just read.  I hope you heard the richness of that passage.  Scripture tells us of the rich reward of listening.  Not just listening but paying atteniton – listening deeply and well to God’s voice,  that speaks directly into us and through one another.  If you do these things, then God blesses.  If you listen deeply and well, you will discover treasure… treasure enough to share.

"Hey mom; I think I'm going to drop out of school!"
"Ok hon. Just don't forget that dinner is at seven tonight."

‘Doesn't this sound familiar to you? Don't we all do this at one time or another? We hear! We hear the voice! We hear the sound! But are we really listening?’  Carole
Elkeles is a retired educator and school principal from Buenos Aires, Argentina and she poses this question in a post for educators… and we all can learn something from her.

The children’s game ‘Telephone’ is a whole lot of fun… but it’s tricky.  It seems simple, but it’s not.  Have you ever played it?  Two cans and a piece of string tied between… One person whispers into a can and the other person listens.  The sound waves of the speaker’s voice travels down the string and you can hear it!!  But what do you hear?  Do you hear everything that’s said, or just part of the message?  Do you hear clearly, or is it garbled and difficult to understand?  It takes a couple of tries for this to work, but when it does, you’re hooked! 


Not just hearing what a person says, but listening carefully and well is important when it comes to making decisions.  Last week, I began a series of messages that will move throughout this summer about decision-making – discernment.  And listening is the first step in discernment.  According to the dictionary, discernment means “the act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.’  According to the ‘Dictionary of Friends [Quaker] Terms’, discernment is ‘wisdom, to see clearly; to differentiate the truth from other impressions.’  We discovered last Sunday that discernment is the capacity to see… to see clearly the works of God in the midst of human situations.  Insight, judgment, clarity, truth, wisdom, seeing God.  Seeing and listening – understanding clearly.  Why is this important?  So we can align ourselves with God, be where God is, participate with God, experience God, follow God… fully.


Listening to God is the very first step in decision making for Friends, and for First Friends Meeting.  Listening to one another is one of the ways we hear God… and it’s very important that we do it well.  Two cans and a string work… but only when the string is tight. Without tension, the sound waves can’t move clearly through the string.  It’s strange to think of tension as a good thing, but it absolutely is.  Without tension, no sound moves – nothing moves forward.


Our Meeting makes decisions all the time – some with ease, and some with a great amount of tension.    And we have a very good process by which we make decisions.  It’s as old as our Quaker faith, and unlike any other faith community I know.  The entire Meeting is invited – not a Board of Directors, or a small group of Elders – to make decisions together… every month.  But it takes practice – just like playing ‘telephone’ – to make certain the string is tight – that voices are heard, that the tension is helpful, that we are hearing one another properly, making wise decisions well. 


There are three times when a great number of people come to Monthly Meeting for Worship to Conduct Business….

1.      When there’s to be a pastoral change

2.      When there’s a great deal of concern about money

3.      When anything controversial is to be discussed


These three things remind me a lot of when my dad was dying… we lived in Spokane, WA.  Daddy lived in Portland, OR. My sister lived next door to him and was his principal caregiver.  My two brothers lived south in Medford.  Here I come, bustling into town,., “Lets take care of Daddy! I know what to do… let’s do it!  Have you done this?  Let’s be sure to get that done!”  I had all kinds of advice and instructions for the rest of the family about what should be done. Frankly, I wasn’t well practiced in listening to those persons who had been tending my Dad all that time.


Part of being a Quaker is practicing our faith… participating fully in the life of our Meeting – in worship, fellowship, study, stewardship, work and witness, and decision-making.  I looked through eight months of minutes from this past year, and found that on average, 24 persons attend Monthly Meeting each month.  That means that approximately 40 people make most of the decisions for First Friends Meeting.  They are the ones who show up.


Shall we hire a Youth Pastor?  How much should they be paid, and what should be required of them?  Shall we use our building to house a PreSchool Co-Op, and what should we expect from this investment in ministry? Shall we retain the Pastor, or is it time for her to go?  Shall we send monies to support our Quaker witness in Washington DC, and do we trust that our interests as a Meeting are being represented?  Shall we support mission efforts of Friends United Meeting to spread Christ’s message of love to Palestine, Africa, Cuba, Belize, and other Friends ministries around the world? 


Approximately 40 people in our Meeting wrestle with these questions, and listen for God’s voice together at Monthly Meeting. 40 persons know how to play ‘Telephone’.  They have practiced listening together.  They know how to listen to God through each other.  Is there tension?  Yes.  But it’s been finely tuned.  They know how to adjust it, so it resonates well.  They know how to hear God’s voice.


Why don’t more people come?  First of all, you may not feel welcome.  I will say it again, anyone is welcome to come to Monthly Meeting for Worship to Conduct Business – member or attender.  The Clerk of our Meeting serves on Facing Bench that day, and invites you to come every month.  Come and worship.  Come and experience it.  Come and learn how to listen together as we discern what God is saying to us, as a Meeting. I know people who showed up too late for worship, arriving just in time for Monthly Meeting, and that drew them in to Friends.  They wanted to be a Quaker after seeing how we do business.


Some may be afraid of conflict, or just not want to attend any kind of meeting that has to do with business. You place your trust in others, and it is noted and highly respected.


Some may not have time to come, and that is certainly understood.  If you can’t come, but want to participate, remember to speak to the Clerk, to members of Ministry and Counsel, to the clerk of any particular committee that your concern sits in, or to me.  We would be happy to fold your concern in with our own.  If you’re not sure who is whom, check our website or the back pages of your directory... we’re all listed there.


First Friends is currently considering the concern of marriage equality, among many other things, in our Meeting. Any number of you may decide to come to Monthly Meeting, and you are welcome.  But remember… it takes practice to listen together well, and some of you are out of practice.  Be patient with yourselves and with others as we meet.  Those of you who are always there, be gracious and attentive to those who are learning what it means to discern with others – to hear God speaking with you.  The goal of any decision made is that it honors God, and brings us closer to God’s presence and purpose.  What I want, or what you want is not what really matters.  What God wants for our Meeting is what we seek together.


Last Sunday I spoke to you about the “Hokey Pokey”.  Putting our whole selves in.. body, soul, mind and spirit to whatever it is God is calling us to – in both simple and difficult things.  Remember that we have to turn ourselves around in humility and repentance, always paying attention to God’s direction and leading.


Some are burdened about this decision.  Some are really scared about it.  I’m… concerned.  But more than being concerned, I’m excited.  I’m excited to see what God is going to do.  I’m an expectant Quaker.  I’m expecting God to show up, because God always does.  I trust God.  And I trust our Meeting.


You will find an insert in your bulletin describing what it means to participate in Monthly Meeting… we are less formal in some ways than the document describes.  One of the guidelines I appreciate a great deal is the sixth:  ‘When a person speaks in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, receive the words as you receive vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship – with an open heart and calm mind.  If you have a strong reaction to something someone has said, sit with it until way is clear for you to speak with patience and compassion.’  I challenge you to review these guidelines, and participate in Monthly Meeting as often as possible.  We meet next Sunday, after worship.  You are most welcome to practice discernment with us.


Please join me in reflection and expectancy as we enter our time of communion after the manner of Friends.  If the Holy Spirit speaks to you with a message meant for you alone, hold it and receive it well.  If God brings a message meant for others, be obedient and share it with us all.  Let us worship now with an open heart and calm mind.