The Pas Proper / Ordinary 9 – Pentecost + 2 – Trinity + 1
3 June 2018
1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 pg 896
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
God made known in human frailty;
your Chosen One walked through fields
where bitterness flourished and mercy was enclosed:
break through our conspiracies of power
and teach us what it means to save and honour life;
through Jesus Christ, Lord of the Sabbath. Amen.
How does God call us today?
At the same time, to what are we called, in our lives? After all we are in the midst of a changing model, a changing paradigm of how ministry is ‘done’ in the world around us.
We know that we are facing a dramatic shortage of clergy and that the model of ‘one priest, one parish,’ is becoming a rare thing, indeed, in this context.
Yet at one time, there were three priests and deacons, assigned to Christ Church, alone, with a full time secretary.
At the same time, because we constantly look at the idea, or the practice that a parish is led by a priest that a (singular (1)) priest is ultimately in charge of a parish and all of its activities, we need to open our eyes and our hearts to see where and how God is calling each of us into patterns and roles of leadership.
And keep in mind, age is no barrier to God.
The passage we have today from 1 Samuel is a good one for us to contemplate, today. It describes the call of Samuel, a child, conceived through difficult circumstances.
A child not form a priestly family who is given to God to serve in God’s house, not for glory but out of thanks for the gift that Samuel is to his parents.
At the same time, we see Eli, who has grown old in God’s service, whose whole life is given to God, whose own sons, also dedicated to God as priests and Levites, failed to follow God’s laws for their own conduct.
And we’re told today: “3 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.” (1 Sam 3:1-4)
So, lets look at this closely. Samuel is already entrusted to be on his own in the tabernacle, before the altar of God, in case God has need, which we see in today’s passage, or in case a late petitioner comes to offer sacrifice and petition to God.
If we look at it, Samuel is probably about 7-10 years old and is left in charge of the most holy place in all of Israel, although Eli isn’t too far away.
And as he lies there, in the gathering gloom of the evening, as he waits on the random human coming to take advantage of the availability to sacrifice to God, he hears God’s voice, but he doesn’t recognize the voice as God’s.
Three times Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him from “his usual place” (1 Sam 3:2b)
Three times God calls, and we don’t recognize God’s voice.
And we’re in the same place, really, today. When was the last time we, with our own ears heard the voice of God? Calling? Speaking? Proclaiming?
Yet, God is active in the world around us. God does call us, in the quiet of our hearts, in the stillness of our lives.
God continues to lead each one of us to ways in which we can continue to serve God as God sees service needed in the world.
So, then, how do we recognize a call from God in our lives? In the lives of those whom we love? After all, God had to call Samuel three times before Eli, not Samuel, recognized it was God calling the boy, and sent him back to respond to God’s urging in his life.
Did you know that a call to serve, as a priest, as a deacon, is a three-part call?
It is a call within our hearts to serve. It is a call recognized by our congregational family, and it is a call that is recognized by the wider church, as well.
Lately, I find myself active in the Lutheran Candidacy process, something that I’ve not been involved with since I was a candidate for ordination!
This is a committee whose purpose is to affirm the wider church’s calling of a candidate to a track of ordination or consecration.
From the time the candidate comes forward, this committee works with, guides, encourages, and in the end, affirms a call to work in the church, or not.
By comparison, much of this task of encouragement, and guidance, in the Anglican Church seems to sit with the individual parishes, and with the office of the bishop as the candidate only sees ACPO (the Anglican Committee for Postulants for Ordination) once.
And strategically, I’m sure we have much we can learn from each other on identifying and walking with those called by God to serve.
But in today’s changing paradigms, in the growing role within the world of social work and NGO’s, who have taken on many of the historical burdens of the church, amidst an overall air of declining attendance and growing mistrust of the churches in general, how are we called to serve God, to spread the love of God, throughout the world, and throughout all of creation.
Now, you’ll notice I’m not necessarily emphasizing the priestly stream of a religious calling, but rather leaving it open for God to make that distinction for each of our lives, for the lives of those in whom we see God at work, guiding and encouraging.
Perhaps God is calling us, today to services we have not yet experienced? Perhaps God is calling us to “ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown” (EvLW pg 304)
At the same time, just because we are not familiar with the call of God, that doesn’t mean we can’t reply in the same way that Samuel does.
Three times, he responds to the voice of God with “Here I am” as he runs to Eli.
The fourth time, when Eli realized what was happening, that he wasn’t being played a trick on by anyone, was to reply with “Speak, for your Servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:9b, 10b)
When God chooses to call each one of us, then something great is about to happen in our lives. God is moving in creation.
Now, I have to admit that the idea of hearing the voice of God is disquieting in our hearts and lives. At the same time, we can acknowledge a call to follow where God leads by other signs.
My own call to ministry was ignored, by me, on at least one occasion, and I, following the idea of self determination and pulling myself up by my own bootstraps, took myself down a different path altogether.
And while I explored that aspect of life, God waited.
God waited until I was ready to listen, once more, to open my heart, to set aside the opinion of the world, and to follow where God continues to lead, today.
And what my life looks like today, during that earlier opportunity, never crossed my imagination
Even in today’s gospel, we see the pharisees are, once more, upset because Jesus’ followers aren’t following the letter of the Sabbath law.
“23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”” (Mk 2:23-24)
The pharisees don’t care that the disciples are hungry. They care that they picked heads of grain, while walking through a ripe grain field, on a Sabbath.
Did they count the number of paces allotted to a Sabbath day? Did they take more than they could munch on while walking along with Jesus? Did they do anything more than get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and satisfy a rumbling stomach along the way?
The pharisees see Jesus and the disciples as a different, and therefore threatening. They see the different model of teaching, of being the congregation, of living out the love of God as alien, and therefore something to be put down before it can gain traction.
So, anything they do, that is perceived to be out of the normal ‘ordination track’, so to speak, is threatening to them.
Today, with fewer people called to roles of ordained ministry, or if they are called, ignoring that call to a life of service, we need to identify and fulfill ways in which we, who gather on a regular basis, are able to live out our baptismal promises, are able to fulfill the five pillars of the Anglican church, to follow how and where God needs.
It took Eli hearing from Samuel three times before he recognized the voice of God in Samuels actions and words. And Samuel became one of the most well-known prophets in Israel’s history.
“19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Sam 3:19-20)
So, how are we called to serve, today? Tomorrow? Is it in the traditional track that will lead to ordination? To the Priesthood, to the Diaconate? Or are we called in some way to some action that will benefit more than one congregation at a time? In a pattern or way that encourages others to hear the voice of God in and for their lives as well?
In what way is God leading and calling each one of us to something that only God can see the outcome of for our lives, for all of creation?
How often will we say “Here I am” before we will say “Speak [Lord,] for your servant is listening?