SERMON Listen! God is calling
SCRIPTURE 1 SAMUEL 3:1-10
The story of Samuel being called by God begins by telling us that the Word of the Lord was rare in those days, that the heavens were shut up, that it was a time in Israel’s history of chaos, and despair, and unbelief. It was a time when doubt was stronger than faith, a time where darkness was stronger than light, a time when God seemed to be silent, with no more future for God’s people.
And to make matters worse, those who are left keeping up the faith were a pretty pathetic and corrupt bunch. Eli the priest is ancient and mostly out of it. Not only that, but he’s also turned a blind eye to his dysfunctional sons who have their hands in the offering plate and were a little too friendly with the women who came to pray. This out-of-it and sinful Church that God will judge does not seem to be a great place for a new start, or for a new hope. All there is is a little child, Samuel, Samuel who was prayed for by his mother Hannah who made a vow that if the Lord gave her a child she would give him back to God, and when he was born she kept her promise. So around the age of 5 or 6 Samuel was brought to live in the Temple as an acolyte, as a candle-lighter.
And then we know this story, we love it. Little Samuel is falling asleep one night before the Ark of the Covenant, that place of God’s mercy and power. He hears a voice, “Samuel, Samuel,” and dutifully responds, “Here I am, for you called me,” and runs in to see what his boss Eli wanted. Again and again, “Samuel, Samuel,” again and again, “Here I am, for you called me,” up he gets, wakes up Eli, any parent can relate: “No, it’s just the wind, it’s just the house creaking, it’s just your imagination, go back to bed, go to sleep, don’t bother me again!” Finally Eli in a moment of clarity realizes it is the Lord calling, not with heavenly trumpets, or flashes of lightning, but in the night, in the quiet, in a voice only a little child can hear. “Go back and lie down, and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak Lord for your servant is listening.’” And so one last time, “Samuel, Samuel,” and then the response of a child, the response of faith, the response of every Christian when we are addressed by the Word of the Lord: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
I think one reason we love this story so much is that we’re jealous of Samuel. We too wish we could hear our name spoken in the night. Our Gospel lesson today gives us that chance to hear him, to hear our name called with love and purpose, but now called as plain as day, no more whispers in the night, for we hear today Jesus found the first disciple Philip and said to him: “Follow me.” See, Christ’s command to us is clear and simple, “Follow me,” follow me through your fear and anxiety, follow me through your doubts and sorrows, follow me out of your sins and your being trapped in yourself– through your life and through your death, follow me. Christ’s Word to us always has this directness, this effectiveness, and this promise to it. For God is still calling, God is in fact calling you again this morning. We can hear him as he says today, “Follow me,” just as we hear him as he says, “You are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” just as we hear him as he says, “Your sins are forgiven,” just as we hear him as he says, “This is my body, broken for you, this cup is the new testament in my blood, shed for you.” See Christ is still calling you, you may not hear him in the night, but you have heard him here, you are called, he knows your name and he is not afraid to use it! Well if you’re waiting to be called, this is it, you have been, when you were baptized God called you out by name, and he still calls your name, he calls to you, he searches for you, he finds you, his eye is on you, your name is on his lips, you are in his heart, and he calls you to follow his beloved Son again this morning, to follow him in faith, in trust; to follow him in loving service to those around you; to follow him into his death on the Cross, and so to follow him into his Easter glory of life everlasting.
For when we are called, then we begin to call others; when we are found, then we begin to find others; when we have seen the light, then we want others to see it too! After Philip is called he finds Nathanael today, the start of a chain reaction of calling and following, and he says, “Nathanael, I’ve been called, I’ve been found, come and see!” This is the best invitation we as Christians have—not let me tell you all the answers, not let me fix all your problems, just, “Come and see!” Nathanael is skeptical at first, “Jesus of Nazareth, can anything good come of Nazareth?” he asks. For us it’s like asking ‘Jesus of Arkansas, can anything good come out of there? But Jesus saw Nathanael already, he knew him already, just as he sees and knows you, and he calls the real you with all your objections and wonderings, he called Nathanael through the voice of another, even as he sees and knows you and calls you through my voice now, whoever’s voice God has to use to get to you, he will, “Follow me, come and see!”
God calls us, through a thousand ways, each to our own ministry; think of those voices in your life that God’s call has worked through. God finds us so that we might find and invite others to come and see; God shines the light for us so that others may come to see the light, so that we all might come to see God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ. For he is the one in whom the heavens are no longer closed but completely opened, and he is the one in whom God’s Word is poured out richly for us, He is the point of connection between God and us, where the angels go up and down between heaven and earth, and he is the one in whose face shines bright and clear even in the midst of all our darkness.
For Listen, God is calling! He calls you by name, again, even now: “Follow me.” So what can we say, except: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”? And we follow.
This message from Pastor Ryan Mills brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: