Consider Joseph. He was upset about Mary when an angel came to him in a dream and brought him a message. Joseph heard the message and responded in obedience. "He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him" (Mt. 1:24). He was obedient to the message he received.
Consider St. Paul. His apostleship to the Gentiles was for bringing about obedience to the faith. Hearing or obeying, then, is used in the closest relationship to faith, not as two distinct acts, but as one and the same response. "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Obedience of the heart leads to a right relationship with God.
So, obedience is something I'd like to give God this Christmas! That involves two things: hearing and responding.
Firstly, I need to listen to the message. It comes through scripture - read and proclaimed. It comes in the Holy Eucharist. It comes through prayer and reflection. It comes in many ways. If I never listen to the message, I am not likely to ever hear and understand enough to do something about it.
Then, I need to respond to the message. My response will affect my participation in the ministries of the Church, relationships with others, stewardship of God-given resources, and my entire approach to life.
Those moments when we become obedient can be life-changing experiences. As a youth, my parents instructed me to call home if I was going to be out later than expected. I had trouble doing that and often discovered tired, worried, unhappy parents when I finally arrived home. I'll never forget the first time I tried calling in as they had instructed me to do! They were glad to hear from me. They actually trusted me but were concerned for my safety. They had good reasons for expecting my obedience. Once I understood that, I never hesitated to call them when I was running late.
When we listen to God and live according to the divine will, we enthrone God as sovereign of our lives. This is true prayer. This is faithfulness. This is discipleship.
I’m giving God my obedience this year.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church