1 Samuel 3:1-21
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
This morning’s text is a call story. The call of the boy Samuel. It is the first in what will be a series of these call stories that we will hear in the next few weeks.
I like call stories because they deal with actual people in the bible. The stories can also be kind of messy, like life and I like that as well.
The problem with call stories, and this is just a theory of mine, is that most people think these stories don’t apply to them.
The reason they think these stories don’t apply to them is because they don’t feel like God has called them to anything specific in their lives.
I even think the church has contributed to this problem because somehow we have given the message that only those people who actually work in a church or a church related organization have been called by God.
So unless I’m a pastor, or a church musician or youth worker or whatever churchy job you can think of, I am not called. We somehow think God only shows up at church.
Even today’s reading reinforces this notion in the story of Samuel. Samuel is the son of Hannah. Hannah is childless and pleads to God for a child and even makes a vow saying if you open my womb I will give this child back to you to serve you in the temple. God hears her prayer, open her womb and out comes Samuel. And Hannah gives the boy right back to God.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
This same scenario happens two times. God calling Samuel by name. Samuel thinking it is Eli calling him. Eli saying, no it’s not me go and lie down and quite bothering me, I’m old and trying to sleep.
When it happens a third time, Eli realizes that it is the Lord calling Samuel.
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
Way to go Eli. Eli is the key in this call story. Eli is the link. Eli makes it happen between God and Samuel. Samuel would have just kept thinking it was Eli calling to him if it wasn’t for Eli perceiving that God was calling Samuel.
Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
Who is the Eli in your called life? Who is the person or persons who told you when you heard the voice of God speaking to reply, speak Lord, for I’m listening? And did you listen?
Did you listen to what God said to you? Even when God was asking you to do something that was new, or challenging, or something you did not want to do?
It is easy to listen when people say nice things to you; a compliment, to be told you are loved, to be told you have done a good job. This is music to our ears.
But how well do you listen when God is asking you to respond in a way you have never responded before?
How well do you listen when you have to step out in faith further than you have ever stepped before?
How well do you listen when God is calling you to actually live out your faith in your daily life in a way you have never done it before?
I want to be even more specific this morning and ask; do you listen to God’s voice when you make decisions about giving?
For a long time, I didn’t listen to that voice. It took an Eli in my life before I was finally ready to say, speak Lord, I’m listening.
The Eli in my life was a young couple at my internship congregation that shared their story about giving and tithing that really challenged me to reexamine what God was actually asking me to do in my own life around matters of giving.
I think about Kim and Karen often. Kim was a business man and Karen his wife. They had incredible faith and I actually thank God for them because they helped me to listen to God’s voice about generosity and giving in a way I had never listened before.
They dared me to be different than the culture we live in that is telling me all the time to only think of myself and to hoard and save and to live in fear around money matters. I refuse to listen to that voice because it is a voice that wants to take away my faith and trust in God. It is a voice that tries to create fear in my life and I choose not to listen to that voice. This voice is not God speaking to me.
Next Sunday we are asking everyone who is part of this community of faith to turn in a giving plan. If we are consistent to past years a little under half the family units of Augustana will fill out a giving plan and turn it in.
A little over half won’t fill one out. I don’t know why but that is what happens. All I can do is be an Eli for this congregation and tell you that God is speaking to you and I’m praying that you are actually listening to God’s voice.
Janis and I are excited because this year we can roll over some of the dollars we had been giving to the mortgage into what we as a congregation are doing in ministry. I hope you will do the same.
Notice the banners behind me. These pictures tell part of the story of what happens when you and I listen to God’s voice and respond with our financial gifts in order that God’s work gets done both here at Augustana and beyond the doors of Augustana.
Children learn about Jesus. Music inspires and comforts us in our faith. Neighbors in need of food get fed. Houses get built. Elderly are cared for. Homeless teenagers are given hope and they learn there are adults who actually care about them. Caring casseroles are delivered.
Shut-ins are visited. Followers of Jesus grow in their understanding that God has called them to be teachers, nurses, business people, electricians, plumbers, spouses. Yes you are all called.
This is where faith meets life. This is where faith meets finances. This is what happens when people are called by God and they actually respond to God’s voice by saying, speak Lord, I’m listening?
Tell me God. What are you calling me to do for the sake of your work in this world?
Tell me God. How much of what you have first given to me do you want me to return to you for the sake of your work in this world?
Tell me God. I’m listening.
You will receive a small reminder of what we hope you will do when you leave worship today. Dare to be different in your faith life.
Dare to be different in your giving.
Dare to be different in your choices and your attitudes. This is where faith meets life.
Dare to say, like Samuel, speak Lord, I’m listening.
And then when God speaks, when God tells you what to do, don’t be afraid to respond.
Because this is exactly where faith meets life.
And it is a very cool place to be. Thanks be to God. Amen