Answer your call

The message I shared on Sunday is as follows. The scripture used was John 1: 35-42 and I Samuel 3: 1-10. The title was “Answer the call.”

There is an adage about a choosing a job that says: “If you choose a job that you really like, you never have to work a day in your life.” I believe when that happens, it is because you are doing what you are meant to do; it is your calling. I have been fortunate enough to have had that experience more than once in my lifetime. In fact, I have no problem in thinking of any of my teaching positions as calls or even when I was working with a local newspaper, I felt that was exactly what I was supposed to be doing at the time.

Yet thinking of being here in this spot now (the pulpit), it is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that this is real/that this is just my call. Yet, from watching the pictures and hearing the stories at last week’s Mission Fest Service, I know that this, being here together is our mission, this is our call to be working together in whatever we do, just as the Mission Fest speakers and those who were with them on their trips to Haiti were called to go and help in the places that they went.

I have to tell you that this past week, I did have an anxiety attack of sorts. I opened my email to send some spelling scores to the English teacher after some papers were corrected on Thursday, and there was a letter from the Conference Office reminding all licensed ministers that the renewal paper work is due in the office by April 1. Now this shouldn’t be such a scary thing, but here it is, a question on what continuing education have you completed this year? I can speak to being continually educated, but I am not sure that there is any paperwork available to back me up. Apparently I will be doing a scramble of sorts in the near future.

Matthew 22:14 tells us that many are called, but few are chosen. Today’s scripture lessons are about calls from God to Samuel and to the disciples from Jesus. The type of call that Samuel received is one that we probably are all more comfortable in thinking happened in the time of the Old Testament, but not something that would happen today, and if someone claimed it did, we might look at them a bit oddly. And certainly if it happened to us, we might hesitate to share it with others. We really don’t think that those sorts of things happen.

But let’s look at the incident with Samuel. He is very young. He has lived in the temple with Eli since he was weaned. He was given to serve God as a bargain made by his mother, who had desperately wanted a child. So, now he is living in the temple, it is night, he is in his area, Eli is in his room, and Samuel hears someone call his name. The opening of this passage says that the word of the Lord was rare at that time, visions were rare. In fact, the sons of Eli had not been following the ways of God, and the country was pretty much a mess.

It would have been a good time for God to throw them all out and start over. Even Eli is old, not so much in age, but in ability. It says his eyesight had grown dim. He was in his room lying down, and the sun wasn’t even set. He was tired, and his lack of eyesight might have been more than physical vision. It seems there is no one left to hear the voice of God. There is no one left to follow the call of God, to follow in God’s ways, and then Samuel hears his name. It takes three tries, but Eli finally realizes that God is trying to speak to Samuel and so instructs the boy to stay in his room as well as how to answer when he hears his name being called again.

The disciples according to the Gospel writer of John don’t have quite as much trouble recognizing who is calling out to them. The passage we read in John is about the calling of Philip and Nathanael. There was no arm twisting or coercing of even any incentive plan for them. It was a simple “follow me” that Jesus offered to Philip, and both of them ended up as disciples.

According to one of the books in our office library (Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B by Craddock, Hayes and Holladay 1984), “the Biblical word central to the season of Epiphany is ‘revelation,’ for this is the time to celebrate the revealing of the Son of God. But the companion word to revelation is ‘witness.’ It seems, again according to the source I found, that this is all because with God there is never an exact, positive, no-nonsense sort of proof without faith.

I have to admit that I struggled with that thought for a time. What do you mean we don’t have proof? We have the words of the Bible to read right in front of us. We have the stories that have been part of Christianity from the beginning. Ah, that is it. They are witnessing and witnesses accounts of Jesus.  We don’t have the technology that we are used to in our age to give us that news media, DNA sort of proof that we are so used to seeing. [Interestingly, just before I am posting this, I proof read a paper for Paulina on the importance of Photojournalism. Sure wish I had read that before this message, I could have used a few of her lines.]

But I wonder how much of a difference it would really make. Would we know the voice of God any better if we heard it on the radio, or if we hear it in our heart, our mind, our soul. God calls us as we are able to hear it. God calls us as we are able to understand, but that is not the point of what we hear in the scriptures today. The point is how we answer.

Samuel, when he finally understood who was calling to him, went back to his room and waited one more time for the words, and then he answered simply, “Speak for your servant is listening.” Philip answered by immediately finding a friend and asking him to join in following Jesus. Nathanael answered by recognizing who Jesus really was and is.

Our question today is not if we have been called, but what are we going to do about being called. What or how will we answer? Will we even believe that it is God who is calling, or that we are the ones being called? Do we have the faith to know we are the ones being asked to go, and to do for God? Or are we going to push it aside and think that there must be someone standing in our vicinity who is being beckoned? You know what I mean, that thing when you are walking down the street and someone waves and you don’t recognize them, but wave back only to realize they are waving to someone else.

I don’t believe we get a pass on this. We are all called to do our part. We are all expected to witness, to reveal our faith, but more than that, to do for others. Jesus didn’t just call his disciples to learn and study and pray. Jesus called his disciples to do. In that same way we are called to do.

As we saw last week there are lots of people in the world who need much. In fact we don’t even have to look that far to find places where help is needed. We maybe don’t have to look outside of our state or community or in some cases even outside of our own family. There are people who need a hand to help them out because of physical ailments, or emotional or financial issues. We are called by God to do what we can. Does it mean we need to give up everything to do this as the early disciples did? I don’t believe so, but I don’t have all of the answers.

In fact, I think that I am still in that status where I am not even sure of all of the questions at this point. One question that hit me is this: Did the disciples get asked to give up more because they were there at the start of the Christian Church, or will we be asked to do more because we are at a later stage in Christianity, and we have more of the past knowledge to lead us? I don’t know.

I do know that because of Jesus we are saved by grace. And, if we accept that grace, we will want to hear the call, obey the call and answer the call to do what God wants us to do. At the least, we witness to our faith, to our inner knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ and we witness to our many blessings. We do this while we are sharing our blessing of time and talent and resources so that others will understand the love that Christ has for each of us.

Last week the Mission Fest speakers left us with the thought that a Mission trip is a great way to share the love of God. I agree, but … not all mission trips have to involve air travel or weeks away from home. If we can do that—great, but the important thing is that we do, something and do it in the name of Christ not because we are trying to pay off the debt of our salvation, but because we are thankful for the grace that has been given to us. Amen.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kat at travelgardeneat
    Jan 23, 2015 @ 10:16:02

    So many words of wisdom here — kindness and giving can begin right at home, right in your own backyard …. and giving need not be big to be significant. You do what you can with what you have, and it is a gift. Have a nice weekend, Lucinda!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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