Sermon

January 17, 2021

Based on 1 Samuel 3:1-20 and John 1:43-51

 

How many of you can say you heard God calling to you?

I don’t ask this in jest. I suspect it is more than you might think. I fact it is very possible that everyone has had God come to us with a message. We might not see it that way. We might have chalked the experience up to other factors. Coincidences? A funny feeling? Something we just can’t seem to explain?

A few years ago, I shared an experience I had with a stranger outside the Meno-Ya-Win hospital in Sioux Lookout that led to me visiting a few patients from out of town, and their families for some time of prayer. It ended up being a needed ministry for myself. It also became an important time of reflection and learning for me.

But it was only in relating the experience to a mentor that I came to see it as God speaking to me in that moment and offering me needed direction.

Today’s reading from 1st Samuel set the stage for the important figure of the priest and prophet Samuel. The servant of God who anoints Israel’s first kings, Saul and David.

He is the chosen of God himself the one whom God speaks to and through.

But even Samuel requires the wisdom and perspective of Eli. Eli himself cannot hear God, but recognizes what is happening with Samuel. And he hears God’s voice in the words of Samuel. He does not deny the message.

I think it can be instructive to consider why Eli and his sons are cut off from hearing God speak. Eli’s sons who are by tradition raised to become priests, are now abusing their authority and power. They are not taking the rituals around sacrifice seriously. They show contempt for the people who come to Shilo to pray, and as scripture says, show contempt for God. Eli knows what they are doing; in fact, tells them they should stop but doesn’t do anything to stop their abuse of power and their cruel and self-serving actions.

So, I wonder. Is it possible that by focusing on themselves; their own needs and concerns to the exclusion of everyone else, they cannot hear any other message?

God does speak to us. The question is are we wiling to listen to the message.
That voice can be comforting, and it can also be challenging. It often tells us who we are. It can communicate who we are called to be in our community. But again, that can be challenging. It can seem to be setting us up for more work and difficult times. It might be a message of the need for new directions.

But it can also be a voice that tells us God loves us and sees us as good. That can seem reassuring, but it is also a message that I think we often struggle to hear. We can receive contrary messages in our world. Voices telling us we are not enough. That we are lacking and not really fulfilled. That we need something else or more of what we already have to be successful or happy.

To be told we are already beautiful and good in the sight of God can seem impossible. To be told we have power and agency in a world that so often seems to deny us those same qualities can seem to be selling us an illusion. Samuel appears to be nothing but a small and insignificant child when God comes to him. God sees far more than what the rest of the world sees.

Nathanael, is cynical and skeptical until he sees Jesus. Philip knows they are seeking something more in their lives and encourages Nathanael to come with him to meet Jesus.

Jesus sees in Nathanael more than Nathanael was prepared to see in himself.

That does not mean we are not fallible, of course. We are very capable of sin; we see plenty of evidence for that. And yet, God looks upon us and sees that we are good, that we are capable of so much more than what we do. God looks upon us and calls us and uses us and works through us. It is up to us to listen, to truly hear God and to respond.

When we pray, it is often suggested we enter into a conversation with God. Often our prayers are filled with our voices. We take time to thank God, to acknowledge how God works in our life and in the world.

We ask God to keep working and will frequently mention particular needs and concerns. All of that is important. There is real value in naming our gratitude and naming the things that trouble us and break our hearts. It is good to ask for help.

But do we take time to listen? Do we take time to reflect on how God may already be speaking to us in our lives? Do we take time to hear God tell us we are beloved? To hear God name our strengths. To hear God remind us that God has always been there, watching us and seeing who we truly are.

May we take time to listen. May we take time to reflect; to share with those we trust and consider the ways God is already and continues to speak to us and move us and answer us.

Thanks be to God. Amen

 

Rev. Warner Bloomfield

 

 

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