Like many preachers this week, due to current events, I had to scramble to update my sermon...
It was towards the end of the time of the Judges of the Hebrew tribes. The acting religious leaders (of the “church” if you would) were self-centered and self-serving - corrupt. Many felt that God had been too quiet, too absent, for too long; there were no more Prophets amount the people.
From our reading from 1 Samuel 3:1-20, and a couple of other stories of calling, I have learned four things about God’s call:
1. God calls us out-of-the-blue.
a. Moses was herding sheep when he heard a voice from a burning bush.
b. Gideon was threshing wheat when he heard an angel sitting in the shade.
c. Samuel was asleep when he heard a voice in the night.
2. God is VERY persistent.
a. Moses was full of ‘excellent’ excuses.
b. Gideon needed serial signs.
c. Samuel kept thinking the voice was Eli’s.
3. God’s call is a call to action.
a. Moses was called to free the oppressed.
b. Gideon was called to defend the people.
c. Samuel was called to speak against corruption.
4. God believes in those who can’t believe in themselves.
a. Moses was an exile, a murderer, and spoke funny.
b. Gideon was the least of the least of the least.
c. Samuel was a powerless kid. In fact, he didn’t even “know” God yet. God’s call to him could be considered what we call prevenient grace. In John Wesley’s commentary on this passage, he noted that Samuel’s immaturity and innocence served God by convincing Eli that the message came from God rather than a political move by Samuel and the devil stirring the pot.
If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, did it make a noise? These stories suggest to me that there are three things that the one who is called must be: Perceptive; Receptive; and Acceptive.
1. Perceptive - We must be able to perceive that we are being called in the first place. Sometimes, like Samuel, we need a little help. We need Open Hearts.
2. Receptive - We can’t be closed-minded and refuse to listen to the ‘impossible’. We need Open Minds.
3. Acceptive - We must be willing to accept the Messenger, the Message, AND the Mission. We need to have Open Doors.
“Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ I said,’Here I am, Lord; send me’”! (Isaiah 6:8)
In our other reading (John 1:43-51), Phillip has heard Jesus’ call and is extending it to his friend.
Phillip: ‘I’ve found the One we’ve all been waiting for! Jesus from Nazareth.’
Nathanael: ‘From Nazareth? Nothing good ever comes from THAT place!’
Nazarenes and other Galileans were ‘frowned upon’ by mainstream Jews - it was a backwoods 'shit-hole'; a place of civil unrest; a place where people mingled and worked with unclean foreigners; and where they all spoke funny. In a way, Nathanael is asking: ‘Can good come from bad?’
Phillip: ‘Come, and see for yourself.’
Don’t judge people or places by received ‘wisdom’ and prejudicial stereotypes!
Are you ‘nobody special?’ Are you from ‘no place special?’ Then, aren’t you just who God needs to do something special? God is calling you by name. Do you hear?
‘Whom shall I send?’
‘Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, IF YOU LEAD ME. I will hold your people in my hand.’
(Schutte and Young, UMH 593)
‘O God, help us to recognize in ourselves what you see there. Remove the distortions that keep us from recognizing who and what we are’ - that we are someone special! Amen
(photography by tiwago)