Hi friends! As soon as I hit publish on this post I am signing off for two weeks, so if you don’t see a post from me, I’m okay! Just on vacation and taking a little step back from my virtual world. My sermon from this morning and the video from worship are below. See you in February!
Peace be with you, friends. <3
Rehoboth Congregational Church
January 17, 2021
1 Samuel 3:1-10
This Is Our Moment
When I was in seminary, we talked about call stories a lot; stories highlighting the moment or moments in our lives when we knew God was calling us into the ministry. For some of us, there was one crystal clear moment where we knew for certain what God was asking us to do, for others of us there was a series of moments and some of us just found ourselves in seminary, not really sure what God was up to.
I consider myself to fall within that middle group where there were a series of moments that led up to the realization that I was being called into the ministry. From that point on, I can even say that there were a series of moments that led me into ministry in a church setting and even moments that specifically led me here and moments that have kept me here and helped me to see that vision (there is last year’s Star Word) that God has for us together in ministry.
I have always loved call stories. They are, essentially, somebody welcoming you into an intimate moment between themselves and God. Call stories can be a moment of vulnerability for someone as they try to explain something that might not necessarily be explainable in human words. They are a peak into someone’s life and purpose.
They can also be a significant moment of purpose and change, not only for the person sharing their story, but also for those who are bearing witness to it. They are an opportunity for a wider community of people to see where God is at work in this world, something that I think we need desperately, now more than ever. To see and hear and know that God is at work within the people around us is to believe that God is with us and that God has not abandoned us and that God has a purpose for all of our lives, as well.
Which brings me to this morning’s scripture readings. I decided to look at both the Old Testament passage from the lectionary and also the Gospel this week. They both include call stories – one of the Old Testament prophets, Samuel and the other of Philip and Nathaneal, two of Jesus’ disciples.
Our reading from the Old Testament comes from the book of 1 Samuel, which is part of the narrative history of Israel in the Old Testament called the Deuteronimistic history. God called Samuel when he was a young boy; he was ministering under a high priest named Eli when he hears God calling out to him. Assuming it is Eli calling his name, Samuel runs to Eli, who tells him he had not called Samuel and that Samuel should go back to sleep. This happens three times before Eli realizes what is happening, that it is actually God calling out to Samuel. At this point, Eli instructs Samuel to go lie down and when he hears God calling him again to respond by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Our Gospel reading comes from the Gospel according to John, where Jesus calls Philip and Nathaneal. Nathaneal is only mentioned in the Gospel of John, though some scholars (not all, but some) also identify him as the disciple, Bartholomew, who is mentioned as one of the 12 disciples in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Philip’s call story is pretty straight forward – Jesus finds Philip, says, “Follow me” and Philip follows him. But in this record of Nathaneal’s call story, it is a little more complicated. Nathaneal wants to know where and how Jesus came to know Nathaneal. And when Nathaneal recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus tells Nathaneal that he is about to see and believe more than he can conceive right now.
What I love about both of these call stories is that they are complex. The person being called does not necessarily know right away that it is God calling them or how they are supposed to respond. Samuel assumes the voice he hears is an earthy voice and Nathaneal has some questions about why, specifically, he is being called. What we learn from both of these stories is that when God calls us, whether we are being called into vocational ministry or, more likely, when we are being called, personally, to the work of God in our lives, it might not necessarily be straightforward or easy to decipher at first.
Samuel thinks Eli is calling him at first. Nathaneal wants to know how Jesus knows him. Both of these call stories remind us that it is okay if we do not figure it out right away, if we do not know or understand the precise moment God calls what, exactly, we are supposed to be doing.
But the thing is, God is persistent. God does not give up on us. If God has something for us to do, God is going to keep calling us until we, like Samuel, say, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” or we, like Philip and Nathaneal, respond to those words, “Come and see … follow me.”
We are living through a very complicated moment in our history. And, in many ways, I am over it; I think we all are. At some point I think we would all like to go back to a world that will not fill volumes of history books one day. That being said, we have the opportunity right now to define what this narrative is going to say and how future generations will see God at work in our lives and in the world.
We were talking about the insurrection in bible study on Wednesday morning, particularly the flags bearing Jesus’ name on them that were carried into the Capitol. The concern, of course, is what happens when a non-Christian or, perhaps, a discerning Christian, sees Jesus’ name cast in such a violent light. Does that define the narrative? Does that tell the story of the Gospel and of the work God has done and is continuing to do in this world?
Only if we let it.
Friends, I believe, with every ounce of my being, that God is calling us right now to do something really important. We are being called to share a message of light, of love and of grace. We are being called to offer faith and reconciliation to a world that is broken. We are being called to proclaim the bold and radical truth that resurrection means something, and that redemption is always possible. We are being called to show the world that God is not finished and that hope real – and that it is always worth holding onto.
And to be clear, I do not believe that this takes away from the individual calls that we all have. We have all been called on personal levels, professional levels, community levels, to our families and even here, at the church. But in addition to those calls – in addition to the things that we are already doing and the ways that God has already called us into some sort of ministry and service – I believe that we have been called into this moment.
This moment where the world is broken and in need of healing.
This moment where Christ’s message of love needs to overpower the rhetoric of hatred and violence.
This moment where the Gospel can transform our lives.
This moment where we are tired and weary, but we believe in the capacity that we have to hold it together and keep going forward.
This is our moment. God is calling us.
After a long, tumultuous and exhausting election season, a new president will take the oath of office on Wednesday. Following the attack on the Capitol, there are growing threats of violence around our beloved country; in fact, our conference sent an email this week encouraging churches to close their buildings on Wednesday because of threats specifically made to churches. No matter who you voted for, I think we all feel a little bit uneasy right now.
But I just keep thinking that we can shine light into this very dark moment. We – as children of God, as devoted followers of Christ – can do something to make this better. We can share the Gospel in real and practical ways, ways that actually make a difference in people’s lives, ways that restore people’s faith and define the narrative of Jesus as one of love and hope and reconciliation and peace and justice and compassion and mercy and kindness. This is what defines our beloved church in the village and I believe this can define our greater Christian Church, as well.
Friends, I believe that God is calling us. And like Samuel and like Nathaneal, it might not necessarily be clear or easy to understand or easy to respond to. But this is our moment and God needs us. God needs us to say yes. God needs us to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God needs us to follow God. God needs us to show up; show up in our churches and show up in our communities. God needs us to take the Gospel and share it with the world.
Friends this is our moment and the moment is now. Let us say yes to God’s call. Let us take the Gospel and share it with the world. Let us write this chapter of the Christian narrative and tell future generations about the love that was shared and the hope that was real.
And let us believe that God has prepared us and strengthened us for this moment.
Friends, as church, I believe this is our call story. May this be a significant moment of purpose and change – not only for us, but for those we will meet along our journey.
God, speak; for your servants are listening.
Come on; let’s go.
Thanks be to God!