Remember folks a sermon is an spoken event. This is basically what was preached yesterday. Please disregard grammar irregularities!
It didn’t happen up here at the altar, and I’m not a young boy, but I know what young Samuel was going through. Just last week, at about mile 11 in the half-marathon, I’m rounding the corner and heading up an overpass about to run into Epcot park, and I thought I heard someone call my name. I tried to look around, because I thought I heard it again even over the sound of the music playing in my earphones, and it was different from the anonymous person cheering me on, reading my name off my race tag. No, it sounded like someone was really calling out my name to get my attention, saying it over and over again. The thing is I knew it wasn’t Brad and the boys they were going to stay back at the hotel, but it could have been one of the at least three other folks from Milwaukee I knew running that day too. So in my attempt to find out who was yelling Donna, Donna, Donna I turned completely around 180 degrees and started running backwards.
So, I know that confusion Samuel felt hearing his name being called over and over again. It took old Eli’s words, his guidance and wisdom to tell the boy to stop running and listen—to utter one of the best prayers ever spoken by the faithful—“Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. God was calling Samuel. This young person named after the God who heard the prayers of his—Samuel (meaning God hears or God has heard), now he was to listen to the call of God.
There are several things that are good for us to pay attention to in these words, this story—because God is still calling, God is still speaking, but sometimes (a whole lot of times, if we’re honest) we don’t listen. I think one of the main things that keeps us from hearing God’s voice is that we think so very little of ourselves. God couldn’t possibly have a word for me or for our little congregation; God couldn’t possibly want me want us to do something. Maybe we think we are too young or too old, too small but Samuel was young and Eli was old—and it took both of them to hear and discern the call.
Maybe we think calls are only for those special spiritual giants people with names like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is today. Or Martin Luther, or Moses, Paul, Philip, Nathanel, (from today’s Gospel reading) and Peter, James, and John who we’ll hear about next Sunday leaving their boats. Yes, there are those biggies. There are those folks who seek out or are found by the spiritual spotlight, but that doesn’t mean God’s call is limited to them. No, we believe that the call to be a disciple, the call to follow Jesus, the call to be an actor, be a factor is to all of us. God is calling you.
Another problem though is that it is hard to hear God’s voice amidst all the other noises. It would be so awesome if God’s voice rang out crystal clear like a bell, silencing everything else. Perhaps you’ve experienced what I’m about to share with, as a mother—if I am away from my kids—say they are on a playground or outside, and I hear “mom”. My ears perk up and I am at attention, I am alert to that cry—that call—even though sometimes it may be from some other child. It would be great if we could hear God that closely, that clearly, and be attentive.
Of course there’s the opposite experience as well. Where I as Mom can tune out and tune off that lets call it repetitive whine, that badgering, and begging of a certain young one. You know when I want to be left alone, or when I have do something else, or when I know it’s not really that earth-shattering important. We are pretty good at tuning out the stuff we don’t want to hear. We like to turn away from what disturbs us—from what we don’t want to see. All the bad news, the unpleasantness. So maybe we put in headphones, or listen to our favorite radio station, or watch videos on youtube or tv. Or just turn the tv off and go read a book. Sometimes, wee go out with friends and try to move to better neighborhoods.
Perhaps with all that turning away we are missing God’s call to turn around. You see, God’s call doesn’t always or even mostly come in the comfortable and in the pretty. It’s not just the beautiful sunset and beautiful tones of sacred music which contain God’s voice. You see God’s call isn’t for us to just continue on as is. It isn’t for us to seek out our own pleasure. This is what our faith teaches, within the persistent cries and whines of a child God is calling me to lead, to guide, and to raise a child to become a person who is respectful and caring of others. God’s voice is heard in the cries of the oppressed, the hurting, the lonely, the abused. Our calling is to have a hand in ensuring that from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to the poorest that as preacher and theologian Peter Gomes says, “People may take everything away from you, they may deprive you of everything you have of value, but they cannot take away from you the fact that you are a child of god and bear the impression of God in your very soul. You cannot be destroyed and that cannot be denied.”
You see, God’s call does come to us, and does call us to stop and turn around. We stop going through life as if it’s just about us, as if it’s just about getting by or even getting ahead. We don’t have to think that following Jesus is just about, about leaving it all behind in some dramatic way—that can no longer be our excuse. God’s voice, God calling our name is calling us to drop those things that entangle and ensnare us—that hold us back—whether it’s drugs, or racism, or poverty, anger, or grief. God’s got more in store for us in this life, God’s calling us to listen. Amen.