Sunday, January 15, 2012
Call and Response
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" 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. The LORD called again, "Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 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. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, `Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." Then the LORD said to Samuel, "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever."
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son." He said, "Here I am." Eli said, "What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you." So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, "It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him."
As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.
1 Samuel 3:1-20
We all have been called to do something we can't imagine ourselves doing, or we imagine we will surely fail. We hide behind our gender our limitations, our language, our culture, or our responsibilities, all in order to excuse ourselves from answering a call to ministry or leadership. I tried to avoid the call to ordination by thinking that God really wouldn't call a girl like me, a mother with little kids at home. God is persistent and willing to keep on calling until we answer. God does not let us alone, nor leave us alone.
Today's gospel is the story of Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael. But since I have written about that same story in less than a week, it seems best to dwell with this incredible story of Samuel, a little boy called in the night. The boy lives in the temple with Eli, who has not been faithful to his call. Eli is a mentor to the child although the child will be given more responsibility and more respect than his mentor would ever know. God calls over and over again, and with the teaching of Eli, the boy know what to do in response. In this story and the gospel, we hear stories of call. Of God seeing us and finding us in the night, in our hiding places, in the dark places where we feel unable to answer. And God persists, and never, ever leaves us alone.
Today I ask God to help me say yes, to answer the call when it comes, and to step out from hiding and follow despite my fear. No matter how many times we struggle and feel inadequate for the task, God promises to give us the strength and courage for the task and ministries before us. May we walk with our heads high and our hearts ablaze, knowing God is with us in the biggest challenges and our darkest moments. May we share the love we have received, may we keep reaching out, and may the God of love find us every ready to say yes.